Citi was a Legend!

We bid Citi Golf goodbye!

Auto Bakkie Race Legend Tests are selected from our extensive road test archive.
This road test was first published in Cars in Action magazine December 2009.

I don’t normally like goodbyes. Then again, writing the final road test for the Citi Golf is hardly a teary occasion considering this car is well past its sell-by date in so many ways. Yet I have missed emotions about its retirement, as you’ll see by the end of this test.

31 years since the Golf 1 it’s based on first hit our stores, the Citi Golf is bowing out with this special edition, aptly named the MK1, which represents the last 1000 Citis ever produced.

If they’re not sold out by the time you read this, in which case you could still be wondering just what kind of purchase proposition the Citi represents in the modern age. Firstly, as it does without modern cab-forward design, it is quite cramped for a car this size. Not that the Citi’s typically young target market will mind too much, but the lack of a modern, NCAP-proven safety structure could be a cause for concern. 

At least VW has tried to mitigate this concern by fitting a driver-side airbag, along with many other updates that have been implemented along the way. 

The most notable of these is the modern dashboard derived from the European Skoda Fabia, which did wonders for the interior ambience. Like other sporty City variants, the MK1 actually looks the part of a sporty hatchback inside thanks to it metallic accents, golf-ball gearlever, fat leather steering wheel and body-hugging front seats with leather bolstering. You even get a metal plaque on the dashboard, depicting how close it is to being the very last Citi ever produced. 

I must had it to this car – you’re not going to get a more sporty-feeling interior for anywhere near the price, and the same goes for the driving experience. Of course, there’s really nothing cutting edge about the Citi’s mechanicals, but it’s a formula that has worked well through the last few decades. 

The McPherson front and semi-independent torsion beam rear is hardly different from the underpinnings you get in a modern small car and the engine, lifted from the Polo of the ‘90s, is up to the job of delivering satisfying performance – albeit aided by an 860kg kerb weight that’s typical of a car lacking modern safety structures. Economy is not very good though.

As for the driving experience, this Citi delivers a reasonable ride, if a little crashy by modern standards, and although body roll is very pronounced through corners, it is surprisingly grippy. 

Its short gear ratios allow grin-inducing acceleration through town, with the down-side being that it revs too high at highway speeds. The gearbox also has too long a throw for our liking and it’s also among the notchiest that we’ve sampled in a while. I’m also sure that many of you will miss the air conditioning and power steering. 

While we won’t deny that the Citi Golf belongs in the dark ages, it is by far the sportiest car you can buy for the money and that is one thing we’re really going to miss about it. Farewell Citi*. —  Jason Woosey
LEGEND TEST — 2009 Volkswagen Citi Golf Mk. 1
Engine: 74kW 140Nm 1595cc petrol I4
Drive:   5-speed manual FWD
TESTED (November 2009):
0-60km/h                    4.05 sec
0-100km/h:                 9.32 sec 
400m:                      16.8 sec @ 133km/h
80-120km/h:              6.59 sec
Vmax:                           180 km/h
Fuel:                        8.9/100km
CO2:                              225 g/km
NEW PRICE (2016):      R113K 
NEW MODEL TODAY: R228K (Polo Vivo 1.6 High)
RATED THEN:                59% 
RATED NOW:                 80%!

* Ten years anon, Giordano Lupini is leading the 2019 Burly Pro GTi Challenge in his Bob Ric Driving Legends/Auto Bakkie Race-backed VW Citi Golf…