Fun cars are still selling strong. Audi R8 sales doubled in the United States last year while demand for the Miata shot up by 50 percent. Even the ancient Nissan GT-R enjoyed a 584 percent hike in popularity and BMW Z4 roadster deliveries increased by 20.2 percent.

Volkswagen of America is happy to report its hot hatches also saw an upward trend in 2023. The Grand Tourer Injection saw its sales jump by 7.6 percent to 7,451 units but the real star was the Golf R. Volume grew by a whopping 116 percent, reaching 3,238 units.

Volkswagen Golf R 20th Anniversary Edition

VW didn't provide a breakdown on sales by gearbox in the press release, but we've reached out and learned about half of GTI buyers opted for the stick shift and 40 percent of R owners wanted the third pedal. It's worth mentioning the manual is going away, leaving only the DSG. When the GTI 380 special edition was announced at the end of last August, it served as the swan song for the GTI's manual gearbox. The company also said 2024 would be the last model year for the six-speed Golf R.

The demise of the manual could partially explain why the GTI and R were in high demand last year. That would make sense considering sales in Q4 2023 were up by 76.5 percent for the GTI and by 480.1 percent for the R compared to Q4 2022.

Volkswagen Golf R 20th Anniversary Edition

But what if the manual isn’t going away after all? Autocar reported last October the loosened Euro 7 regulations might have convinced VW to keep the do-it-yourself gearbox alive. The not-for-America standard Golf is days away from receiving a mid-cycle facelift, so we should have an answer pretty soon. However, it's unclear whether the GTI and R will debut together with the regular models. Even if that won't be the case, the performance models can't be far behind.

The forthcoming Golf Mk8.5 will likely be the last update for the quintessential compact car in the ICE era. VW has already announced the Mk9 will be electric-only on the Group's Scalable Systems Platform, with production starting in 2028. The company has promised the GTI and R badges will live into the zero-emission era. In fact, an electric GTI model is coming as early as 2026.

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