So What is a Citi Golf, Anyway?

As we reported earlier today, friend of the site Jamie Orr, is heading out to South Africa to buy something called a CITI Golf and stuff a VR6 into its engine bay before taking it on a grand tour of Europe. But what the heck is a Citi Golf?

For those of you whose South African exposure is limited to Neill Blomkamp movies and a general feeling of goodwill toward Nelson Mandela, the Citi Golf was the result of a simple desire for something smaller and cheaper than the Mk2.

When the Mk1 launched, as in the rest of the world, it was a hit in South Africa. The need for a small, cheap car was strong, because as is the case in America, the country is large and public transit sucks, but unlike America, wages were pretty low in the ‘80s. When the MK2 launched in ’84, people still wanted something smaller and cheaper than it. So, naturally, the simplest thing to do was just to keep on building 4-door Mk1 Golfs.

Initially called the EconoGolf, the idea was to simply put stripped down versions of the Golf on sale, but that was sooooo ‘70s, so instead VW South Africa jazzed up the design with new bumpers and decals that bore the new name “Citi.”

The new concept came in three colors: red, yellow, and blue—which the weird South African ads suggest was a big deal for some reason—with white wheels, bumpers, and decals on the doors, as well funky script on the tail indicated the Citiness of these Golfs.

They were put on the market in just those three colors (“NOT GREEN!”) with a slightly modified version of the 1.3-liter engine under the bonnet. Volkswagen South Africa would eventually add 1.6-liter then 1.8-liter (both carburetted) engine and sold the higher displacement cars under the “Sport” moniker, adding black to the color lineup (but just for the “Sport”).

We, here in America, helped keep the Mk1 alive, too. When Westmoreland Assembly closed down, the factory sent its tooling over to the South Africans to help production.

Over the years the face would be lifted, with modern deep bumpers and a sloping grille (not unlike those on the Mk2 Golf) added in 1988.

In 1990, rather excitingly, South Africa basically reintroduced the Mk1 GTI. Calling it the Citi CTi, it used a largely unchanged version of the 1.8-liter engine with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection from the original GTI.

Like the Citi Golf, it appealed to younger buyers looking for something cheap, having been priced out of the more expensive Mk2 GTI.

As time went on, more and more was added to the Citi Golf, including new colors, a dash from a Skoda Fabia, and more. Thanks to those slow minor upgrades, the Citi Golf managed to hang around until 2009, when the “Citi Mk1” came out to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the South African special.

It was lowered, rode on 15-inch alloys, had tinted windows, a leather steering wheel, and—luxury of luxuries—even an airbag. Only 1,000 were made in either Black Magic Pearl or Shadow Blue Metallic, and all bore their production number.

Finally, in 2010, Citi Golf was replaced by the MK4 Polo, known as the Polo Vivo. As you may have noticed, the 25th anniversary of the car finally meant that some of these latter-day Mk1s were finally legal to import to the US, and that’s exactly what Jamie Orr intends to do once he’s finished galavanting around Europe and delivering school supplies to needy children in South Africa.

You can read more about his adventure here.