Volkswagen Golf IV rendering by Niels Van Roij

Remake of an Icon: The Fourth Generation Volkswagen Golf

Giorgetto Giugiaro broke the mold when he created the first generation Volkswagen Golf, but the fourth generation was a successful product in its own right. Niels van Roij takes a look back.

The fourth generation Volkswagen Golf was launched in October 1997. In 2001 it was the best-selling car in Europe and there are still plenty of MK4-model Golfs around. Walking through the London streets I still get excited when I see one of these gems, even though we are surrounded by the most exclusive hypercars.

The only thing a Golf IV needs is a high spec, which will include larger wheels, dark taillights and all rubbing strips and door handles in body color. Done!

The fourth generation took the Golf upmarket, with a new level of interior quality and design sophistication. And it sure did the job. The design language just oozes quality and German perfection. The team did not go the easy way by adding loads of chrome: the car is completely clean; the surfacing does the talking.

For many — myself included — the MK4 represents the best Golf iteration ever. The surfacing is so clean it is devoid of all feature lines and doesn’t even have shoulders. But it boasts great proportions and it’s perfectly sized: not too big, not too small.

It also has unique jewelry, including one of the very first applications of clear lens technology headlights. Journalists went mad after the introduction, describing how one could ‘see behind the glass’ of the units and look right into the complex sculptural piece that included double rounded headlights, daytime running lights and indicators all in one unit. Compared to today’s headlights the Golf IV’s clusters might look rather simple — maybe we are making things too complex these days? — but at the time they were pioneering technology.

The harmony between the door, rear hatch shut lines and the taillight graphics made the C-pillar of the five-door Golf IV iconic. So for obvious reasons this homage sketch offers a good view on Volkswagen’s Hofmeister kink, so to speak.

Volkswagen Golf IV rendering by Niels Van Roij

The fourth generation Volkswagen Golf is a fantastic translation of the essence of Giugiaro’s original Golf design into a modern sculpture.


Founded in 2012, Form Trends tirelessly covers the automotive design industry in all corners of the globe to bring you exclusive content about cars, design, and the people behind the products.