A Volkswagen Golf? On AROnline? Why? This is my partner’s car, and I regularly get the chance to play with it. It’s not that I really like the Golf, but driving it always gives me food for thought…
This 1982 model Golf Diesel is a very basic model, it does not even have a courtesy light switch on the passenger door, but this makes it easier to concentrate on the concept of the car. The 1.6-litre diesel engine delivers 54hp, which doesn’t make it a rapid car, but certainly livelier then one would expect.
Performance feels to be on par with my 1.3-litre Austin Maestro, which is more powerful but also heavier and wider. In fact it was fun driving an old-style diesel engine without a turbo again – the power peaks at 4800 rpm and the engine is happy to pull all the way to the rev-limiter at about 5400.
An interesting diesel drive
There aren’t too many modern TDs which deliver such a wide and useable power band. The engine is not very refined – as to be expected – and causes some rattles inside the car. The car has done about 62,000km (about 38,000 miles), something the casual passenger or driver will believe when sitting in it. In reality, there is a ‘2’ missing in front of it – which makes a total of over 163,000 miles.
Apart from the slightly sloppy gearchange, the mileage just doesn’t show, giving credit to a well engineered and well made car. But back on topic – why the Golf in here?
Having BMC 1100s (ADO16s) and Maestros in the family, after driving the Golf, I have the feeling that it perfectly closes the gap between these two cars. The Austin Allegro had a nice ride and wasn’t as unreliable as people would believe, but that’s it. To me the Allegro always failed to take the concept of the ADO16 on, it even struggled to replace it in the first place.
So, why the comparison?
That’s where the Golf comes in: developed by Volkswagen from 1970 to 1974 for 1.5 billion deutschmarks, it certainly draws comparisons with the original ADO16 and some of its ‘copies’, like the Autobianchi Primula, that came with a rear hatch. The ADO16’s in-house styling was abandoned at an early stage of its development in favour of a modern and crisp Italian effort and this happened in the case of the Golf with a switch to Giugiaro.
Surely, the Engineers at Cowley or Longbridge would have been able to use the available room more efficiently, and using Hydragas should have meant better comfort with similar handling characteristics? Moreover, from a wider viewpoint, the Golf had an impact on the German market which was not too dissimilar to the ADO16’s a decade before in the UK.
There were early niggles and rather obvious rust issues, but VW took action and continuously improved the car. In the end, the Golf Mk1, built until 1983 in Germany, proved hugely successful with about five million cars built.
BL certainly had a close look at the Golf when developing the Maestro. The mechanical layout follows the one of the Golf completely, down to using VW’s gearboxes and then being taken to court about the rear H-frame axle that was copied from VW. Unsurprisingly, when driving the Maestro, it feels like an improved and updated Golf.
Space is used much more efficiently, the ride is more comfortable and yet it handles better with less roll. Even the steering gives better feedback with much less effort for the driver. Unfortunately, though, BL forgot about the rust-proofing. However, to me, the first Golf shows what the Allegro could have been.
Sadly, this wasn’t to be… and so, we’re left with a Volkswagen that looks like the missing link between the ADO16 and the Maestro.
- Our Cars : Martin’s Austin Allegro – Back in the UK again - 12 May 2023
- Our Cars : Martin’s Austin Allegro – a very good service - 15 March 2023
- Opinion : Volkswagen Golf – the missing link - 2 January 2023