Golf gets in swing
NO hot hatch carries with it as great a pedigree as Volkswagen's Golf GTI. This is the car that popularised the whole pocket rocket phenomenon and counting the number of models that ripped off Volkswagen's GTI badge will run you almost into treble figures.
The thing is, the original hasn't always been the best. The MkI car was great and the 16v version of the MkII GTI wasn't half bad but in the intervening years, the GTI lost its way. With the MK V car, it was back at the top of its game and demand has been frenzied.
WHAT YOU GET:
The MkV GTI offers a real premium car look and feel, not surprising when you consider the cost from new. The GTI has a class-leading chassis and an engine that really delivers the performance goods, a full-length honeycomb grille, 17-inch alloy wheels, a roof spoiler and GTI badging which differentiates this car from its humbler brethren. The black grille surround also looks less like an oversized Honda badge than the metallic finishes worn by other Golfs.
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The interior kept the Golf at the top of the family hatch tree. It uses a fascia design reminiscent of the Phaeton luxury saloon although the centre console is lifted from the Touran mini-MPV. With the possible exception of its pricier Volkswagen Group cousin, the Audi A3, the cabin has the beating of any hatchback out there as regards ambience. The interior features soft-feel slush-moulded plastics, subtle use of chrome, fabric-covered A-pillars plus blue instrument backlighting with red needles, a signature of the fourth generation model. Some of the lower dash plastics and minor switches feel a little cheap but when balanced against the huge improvements in interior space, it's not too big a price to pay. The MKV Golf also set new standards by introducing 2Zone climate control and four-way lumbar support within the line-up. In addition, ESP (Electronic Stabilisation Programme), no fewer than six airbags as well as anti-lock brakes are fitted as standard. Big car features such as automatic activation of headlamps and wipers are built into the car's electronics.
WHAT YOU PAY
The £500 difference from new between three-door and five-door GTI models has now been largely absorbed by the used markets so both three and five-door variants cost much the same. Opening price for a typically average mileage GTI on a 54 plate is around £15,000 with some higher mileage cars (not uncommon for a model that has been popular with fleet car user/choosers) coming in at just over £14,000. Insurance for the GTI doesn't come cheap, the car being rated at Group 17.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Only two real issues have yet arisen and that's an oil pump bolt fault on early GTI models that has now been fixed under recall. The other is the ABS Pump Module which is a very common failure for the VW Golf V and Touran vehicles built between 2004 to 2008. The fault causes the ESP light to illuminate permanently on the instrument cluster and the ESP OFF switch will also be illuminated. The cost of having a main dealership fix this problem can be upwards of £1,500. Generally the Golf is a car that can be bought with confidence.
Used prices have remained firmer than a Tory home secretary although there won't be many GTI owners who have regretted their purchase. There's not too far you can go wrong as long as you track down a well looked after car.