A refreshed Volkswagen Golf is due out in 2024. As a mid-cycle update, the changes are expected to include a facelift and a revised interior. However, depending on the outcome of new European legislation, the most radical change could be the elimination of its manual gearbox.
The legislation, known as the Euro 7 emissions rules, regulate carbon dioxide emissions from combustion-engined vehicles. According to Volkswagen, the manual transmission Golf GTI produces 162g/km of CO2 compared to 160g/km for the automatic version. It's a very slight difference but significantly impacts the automaker's emissions quotas.
Gallery: 2024 Volkswagen Golf facelift spy photos
For this reason, among others, the Euro 7 legislation has faced significant criticism from automakers. Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares called the new standards "useless" because they will negatively impact car prices and do not provide a customer or environmental benefit. Volkswagen has also been critical, saying it would either halt production of some models or discontinue others like the Skoda Fabia and Volkswagen Polo.
In Europe, a Golf equipped with an automatic transmission costs approximately 1,500 euros more than a manual transmission car, the equivalent of about $1,642 dollars. That amount may be small compared to the price of a Golf GTI, which starts at over $31,000. However, for some, the change is not just about the added cost but one that ends a nearly 50-year run of the original hot hatch with a manual gearbox.
The original GTI debuted in 1975 as the performance version of the Mk1 Golf. Initially equipped with a close-ratio four-speed manual, it received a five-speed gearbox in 1979. By the time it reached the US in 1983, it had received a number of improvements. With barely 110 horsepower available from its 1.6-liter four-cylinder, it was quick for the era, running from 0 to 60 mph in 9.0 seconds and topping out at 113 mph.
It's unclear if the Euro 7 legislation will impact the availability of a manual-equipped Golf GTI in the US. Likewise, if the legislation is changed, it's unknown whether Volkswagen would give the manual gearbox a stay of execution in Europe. However, Volkswagen is one of many firms planning to discontinue manual transmissions. With no ICE version of the next Golf planned, that change could be coming sooner rather than later, no matter the legislation's outcome.