Volkswagen Golf

Car Review: VW Golf (Fifth Generation 2004-2009)

We still see many examples of this well-produced car on the roads, and this sturdy little beast is fun and reliable. Aside from a few little niggles, as hatchbacks go, this is one of the better choices on the market.

The Good

1. Common service items such as brake discs, pads, oil and fuel filters tend to last longer than other rivals in this group

2. User-friendly, comfortable interior quality is better than its contemporaries

3. The updated multi-link rear suspension makes the handling fun to drive

4. Popular model meaning there are plenty on the roads and plenty of parts around

5. Seats four people easily and comfortably, but five is pushing it unless they are wafer thin

6. Reliable and easy to navigate into parking spots

7. You can choose from the economical 1.6 liter or more spirited 2.0 liter petrol engines, or the 1.9 or 2.0 liter turbo diesel versions. Or if you’re cashed up, go for the sporty GTI Pirelli

8. Manual drivers have the choice of five or six speeds, a six speed automatic with tiptronic shifting, or a six speed DSG auto shifting manual

9. Awesome safety rating featuring front, head, and side airbags

10. The Golf comes with traction control, emergency brake assist, and ABS braking

11. Available in three or five door hatchback versions

Volkswagen Golf

The Bad

1. The six speed DSG version is prone to problems such as erratic changing and changing to neutral at the worst possible times such as passing another car or taking off on hill starts

2. The 1.9 liter turbo diesel engine not only sends a lot of vibration through the pedals, but can be noisy as well

3. Door handles and locks are known to fail and can cost a few hundred to fix

4. Check window regulators work smoothly, as these are known to fail

5. Can be expensive to fix if major mechanical problems appear

The Essentials

Make sure you get a VW specialist mechanic to check it out thoroughly before purchasing. They will know what problems to look out for when conducting a pre-purchase examination and test drive. One of the common problems of a misused Golf is the cracking of the rear springs. It’s not a major problem or too expensive to fix with the right mechanic, but if you notice a creaking sound when driving, or it appears to be sitting low at the rear, then this will most likely be the problem.

If you are thinking of purchasing a model with the DSG gearbox, then get it thoroughly assessed for the problems mentioned above in ‘The Bad’ point ‘1.’.

Ensure all the service records have been kept up regularly and that body is in good condition. Check tires for curb scratching and poor driving.

Ensure you follow and fill up with the recommended ‘Premium Unleaded’ for petrol models, as using lesser, cheaper petrol alternatives can cause serious internal damage to the engine.

The Alternatives

Ford Focus (2004-2011), Toyota Matrix/Corolla (2003-2008), Chevrolet Astra (2004-2010)

The Verdict (Out of Ten)

8 out of 10

While the Golf’s nearest rival (the Ford Focus) is just as fun to drive, it isn’t as comfortable as the Golf. Its predecessors are proof that this engineering classic is here to stay.

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