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Unexceptional Classics

Unexceptional Classifieds: Volkswagen Golf CL

by Antony Ingram
14 January 2022 2 min read
Unexceptional Classifieds: Volkswagen Golf CL
Photos: eBay

Price: £1450
Mileage: 121,000
Condition: Fresher than its three decades would suggest
Seller: eBay

The third-generation Volkswagen Golf doesn’t seem like such an old car, does it? Yet the Mk8 Golf has already been on sale for a couple of years, meaning fully five generations have appeared since the Mk3 hit UK roads in 1992.

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Perhaps the model’s evolutionary progression is why even older Golfs can still look quite fresh. There are still cues from the Mk3 that you’ll find on the Mk8 – that sizeable C-pillar for instance, which does nothing for visibility but has long given the Golf an air of solidity before you even get inside and start prodding at plastics.

That solidity was clearly more than just implied with the Mk3, as there still seem to be plenty for sale at any given time. There aren’t many other family hatchbacks from the era that still roam in such numbers.

That’s especially the case when you consider models lower down the Golf food chain than the GTI. While hot hatches get driven hard, they also tend to be owned by enthusiasts, who commit more of their money to upkeep, and snapped up by other enthusiasts who do likewise.

Not so your bog-basic models, yet old Golfs persist: witness this 1993 model, in 1.8-litre automatic in CL trim. Stare closely at the photos and there are imperfections, sure, but for a family car that’s now nearly three decades old, its condition is quite impressive.

Those visual-inspection imperfections include slightly cloudy headlights, a dusting of rust visible in the arch lips, a dented sill, and some scruffy-looking steel wheels. The seller has gone to town with the bumper black though and the paintwork seems reasonably bright, so it’s far from decrepit.

Inside it betrays its early-Mk3 status with a two-spoke non-airbag steering wheel, rather than the chunky four-spoker that came later. The automatic gear selector is a funny-looking thing, strangely short and stubby, but the little rotary control to switch between economy and sport modes is a neat touch. Again though it’s mostly tidy, even if the boot shows some signs of heavy use in the past.

Volkswagen’s 1.8-litre single-cam four got you just 75bhp back in the day, though those that upgraded from CL to GL would enjoy (if that’s the right word) an extra 15 horses. Still, even the GTI only made 115bhp at the time, a 16v head still an update away. And look at all that space in the engine bay! You’d not think twice about a quick tinker when required.

As we noted when driving the GTI last year, what were once criticisms of the Mk3 can now be considered part of its charm. Nobody really cares that a 30-year old hatchback isn’t that quick, do they, any more than they care that an old Frogeye Sprite would get left for dead by the slowest modern cars on sale.

What’s more important is that a car like this Golf will deliver an experience far removed from any modern car, but not so far removed you wouldn’t feel inclined to use it. And if the condition of this car and numerous other Mk3 Golfs is anything to go by, there should still be plenty of life left in it yet.

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