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Published on April 4th, 2013 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez

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Volkswagen Golf Mk4 – 1997 to 2003_Class Act Hot Hatch

The Golf Mk4 crystallised the clear, precise design that more than ever before paid its dues to the history of the Volkswagen brand and at the same time set its course to the future. It is in this era that the Volkswagen design DNA has its origins.

Today, the Golf Mk4 is regarded by design experts as a style icon and as a pioneering step for the model – not least because with all its clarity and characteristic C-pillar design it created a link back to the Golf Mk1 of 1974. This model arrived in Malaysia in very limited units (less than 2 dozen) via the previous brand guardian, Auto Dunia. Little was done in terms of promotion and marketing which was shame as this Golf was very popular in neighbouring Singapore and the rest of the Asian Pacific region. Regarded as a modern collcters Golf, this Mk4 was sold only in 2 variants. A 1.6L with a 4-speed auto and a 1.8Turbo with a 5-speed manual gearbox.  

The Golf Mk4 was not only pioneering in terms of its looks, it was ground breaking in engineering terms as well. With this car Volkswagen achieved a totally new standard of quality in this segment of the market and thus became the first manufacturer to break through the vehicle class boundaries. With the debut of ESC (in 1998) and the brake assistant system, safety also continued to be further democratised. Also in 1998, Volkswagen globally unveiled the first four-wheel drive Volkswagen Golf with a Haldex clutch – the Golf 4MOTION. A year later, ESC became a standard feature, initially in Germany. In the same year, the first Golf with six-speed transmission made its debut.

There then followed in 2001 the Golf GTI 132kW (launched to mark the GTI’s 25th anniversary and now already sought-after as a classic) and in 2002 the first Golf with petrol direct injection (FSI) and the debut of window airbags fitted as standard.

Also in 2002, Volkswagen launched what at the time was the sportiest Golf ever: the R32, with a top speed of 250 km/h. It was this top model that in 2003 was the first ever to be available with the revolutionarily fast and fuel-efficient direct shift gearbox (DSG), the automatic transmission of the new age. In the same year, after production of 4.92 million units, the Golf Mk4 – the first fully galvanised Golf and the first available with satellite navigation and xenon headlights – made way on the production lines for the Golf Mk5.


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