So we all know how Volkswagen was commissioned by the Hitler government back in 1937 originally with the name, Gesellschaft Zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH. But, later that year, they changed the name to Volkswagenwerk. Maybe even they got bored with that long name. Mass production of an affordable yet speedy vehicle was the mantra that the company started with. The KdF (Kraft-Durch-Freude)-Wagen was showcased to the public at the Berlin Motor Show in 1939 but soon World War 2 started and led to the halting of its production.
Initially, the company struggled to set up base properly in the United States due to past relations with the Hitler government. But, we know how advertising impacts sales and that is what happened with the company. The advertising fairy at Doyle Dane Bernbach waved her wand that got the Beetle car to the consumers. From there, the company never looked back and the Beetle even managed to break the 15 million production record set by the Ford Motor Company with the Model T. With all this being said, let’s have a look at a few iconic cars that have rolled out from the Volkswagen plant and have a special place in our hearts.
- Volkswagen Passat :
The original Passat was launched in 1973 and was offered in 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-door body styles. On the surface, all the variants featured almost the same fastback styling and were designed by the Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. Even at that time, the Passat was the most modern cars one could buy and also shared mechanical bits with the Audi 80. The car could be had with two or four round headlamp configuration. The fastback came with a few engine options back then, which included 1.3- and 1.5-litre petrol engines that churned out 54 and 84 BHP respectively. The German manufacturer also offered the car with either a 4-speed MT or a 3-speed AT. Then in 1978, VW gave the Passat a diesel makeover with a 1.5-litre engine that pumped out 49 BHP. Today, the VW Passat is butting heads with the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4 and the BMW 3-series. Currently, the 8th generation Passat comes with very upmarket interiors and modern technology. Underpinned by the versatile MQB platform, the Passat houses a range of engine variants like the 1.6 TDI, 2.0 BiTDI and a 1.4-litre petrol engine with an electric motor. 118 BHP, 237 BHP and 215 BHP are the respective power figures for each of these engines. The interior of the Passat is a very elegant place to be in and the panoramic sunroof provides the much needed airy and spacious feel to the contemporary cabin.
- Volkswagen Golf :
Launched in 1974, the Mk1 Golf made all the headlines in the newly born hatchback segment. The car was named after the Golfstrom and can be credited in the boom of the hatchback segment. Giorgetto Giugiaro was handed the task to design a car that would replace the Beetle. Volkswagen had managed to sell a million Golfs by October 1976. The front-wheel-drive and front-engined hatchback had hit the sweetest spot and had started to make history. The guys at Volkswagen still wanted to tweak a bit more with the Golf and ended up giving us the Golf GTI in the late 1970s. The Mk2 Golf went to over 6.3 million households until it was replaced by the Mk3 in end-1991. The Mk3 went out and won the much-coveted 1992 European Car of the Year award. The Mk4 R32 Golf was the most powerful at that time with a 3.2-litre, V6 engine. I mean the folks at Volkswagen must be bonkers to fit a hatchback with a V6 engine. Today, the Mk7 Golf R comes with a 306 BHP engine that will always keep you on your toes and let you enjoy the thrill of a pure hot hatch. The journey from a basic interior setting to a very plush and contemporary one has been long but will surely go further as time goes by. Today, the Golf is one of the most desired hot hatches in the market due to its heritage, driving dynamic and cushy interiors.
- Volkswagen Polo :
45 years and still going strong. That’s the history of the Volkswagen Polo. Even today, the brand has not pulled the plug on the Polo and why would they? Polo is a piece of Volkswagen’s history and one of the most successful hatchbacks of all time. In India itself, the Polo has a huge fan following due to its peppy engine, sharp handling and robust German engineering. It’s a small package with loads and loads of fun stuffed underneath the bonnet. In 1980, the Polo I GT only weighed in at 700kg and churned out about 60 BHP, making it very agile and delivered thrilling driving dynamics. Then in 1987, the tech-heads at Volkswagen put in a single-scroll turbocharger in a 1.3-litre petrol engine and this was the Polo II Coupé GT G40. This car weighed a bit more than the first iteration and stood at 835 kg. But, the engine now pumped out 115 BHP and 148 Nm of torque. This was more than enough for everyone to go berserk over it. And then in 1998, the day I was born, the Polo got a well deserted GTI badge and never looked back. 120 BHP and a reworked suspension, I mean the guys at Volkswagen knew how to make everyone back then drool over the Polo. Today, the Polo has a lot of stiff competition in the market, but it has always been a more reliable option and this means it has a small upper hand in the market over the rest of the competition. In India, we are eagerly waiting for a refreshed version of the Polo and let’s hope we get one soon.
- Volkswagen Jetta :
The 1979 Frankfurt Motor Show was the platform where Volkswagen first released the Jetta and then production began at the plant in Wolfsburg. The Jetta Mark 1 was also known as the Volkswagen Atlantic in Mexico, so if someone asks you about the Atlantic, it could very well be the first-gen Jetta. Back then, the Jetta was available in a 2-door as well as a 4-door variant both of which shared the same three-box design. Again, Giorgetto Giugiaro was the man behind the design of the Jetta. The car was fitted with a MacPherson suspension unit and was powered by either a 1.1-litre, four-cylinder engine or a 1.8-litre unit. There was also a 1.6-litre diesel powerhouse that also had a turbocharged variant of it. Back then, Volkswagen surely did provide a host of engine options with their cars. The second version of the people’s sedan came in 1985 with a 100 BHP engine. 100 BHP might sound less, but it was a rev-happy engine and hence found many suitors. The 1987 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 16V (MkII) got a 2.0-litre engine with 134 horses and tipped the weighing scale at just 2438 kg. This made this vehicle very popular and many people still consider this car one of the best GLI of all times. The year 1992 saw the Jetta MkIII hit the markets with a narrow-angle V6 under the hood. Three years later, we got Jesse’s MkIII Jetta and boy was that car a looker. Today, the MkVII or the seventh-gen Jetta is elegant and loaded with tech. It is underpinned by the brand’s MQB platform and a nice torquey engine. The latest Jetta is a bit lost in the segment as there are much better and more engaging to drive alternatives. The 1.4-litre, turbocharged engine pumps out 147 BHP and a good 184 BHP of torque. Not the best figures, but not bad either.