The Volkswagen Golf is set to go automatic only as part of a mid-life update in 2024, if impending Euro 7 emissions rules are signed off in their current form.
Autocar understands the change – due to be introduced as part of an upcoming facelift for the eighth-generation Golf line-up – would also impact the Volkswagen Golf GTI - a landmark moment for the genre-defining hot hatch as it approaches its 50th anniversary in 2025.
The automatic Golf GTI is currently priced from £39,435, some £1500 more than the manual car. If prices increase slightly across the line-up as part of the updates for the Mk8.5 Golf, it is highly likely there will be no GTI available for less than £40,000.
Volkswagen technical development boss Kai Grünitz confirmed to Autocar: "With the next generation of the Golf, there will not be one with a manual gearshift." He added that the decision was taken for reasons of emissions compliance, but Autocar understands the move has not yet been officially signed off, pending any changes to the Euro 7 legislation before it is ratified.
According to Volkswagen's data, the manual Golf GTI emits 162g/km of CO2 compared with the automatic's 160g/km - a slight difference but one that has significant implications in the context of manufacturer fleet emissions quotas.
The move brings to an end nearly 50 years of the manual GTI. The hot version of the original Mk1 Golf was revealed in 1975 with a close-ratio four-speed 'box, which was swapped out in 1979 for a longer-legged five-speeder. Every GTI since has been offered with a manual, and it remains an option in the US for the much more potent Volkswagen Golf R - though it remains to be seen whether this will be the case following the facelift.
The standard Golf is currently available in the UK with a manual gearbox if specified with the 1.0-litre or 1.5-litre pure-petrol engine, or the 2.0-litre turbodiesel. The mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid models are exclusively automatic already.
The cheapest Golf available is the manual 1.0-litre TSI, at £26,565. The cheapest automatic variant, meanwhile, costs nearly £2000 more.
It is not yet clear whether other models in the Volkswagen line-up are affected by the decision. Currently, the Up, Polo, T-Cross, Taigo, T-Roc and Arteon are offered with manual gearboxes - as are the soon-to-be-replaced Tiguan and Passat.
Volkswagen is one of several firms moving away from the manual gearbox, as manufacturers look to slash emissions, meet prevailing customer demand and reduce complexity in their line-up.
Mini, for example, recently revealed a special-edition JCW hot hatch as its final manual car, and the Mercedes line-up has been automatic-only since 2021.