Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro – A First Modern Crossover?

Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro – A First Modern Crossover?

Aivaras Grigelevičius

At least in Europe, crossovers started to gain popularity around 10 years ago. Until now, this bodywork type could replace hatchbacks, universals, sedans, one-liters, and, at the same time, bring massive profits to all car makers.

No matter if it’s Audi, Porsche or even Lamborghini. If manufacturers want to survive, they have to make a profit. No profit means no exotic supercars, no high-maintenance autosports divisions, and no technology that could make your jaw drop.

Like most European car builders, Volkswagen was actively looking for alternatives to traditional bodywork types, powertrains, or engineering solutions. For example, the modification of a popular Volkswagen Golf model created a real buzz in 1989 among both biggest manufacturers and drivers who loved German hatchbacks.

To Volkswagen executive’s surprise, a new Golf version presented in Geneva motor show got insane attention and countless requests to start serial production. Volkswagen reacted somewhat rationally - next year in 1990 they officially began the production of Golf crossover.

Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro
Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro
© Volkswagen archive
Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro
Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro
© Volkswagen archive

The question is, how did the Germans manage to begin serial production of the crossover version so quickly? You might be surprised, but Volkswagen achieved it with the help of partners from Austria.

At first, the new Golf version was built and constructed in the factory in Germany. The same place where Volkswagen built and constructed their famous hatchbacks. Later, the finished models were sent to another factory, this time in Austria. This facility was responsible for making these cars as elegant as possible.

Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro
Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro
© Volkswagen archive
Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro interior
Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro interior
© Volkswagen archive

This compact SUV didn’t have the most powerful or impressive engine. 1.8-liter capacity, the four-cylinder aggregate would reach 98 HP. If you would try to prove something with this car, you would only make people around you laugh. Still, the car was more than enough to get from one forest to another.

Some sources state that, in order to honor the Volkswagen team that worked on Golf Country, the company made a few models with Golf GTI motor that could reach 115 HP.

Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro
Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro
© Volkswagen archive
Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro
Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro
© Volkswagen archive

Volkswagen equipped this compact, yet agile SUV with four-wheel-drive gear. However, it wasn’t the old-fashioned, casual, and heavy component. It was a Syncro system with a viscous coupling, a mechanical device which transfers torque and rotation by the medium of a viscous fluid. In regular conditions, like while driving on the highway, 95% of all power was transmitted to the front wheels.

Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro
Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro
© Volkswagen archive
Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro
Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro
© Volkswagen archive

Still, these and other Volkswagen Golf Country advantages did not create a precedent that would encourage other car makers to discard traditional hatchbacks.

According to the initial plan, the company expected to sell at least 5,000 units in a year and release 15,000 more to the streets in three years.

Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro
Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro
© Volkswagen archive
Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro
Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro
© Volkswagen archive

Unfortunately, the ambitious plan never took off. In two years, there were only 7735 volunteers from Europe that were ready to pay such an amount. To clarify, Golf Country cost as much as a Volkswagen Passat with quality setup. That’s where the story of this model ends.

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