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40 Years of The VW Golf (aka Rabbit)

In 1975, Volkswagen needed a minor miracle in the United States, especially in terms of a compact car. At the time, their primary models were the Beetle and Bus, but sales for both had slowed since 1970. The economy was in recession and Toyota and Honda loomed on the horizon.

Regardless, VW shipped the European Golf to the U.S. as the Rabbit. This “new” hatchback would offer American drivers premium options, front-wheel drive technology, and a 70 horsepower 1.8-liter engine. The Rabbit, later becoming the Golf, was intended as the successor to the original Beetle.

Through The Years

A new infographic from our friends at shows how VW Golf pricing has changed since 1975, when adjusted for inflation. Interesting enough, between 1975 and 2015, pricing didn’t vary that much. Rocco Demas, Manager at VW Parts Vortex, says the Golf really boils down to three things.

“First, the cars have always been economical. Second, the cars have always been designed with an emphasis on premium features and quality,” he explained. “Three, the cars have always been fun to drive.”

By 1977, a diesel variant was offered for around $550 more but with fuel mileage in the mid to upper 30s. VW billed the engine as a more durable option than a gasoline counterpart. Eventually, the U.S. market would see both Cabriolet and hot hatch models along with the 90 horsepower GTI. By 1985, a new version of the GTI’s engine was utilized for the MKII generation – the wheelbase was extended and the Rabbit effectively became the Golf.

“The Rabbit was one of the nicest, most advanced compact cars you could buy in the 70s and 80s, with an awesome GTI option in the mid-80s that was a blast to drive,” Demas said. “Unlike most of the competitor’s cars, the Rabbit was consistently considered fun to drive and high performing by critics.”

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Photo: Volkswagen of America, Inc.

Comparing & Contrasting

In 1975, when the Rabbit 2-Door Hatchback arrived the MSRP was $3,330; $15,629 today when adjusted for inflation. By comparison, the 2017 Golf TSI S with a manual transmission starts at $19,895; the more appointed TSI Wolfsburg Edition with an automatic starts at $22,695. In 1983, the Rabbit GTI 2-Door Hatchback ran $7,990 or $19,977 when accounting for inflation today. By contrast, the current S trim 2-door GTI with a manual transmission lists for $25,595. Currently, the Golf lineup includes the R, Sportwagen, Alltrack, and a fully-electric version.

“While they haven’t always been the least expensive car on the road, they’ve always been well regarded by consumers and critics alike,” Demas said. provides an extensive look at the Golf through the years, including the reaction from journalists when it first appeared. We have included their infographic below. Enjoy!

Carl Anthony studies mechanical engineering at Wayne State University, serves on the Board of Directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, and is a loyal Detroit Lions fan. Before going back to school, he simultaneously held product development and experiential marketing roles in the automotive industry.

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Cover Photo: Volkswagen of America, Inc.