Volkswagen GTI MK3

The Mk 2 GTI further defined the breed. It scored a huge win by earning Motor Trend’s Car of The Year honors for 1985. While the Jetta started outselling the Golf, the GTI still gained enthusiasts with a choice of engines – including the potent 16v model – and cemented its place on the American automotive landscape.

After seven years, it was time for a change. For 1993, the Golf and Jetta further evolved into the Mk 3 model. There was limited availability nationwide for the first model. By 1994, Volkswagen dealers saw all models arriving at their showrooms everywhere. However, the GTI was delayed until 1995 due to a larger delay on production out of is Puebla, Mexico plant.

The design became rounder with new shapes never seen on the Golf/GTI before. The front end grille was thinner, flanked by oval-esque headlights. The doors became bigger, but the side windows were relatively smaller than before. This would actually be the most distinctive feature of the MK 3. The hatchback grew to meet the bumper for the first time in Golf/GTI history.

The same rounded theme was seen inside, as well. The instrument panel stood out with its “three-dimensional” shape, while the steering wheel became thicker for a more sporting feel. The seats grew with new fabrics and leather hides to denote the new generation. Space was increased, but up slightly compared to the Mk II.

The biggest change for the GTI was the availability of its narrow-angle 2.8 Liter V6. The VR6 yielded 172 horsepower and claimed a 0-60MPH time of 6.7 seconds. A four-cylinder version of the GTI returned for 1996 with its 115-horsepower 2.0 Liter engine under the hood.

All of the Golfs and GTI for America were made at the Puebla plant in Mexico. During this run, Volkswagen dealers began rejecting new models due to quality issues. It did not help the GTI’s cause, when the media criticized their performance and driving dynamics as “soft.”

As the Millennium was within reach, the Mk 3 was seeing is final days. The 1999 model year would be the last for the Mk 3. From there, things can only get better.