While several global markets were introduced to the then-brand-new Volkswagen Golf (also known as the Rabbit or Caribe) in 1974, South Africa was stuck with the Beetle. It wasn't until 1978 that the small, affordable hatchback arrived and was met with resounding interest. But by that time, the car's product cycle was already entering its twilight, and the much more expensive and larger Golf II was on the horizon. At the risk of losing the lower-priced market, VW introduced the Citi Golf in South Africa in 1984. From there, it became an icon in that part of the world.
Production of the Citi Golf, which was initially just a tweaked version of the Mk. 1 Golf, did not end until 2009. Volkswagen sold hundreds of thousands of the fun, family-oriented hatch throughout the years, and it carried on with no major design changes. It's a love story recently captured by a company called Patina. With the help of VW historian John Lemon, who wrote the book on the car, Patina tells the car's unique history (seriously, Lemon literally wrote Re:in:car:nation, a VW South Africa publication about the Citi Golf).
Although its overall look didn't change much, the Citi Golf did not sit idle as it matured through the years. Early on, it captured attention with two-tone red, blue, or yellow paint jobs. The bumpers, wheels, and sides had white detailing that gave the car a significantly different look.
In the late '80s, VW gave the Citi Golf a light refresh with a new hood design, new bumpers, and a rear quarter that integrated what is now known as the hockey stick crease. Shortly after the redesign, VW introduced the Citi Golf CTi, South Africa's version of the GTi, and the car became a tuning favorite.
Today, Lemon plays a little game while he takes trips around the city. He tries to guess how many Citi Golfs he'll see from Point A to Point B, and he says it's shocking how many are still around. Learn more about Citi Golf and Lemon's history with the car in the full documentary below.