The Volkswagen Golf Mk2 succeeded the Mk1 as Volkswagen's volume seller from 1983 and remained in (German) production until late 1991. In comparison to its predecessor, its wheelbase grew slightly (+ ), as did exterior dimensions (length + , width + , height + ). Weight was up accordingly by about . Exterior design, developed in-house by VW design director Schäfer, kept the general lines of its Giugiaro-designed predecessor, but was slightly more rounded. All told, about 6.3 million second-generation Golfs were built.
During the life of the Golf 2, there were a number of external style revisions. Notable changes to the looks of the Golf 2 included the removal of quarterlight windows in the front doors, and the introduction of larger grill slats with the August 1987 facelift. The most notable was the introduction of so called "Big Bumpers", which were introduced in the European market with an August 1989 facelift.
This Golf was marketed for the first time with that name in the United States and Canada. The Rabbit name used on the Mk1 was meant to give a car a cuddly image, but with the eighties redesign of the car, Carl Hahn, the former Volkswagen of America president who was now chairman of the whole company, dictated that Volkswagen model names be standardised globally. James Fuller, head of the Volkswagen brand in North America, concurred in using the Golf name to stress the car's Teutonic character. The GTI body kit became available on a non-injection Golf and was sold as the "Driver" trim level in Europe. While the GTI remained a trim level in the Golf lineup in Europe, in North America it was (and continues to be) marketed as a separate model line.
The Golf Mk2 was available as a 3- and 5-door hatchback. Its sedan sister car (available as a 4- and a 2-door model) was again called Jetta. No cabriolet version was developed from the Mk2; instead, the Mk1-based convertible continued to be produced.
Trim levels included base, C, CL and GL and initially a range-topping Carat model (until 1985), later a GT (in 1987) version was also on offer. In North America, there was only a base model until 1986, in 1987 a GL and GT model, in 1988-1989, there was all three, and in 1990 until the end of it's run there was again only a GL. In Japan the range consisted of catalysed Ci/CLi/GLi models all sharing the same 1.6 or later 1.8 liter fuel-injected I4 engines. In the course of the years, a host of "limited edition" models appeared on various markets, distinguished by cosmetic changes and/or an enriched features list.
New base engine was a 1.3 litre inline four; other engine offerings included 1.6 and 1.8 litre petrol fours and 1.6 litre naturally aspirated or turbocharged diesel engines. In North America, all Golf Mk2s had 1.8 liter petrol or 1.6 diesel engines (the GTI, while not a Golf model in North America, also had a 2.0 liter model).
The successful Golf GTI (or, in the USA, simply "GTI") was continued with the Mk2 as a sporty 3- or 5-door hatchback. Like late Mk1 GTIs, it featured a fuel-injected 1.8 litre four developing . In 1986 (1987 for North America) a Golf GTI 16V was introduced; here the 1.8 litre engine put out (or for the catalyst version). US/Canadian GTIs were later equipped with 2.0 16 valve-engines that were not available outside North America. All GTIs were front-wheel drive. In 1990, like the Golf, the GTI was given a facelift, and the "Big Bumper" became standard on all GTIs (like the rest of the Mk2 range, having been optional for the first half of the 1990 year). This was maintained through the rest of the Mk2 model era.
Based on the Rallye Golf, a very limited edition Golf Mk2 variant exists, combining all of the high-line options available at the time. Designed and hand-built by the Volkswagen Motorsport division; only 71 of these "Golf Limited" models were produced. The exclusive feature package included a G60 supercharged version of the 16-valve GTI engine, mated to a sports transmission and Syncro four-wheel drive mechanism. All of these special edition models came in gunmetal grey, with four doors (except two built with three doors), BBS RM wheels in 6.5Jx15", USDM bumpers, a plain two-headlight grille with a unique blue detail, black VW logo, Hella tinted taillights, motorsport badges and a special numbered plaque. It is rumored that two examples were built with air conditioning. In 1989, these cars cost in the region of DM 36,000/£25,000 (about US$41,250 at the time) each and were primarily sold to Volkswagen-Audi Group executives and management, although a few are known to exist in Britain as of 2005. These cars produced and 0-100 km/h (about 0-60 mph) in 7.2 seconds, making them the most powerful VW Golfs ever produced until VW released the Mk4 R32 with in 2003.
There was also a version called Golf Country (about 6,697 cars), designed for light off-road driving. It had more suspension travel, four-wheel drive, bullbars (generally over a single headlight grill), a skid plate for protecting the engine area, and a spare wheel mounted externally on the back.
In Europe, it was offered with the acclaimed 1.8 8v petrol engine, and in smaller numbers, the 1.6 GTD turbodiesel engine. There were also: 160 "Country Allround"; 558 " Country - Chrompaket" with Chrome bullbars and beige leather interior; and 50 "Country GTI" for VW-stuff. The Golf Country was particularly popular in Alpine regions in central Europe.
In its first year on sale in North America, 1985, the Golf 2 maintained sealed-beam square headlights, while the GTI bore flush headlights (from the Jetta). All Golfs gained the flush "aerolamps" in 1987 after a design freshening to move it more upscale in the wake of the introduction of the Brazilian-built Fox (Voyage in Brazil) in North America. This is also the reasoning for the model being called "Golf GL", while virtually no equipment changes occurred. The 1985 U.S. models are easy to distinguish from subsequent models due to the absence of a high-mounted brakelight; these became required of all cars sold in the U.S. for 1986.
The GTI was Motor Trend magazine's Car of the Year for 1985, as well as VWVortex's "Best Golf of all time". The Mk2 GTI failed to make the same waves as the Mk1, and failed to win back the Golf GTI's fanbase which had adopted the Peugeot 205 GTI. In North America, where Peugeot did not sell the 205 in any guise, Volkswagen faced tough competition from the Honda Civic S (later Si).
In its first year on sale in the U.S., Golf sales were eight percent below those of the 1984 Rabbit. Sales of the all-new 1985 Jetta, by contrast, sky-rocketed compared with the 1984 model. In 1986, the Jetta became VW's bestseller in North America, a position it has held ever since.
As with the Mk1, there was a "warm hatch" version known as the Golf GT. Introduced in 1987, it featured the GTI's exterior styling, namely the red stripe exterior trim, and wheelarch spoilers but with a standard 1.8 L engine, available in an automatic and with 4 doors (unlike the GTI). It only lasted for a few years, but with the reintroduction of the GTI in 1989 (the GTI 16v was produced continuously from 1987-1992), this model bore the concept. Year by year, the GTI with the 8 valve engine lost it's GTI-like features, getting standard Golf brakes in 1990, suspension in 1991, losing the MFA computer, and finally being optional with an automatic, a first in GTI history. All GTI models got the European quad-headlight grille with the upgrade to big bumpers in 1990.
A 2.0 litre engine producing replaced the 1.8 in 1990 - 1992 North American 16V models. This version included 15" 2pc BBS RM wheels. In the interior, the Recaro seats no longer had vinyl bolsters of earlier GTIs.
The Golf Mk2 was introduced in Mexico in March 1987 to replace the successful Caribe (Golf Mk1), . It was available with two variants of the 1.8lt engine: A 72hp, and the 85hp (previously used in the Caribe GT, the Atlantic GLS and the Corsar). It came in C, CL and GL trims, with a 4 speed manual gearbox for the "small" engine (C and CL), and 5 speed manual and optional 3 speed automatic for the 85hp version (GL). Tires for the C and CL were 155 SR 13, and P 175/70 R 13 for the GL. In 1988 the Golf received the same modifications as in Europe, but the nameplates (which changed for 1989). In 1989 a GTI version is introduced with a 100hp "Digifant" fuel injected variant of the 1.8 lt engine, 4 disc brakes (front vented), 14" alloy wheels and 5 speed manual gearbox. In 1990, the CL is discontinued and the C is renamed "Base" or "Minus". In 1991 the GL version received the "Big Bumpers" from the August 1989 European restyling. In 1990 the "Jubileo" limited edition based in the base model is introduced. It featured metallic light blue paint, and blue velour upholstery. In 1991 the "Eclipse" limited edition based on the 5 door GL version comes to the market. It was available in Black or metallic Silver colors and Light grey with red stripes velour upholstery, this year, a 90hp version of the 1.8 lt engine becomes the only engine available for the Golf. The mexican Golf Mk2 is replaced in early 1992 by the Golf Mk3.