The last Volkswagen Golf destined for the U.S. market rolled off the automaker’s assembly line in Puebla, Mexico last week and VW says it will mark the end of the run for the familiar hatchback.
But there’s an asterisk appended to the statement released today. While American buyers will no longer be able to purchase a standard Golf once dealer stock run out, they will see the return of all-new versions of the sportier Golf GTI and Golf R models for the 2022 model year.
For decades, the Golf “exemplified what Volkswagen does best — melding dynamic driving characteristics with purposeful packaging and unmatched quality,” said Hein Schafer, senior vice president, Product Marketing and Strategy, Volkswagen of America, or VWoA. “While the seventh-generation Golf will be the last of the base hatches sold here, the GTI and Golf R will carry its legacy forward.”
Americans have purchased nearly 2.5 million of the hatchbacks – which have been sold in the U.S., at various times, as both the Golf and the Rabbit – since 1974. But demand for hatchbacks and other conventional passenger cars has rapidly dried up during the last half decade, research firm Cox Automotive analysts earlier this month forecasting they will barely make up 21% of the U.S. market this year.
Almost completely reliant on sedans, coupes and hatchbacks 10 years ago, utility vehicles now make up about two-thirds of Volkswagen’s U.S. sales, with demand for passenger cars narrowed down to niche and performance models, such as the GTI and Golf R.
Going into the 2021 model year, VW had already trimmed back the number of Golf variants available in the U.S. to a single, well-equipped trim, the TSI. It’s powered by a 147 horsepower 1.4-liter turbo-4 paired with either an 8-speed automatic or a 6-speed stick shift — one of the few remaining manuals remaining on the American market.
The 2021 Golf TSI with a manual gearbox starts at $23,195 – before adding in $995 in delivery fees. The hatchback with an automatic jumps to $23,995.
The next-gen Golf line, in general, will be “evolutionized, rather than revolutionized,” Product Manager Megan Closset said about the eighth-generation, or MK 8, Golf family a few months ago. The automaker, she added, wanted to “play it a little safe with design.”
The basic dimensions of the 2022 Golf – and variants – will be nearly identical to the outgoing product, but for a slightly lower roof. The GTI does adopt a softer, more rounded look, with a sloped nose anchored by a low, crosshatched grille and slit-like headlamps, while the sides are more curvaceous than the outgoing GTI and there’s a subtle, coupe-like roll to the hatchback’s roofline.
The new honeycomb grille with 10 integrated foglamps is meant to accentuate the GTI’s width and make the car appear much lower.
The interior will get a much more high-tech appearance, VW officials revealed during this week’s briefing. That includes a standard-issue reconfigurable 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster and new 10-inch infotainment touchscreen. The new GTI will feature the Volkswagen We Connect telematics service, ambient lighting that can be adjusted to any of 31 different colors, and a new array of advanced driver assistance systems, including Lane Keeping Assist. A head-up display will be offered as an option.
Of course, with a vehicle like the VW GTI, performance will be the focus for most potential buyers and the hatchback’s 2.0-liter turbo now will deliver 242 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, up from 228 hp and 250 lb-ft with the gen-seven model.
Buyers will have the option of either a 7-speed double-clutch gearbox with paddle shifters or a 6-speed manual. With the outgoing GTI and Golf R models, about 40% of customers opted for the stick, noted Closset.
The next GTI and Golf R models will reach market shortly after Volkswagen begins ramping up its push into the all-electric vehicle market, the new ID.4 crossover set to go on sale in the U.S. by mid-year.