20 years ago, in the third generation of the Golf, Volkswagen introduced many innovations that contributed decisively to extending its leadership role in the compact class

Wolfsburg, 10 August 2011 – The Golf was the best-selling car in its class – even in its first two generations. However, it was an innovative push that began with the debut of the third generation exactly 20 years ago that really extended the Golf’s lead over the competition: its higher ¬positioning in the compact class was based on the introduction of a new VR6 six-cylinder engine and a direct-injection turbodiesel engine. Both were milestone achievements: the six-cylinder technology created a foundation for later premium models, while the TDI became the most successful engine of the model series and initiated today’s diesel boom.

It was the total package that impressed the global automotive press, which voted the third generation Golf “Car of the Year”. It offered new safety standards, environmental compatibility, innovative styling and a unique engine lineup. The democratization of high-tech – a common theme running throughout Volkswagen’s history – had attained an important milestone.

The car’s wheelbase and overall dimensions did not really change compared to the previous generation, but the comfortable and safe semi-independent suspension was improved. In the pursuit of better accident safety, the occupant cell was reinforced, and crash-relevant assemblies that absorb deformation energy were optimised. The seatbacks of the rear seating system were improved so that they would not be damaged by shifting cargo in the bootspace in a collision. With these modifications, the Golf III even exceeded stringent US safety standards.

Environmental compatibility stood right at the top of the priority list. To attain its exceptional fuel economy values, detailed modifications and flush adhesive-mounted windows were introduced that reduced the body’s Cd value to 0.31. The diesel engines – like the petrol engines – were equipped with a catalytic converter as standard, and environmental protection was a high priority in the production of plastic parts and in painting.

Compared to the previous generation, the engine lineup was streamlined; it now ranged from the 1.4-litre petrol engine with 60 PS to the GTI with a 2.0-litre engine and up to 150 PS and finally the VR6 with 174 PS that was generated from 2.8 litres displacement, which was being offered for the first time in the Golf class. The diesel engines were a 64 PS naturally aspirated diesel and the 75 PS turbodiesel; in 1993, the legendary TDI joined the team. In the German market, it was the most popular engine of the Golf programme for three generations (four out of ten Golf cars had a TDI) – until the turbocharged direct-injection petrol engines (TSI) were introduced – and it was popular in many other European markets as well. It also made Volkswagen the global market leader in diesel engine production for passenger cars.

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