Few cars launched in the 1970s were as important as the Volkswagen Golf GTI. The GTI helped bring performance to the masses, cemented the hot hatch as a cornerstone of the automotive world, and lead to a performance-car renaissance. It also helped kill the British sports car, and, as the guys at Donut Media argue, Volkswagen's own Beetle.
What's funny is that Volkswagen didn't think it had much on its hands when it first launched the GTI. and a skunkworks team of engineers actually had to build a hotter Golf prototype on their own to convince company executives to greenlight the GTI for production.
VW planned on selling 5000. More than 40 years later, the GTI is still in production with over 2 million units sold. It's harder to quantify the cars the Golf GTI inspired, but at the very least, we can say that today's excellent hot hatches wouldn't exist without it.
Not bad for a little hatchback.