Volkswagens combine German engineering prowess with some great-looking machinery. Rob Griffin examines the best – and worst – VWs.
Maybe it’s the big screen success of Herbie – the car using a mind of its own – that has made us believe Volkswagens actually have souls. Alternatively, perhaps it’s their history of reliability.
In any case, VWs are making a remarkable impression.
It’s also fair to say that there have been hardly any bad VWs ever made that will make composing a list of the worst and greatest a bit of a challenge. But we rose towards the challenge.
The very best Volkswagens available: Golf MkII
Volkswagen Golf MKII
As the MkI Golf is credited with sparking the craze for hatchbacks when it burst onto the scene in the early 1970s, its successor, which arrived a decade later, is arguably the more significant machine. With more comfort and a higher build quality, the MkII was an instant hit and continued to become one of the best selling cars of the 1980s. A particular highlight was the GTI version that was made from 1984.
The ideal Volkswagens ever produced: Beetle
Volkswagen Beetle green
Yes the very first one! What’s not to love about this car? Apart from being unbearably cute looking, its straightforward construction and durability meant it was produced for more than 60 years. Produced by Dr Ferdinand Porsche for an economy machine that could handle the demands to be driven at speed on the Autobahn, it enjoyed success on the race track and have become a firm favourite with the custom car community.
The best Volkswagens ever made: UP
Not all great VWs are old. Consider the UP as an example. This new breed of city car taps into what VW is doing well for a long time – produce great looking, economical, spacious machines that are fun to drive. Available in a variety of formats costing between £8,265 to just over £13,000, it has two power options, both of which are variants of your 1. litre three cylinder engine. Additionally there is the choice of three- and five-door models.
The worst Volkswagens available: New Beetle
Volkswagen Beetle red
From the advertising literature, VW declares The icon returns. Well, the name may be the same but it bears absolutely no resemblance to its supposed predecessor. While it’s clearly a decently engineered machine, it also misses the mark in a number of ways. Plastic feel, its weird sloping design means it’s not that practical either, so I’m not really sure who would find it appealing, and also having a cheap. Surely anyone wanting this size of car would choose a Golf or Mini instead?
The worst Volkswagens ever made: Phaeton
There are particular things that VW does adequately. Building premium class machines, however, is undoubtedly an area in which it struggles. But more that they will never compete inside the kudos stakes with the likes of Mercedes, not as they are necessarily bad at producing them. Giles Chapman, author of The Worst Cars Ever Sold, describes the VW Phaeton as being a classic lemon, despite as a decent component of technology. VW identified a form of executive that was more interested in engineering than expensive branding, he says. The Phaeton was like an anti-capitalist limo nevertheless the problem was that this idea didn’t really work outside of Germany.
The worst Volkswagens ever made: Derby
While you’d struggle to think of really bad Volkswagens, there are a few mad ones and also the VW Derby, which arrived in the late 1970s, certainly fits this definition, according to Chapman. It was the size of a Metro although with a tiny boot on the back that turned it into a stupidly small saloon, he says. This must have been intended for individuals who always possessed a big car with a separate boot and so on retiring to Bournemouth wanted the same though with the running costs of any Polo.