By on May 27, 2014

vr6

What a long, strange trip it’s been! By the year 1999, the VW GTI had been a flop with the critics for fifteen of its seventeen years in the market. Yet the car still had credibility with the people who actually bought it, and it was still considered to be a desirable, premium vehicle. More importantly than that, the hardcore fans had noted the release of the G.O.A.T. and expected that the Mk4 Golf would feature the same helping of Piech magic.

It did—sort of.

T.S. Eliot could show you fear in a handful of dust (and that’s the second reference The Waste Land in just three reviews, I must be losing it) but I can show you the excellence of the fourth-generation Golf in a single photo. Behold:
mk4

No, not the stupid wheels! Look at the line formed by the back door. Now look at the line formed by the rear hatch and taillight cutout. Now try to tell me this car wasn’t designed with the same care that Giugiaro gave to the original. Finally. After fifteen years of indifferent, bulky-looking compact VWs, this was a hurricane blast of fresh air, inside and out. With this car, Volkswagen finally embraced the “premium” thing with both arms and the result was spectacular. Better than that, the Mk4 finally felt like a value proposition. Nobody else offered a car with this kind of interior, this kind of style, this kind of attitude, for this kind of money.

Your humble author wasted no time in becoming the owner of a Brazilian-built 2000 GLS 1.8t four-door, a car that was such a cult classic that I sold it for what I’d paid for it new when it was two years old and had 25,000 miles on it. The 1.8t that had enlivened the Passat worked similar magic in the Golf, allowing it to run more or less heads-up with the 5.0 Mustangs that still roamed the streets at that time. A whole generation of young people fell in love with the Mk4 — girls with the stylish Jetta 2.slow, boys with the 1.8t, old men with the VR6, which picked up a four-valve head and broke the 200-hp mark halfway through the model run. The whole “Dubber” culture, which had been tottering along unsteadily on the last legs of the Boomer air-cooled freaks, picked up the kind of momentum commonly found by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge and never looked back.

gti41

(Apologies for the stock photos — JB)

Our test example is part of VW’s “heritage” fleet, a two-door 2002 GTI 1.8t, with the upgraded 180-hp engine that arrived for that year. Ooh, this one’s just as nice as I remember. These cars were subject to a sort of Holy Trinity of failures — window regulators, coilpack failures, and peeling plastic — but a test roll of the windows fails to see one drop into the door and the response to the throttle is proper strong.

Compared to the VR6, the 180-horsepower 1.8t is better in all respects. It spins faster, makes more power under the curve, and demonstrates more flexibility. Most amazingly, it has five valves per cylinder, something that Yamaha had done in its motorcycle engines to great acclaim and the engineering of which was an unequivocal shot across the bow of the Japanese automakers who hadn’t managed to do it despite sharing a country of origin with the technology’s originators. The only problem is that it sounds terrible, replacing the Italian-supercar growl of the six with the asthmatic wheeze of the blown four. Blech. Roll the windows back up, luxuriate in the silence of the thoroughly insulated cabin, and hustle along.

Which you can do. Finally, a GTI that kind of handles by modern standards. On a racetrack, it would grind the outside sidewall with the single-minded determination of an Amish carpenter but on the open road these cars are a good mix of ride quality and usable grip. I remember years spent thrashing through Ohio’s Hocking Hills in these cars, abusing the trustworthy and granular lift-throttle rotation, using the torque to pull me up the grades and then bouncing the redline in long exhilarating moments before standing on the nose for the next corner. The only caveat was the brakes, which could pick up a lot of heat in a relatively short time and take an unannounced vacation as a result.

This isn’t a light car — 2,950 pounds compared to the 3,397 of my Accord Coupe, which brings another hundred horsepower and a wealth of additional features to the party — but what you pay in weight you receive back in solidity. Oddly, the Golf felt heavier, more inert, more solid, than the B5-generation Passat. Perhaps it’s not surprising, since the larger car didn’t actually scale that much more.

gti42

Regrettably, the Mk4 didn’t reverse the Mk3 trend of smaller window openings. This is the darkest interior yet, the least visibility, the thickest pillars. That C-pillar that satsifies so in the aesthetic sense turns out to be a bit of a hassle on the road, particularly in the two-door models. The windowsills, too, are a bit higher than I’d like, a problem made more explicit by having recently driven the earlier, airier cars.

If you can live without the character of the VR6, the Mk4 1.8t possesses a superset of its predecessor’s abilities and throws in a double helping of design excellence as a bonus. Finally, VW had a winner on its hands. The Euro and Brit press fought tooth and nail to compose the most symphonic of encomia to the Golf and its almighty father, Dr. Piech. To own a turbo Golf in those days was to be a man beyond reproach, identified as an aesthete and tastemaker far above the crass material statement of BMW ownership yet deeply versed in the corksniffing snobbery of “German-engineered” automobilia.

No, it wasn’t as good a car as the Passat. It didn’t handle as well, it was less spacious, it had some cheaper bits on the inside, it wasn’t as slippery, the fuel economy in real-world use was actually worse. But it was so much classier-feeling than anything else in the market that it didn’t matter. The Civic, Sentra, Focus, Cavalier — none of them even came close. VW sales continued to shoot through the roof and company spokespeople started to babble about doing a million units a year in this country.

And then, disaster struck. VW’s attempts to address its price and cost issues through the supplier-pinching magic of a certain J. Iganacio Lopez, a man who was so good at creating profit where there had been none that VW gladly paid General Motors $100 million for poaching him and considered it money well spent, started showing through. And now, let’s quote John Updike’s Piet Hanema, from the brilliant 1968 book, “Couples”:

Let me tell you about houses… Everything outs. Every cheat. Every short cut… Don’t think because you cover something up it isn’t there. People have a nose for the rotten and if you’re a builder the smell clings.

The first big problem with the 1.8t-powered Volkswagens was, strictly speaking, not VW’s fault. The engine was designed to take just three quarts of oil, a specification cheerfully ignored by lazy dealer personnel who filled it with five anyway and caused all sorts of havoc. The company bowed to the pressures of reality and changed the oil pan to accommodate what the service monkeys were going to do anyway.

After that, however, it was all downhill. The cars developed a reputation for being stranded on the road and even the faithful started to make jokes about it. When the ultra-premium soft-touch interiors started disintegrating into pockmarked foam, the bloom went well and truly off the rose for good. The expansion of VW’s customer base in the Mk4 era naturally meant that it would now include some people who expected the Golf to be as bulletproof as a Camry and who took it personally when that didn’t turn out to be the case. A lot of young people had a Mk4 for their first, and last, Volkswagen.

This was a candle that shone brightly but not long; the first truly great Golf in twenty years but also one that couldn’t shake the worse parts of its predecessors’ legacies. The rest of the story, you probably know: The fifth-generation GTI was a “Fast” and brilliant automobile that traded a bit of premium feel for a lot of dynamic capability and some reliability improvements, and the sixth-generation capitalized on those improvements in incremental fashion, becoming a very good car in most respects.

Stay tuned for the true end of this tale: a test of the new Mk7 GTI, coming later this week.

(Disclosure: VW provided travel and accommodations to TTAC, one half of that travel being a red-eye flight in the back corner of a 767 where a not unattractive young Indian woman put her bare feet up against the interior wall of the plane and used your author as a pillow in a manner best described as “nonconsensual”.)

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101 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2002 Volkswagen GTI 1.8T...”


  • avatar
    threeer

    I had a 2000 Golf (not GTi) four door in that glorious metallic green. Five speed, sunroof, gorgeous interior. I drove that thing with much more pleasure than my father-in-law’s Firebird Firehawk he tossed me the keys to one day. And then the Golf turned two. And everything went “bonk” after that. Didn’t know that Gremlins originated in Germany (and I’m half-German!), but there they were. I still occassionally look lustfully at a Golf, and I know it’s been 14 years since my last experience…but I just can’t pony up the courage to go down that road again.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      Oh, don’t be afraid of VW. Four years of owning a Mk VI GTI and I’ve encountered only one minor problem and that was a master door lock switch that quit and was replaced under warranty. A Mk V GTI I had before before that was flawless. TTAC’s commentariat are quick to warn you of the dangers of owning a VW, but that hasn’t been my experience.

      That said, the Mk IV reminds me of Lester Bang’s comment about Rod Stewart after he released “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”: never had so much talent been so corrupted. As Jack points out, all the good qualities of the VW brand were utterly destroyed by the reliability woes of the early 2000s VW lineup. All were affected: New Beetle, Passat, Jetta, Golf, and even the first generation Touareg. SCE to AUX, Luke42, and CJinSD (among others) will be quick to share their horror stories of Mk IV era vehicles. Even though all the latest reliability surveys such as Consumer Reports, JD Power, and True Delta show VW as a brand moving out of the basement in the ratings (while the whole industry is improving, making VW’s climb even steeper), it will take another generation before those bad memories are quiesced.

      The Mk VII GTI looks very promising. More power, less weight, same useful hatchback utility. If my experience with Mk V and VI GTIs is any indicator, the Mk VII should also be reliable and even more satisfying to drive.

  • avatar
    djsyndrome

    “an unequivocal shot across the bow of the Japanese automakers who hadn’t managed to do it despite sharing a country of origin with the technology’s originators.”

    Except they did, and well before VW. Never offered in North America, though. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Toyota_A_engine#4A

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    My wife bought a slightly used 2001 Jetta back in this day.

    2.0, automatic, but fully loaded otherwise with all the options. I can see why it appealed to be such a nice car. Compared to the Focus, the Cavalier, and even the Japanese small-cars of the time the Jetta is just so much nicer. Soft plastics, quiet; it all just seems nicer.

    Now, before I get to the next part, at the time (and well before I met her) I had a slightly used 2001 PT Cruiser. The interior looks about as nice, but didn’t have the soft touches of the VW. The interior still looked better then most small-cars of that era, and it was very roomy and most of all very comfortable. It didn’t handle quite like the Jetta, but had a much stronger engine then the 2.0; which, on the downside, also got way worse gas mileage.

    Now fast forward to today. We still have her Jetta; my father now has my PT Cruiser. The Jetta just hasn’t held up well at all. The interior has fallen apart, literally, and those soft plastic coatings have long since peeled. The inside of the PT Cruiser still looks about as new as the I bought it. Both cars have a bit of peeling clear coat; but the PT Cruiser is minimum around the edges. The hood, roof, and trunk lid are all but down to the base coat on the VW.

    Then there’s the mechanical cost. The PT Cruiser hasn’t been trouble free; but it’s been mostly minor stuff. The Jetta?? It hasn’t been nearly as trouble free as the Chrysler.

    Did I just compare a VW to a Chrysler, a PT Cruiser at that? Yes I did. Both cars were the slower but fully optioned out models. They both came in at around the same price, and they’ve both been driven; no scratch that… lived out of by young people for a good many of years. The Chrysler has just held up better over time, been less problematic, and was just better built. Amazing…

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    Does anyone remember that until the mid 2000’s Volkswagen had the worst US warranty at just 2 years 40,000 miles? Even still people had to use the hell out of it, because as nice as these Golf/Jetta models looked, they suffered Armageddon-like cascading mechanical failures.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      Absolutely. When I was shopping in 2003 it actually may have been 2yr/24,000 miles. That was all I needed to know. Well, that and the the disintegrating leather stitching on my roommate’s 2 year old Jetta.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      I remember the 99 Jettas got a 100k-mile powertrain warranty.

      Anyone got anecdotes about milking that particular warranty to the last drop?

      • 0 avatar
        ...m...

        …my 2000 model-year turbobeetle had a 2/20000 comprehensive and a 10/100000 powertrain, but neither warranty were worth the paper they were printed on: volkswagen always found a way around the warranty and ended up charging me hundreds or even thousands of dollars at every service, regardless of what had failed…

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I bought an ’02 Golf TDI in the fall of ’01. It had 4yr-48K bumper-to-bumper, and a 10yr-100K powertrain warranty, so I have no idea what you are on about.

      My very first new car. And it was wonderful. Sadly a job bobble meant it had to go after 2 years and 35K happy 50mpg miles. Sold it to a fellow TDI Club person who is still happily driving it today, and it still looks like new inside and out.

      Maybe myself and my various friends are just lucky, or maybe the climate in Maine makes the cars feel like they are in Germany, but none of us have had anything remotely resembling a bad experience with these cars despite literally a million miles or more between us all. I have one friend with a 150 mile per day commute that is on his third TDI, a bought new MK VI, having put 300K each on a couple used MKIVs.

      I find it endlessly amusing how the coilpack and window regulator issues are still brought up, both were resolved a decade ago now.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        VW had a 4 year/48K mile bumper-to-bumper until the 2009s came out with their 3 year/36K mile carefree maintinence/warranty. None of the MKV VW products I owned had a 100K powertrain warranty. They had 5 year/60 month powertrain warranties from 2006-2008.

        • 0 avatar
          mypoint02

          My ’95 had a 2/24k bumper to bumper and a 10/100k powertrain warranty. I used the powertrain warranty at 99k miles for a failed water pump. I know they did away with the powertrain warranty at some point, but not sure when.

          • 0 avatar
            ...m...

            …funny, VW told me that the water pump wasn’t covered under the powertrain warranty…

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        Just like Chrysler fixed the Ultradrives? ATF+3, and then +4 they said! Plenty of owner stories from both sides of the fence:

        93 Intrepid 3.5L—Zero Trans Issues. 90K miles
        04 Neon—Trans Replaced 40K.

        Your experience may vary.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Love this series as I can remember all but the MK1, though did JB sandbag a Jalop named Damon on the MK2 review?

    http://jalopnik.com/i-autocrossed-every-generation-of-gti-without-vw-knowi-1577582789

    vs

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/capsule-review-1992-vw-gti-16v-2-0/

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I was there the day before Damon and had a chance to chat with him for a while. I don’t know who the “long-haired reformed womanizer” to whom he refers in the text might be. Probably Scott Burgess. :)

  • avatar
    Timothy

    God I loved the looks of those Jetta’s/Golfs. Such a premium package at such a reasonable price. So much so that I bought an 02 Jetta with all the options accept one… one very important one… I wanted the new car so bad I couldn’t wait the 3 months until the next round of 1.8t cars started showing up at dealers who sold them much faster than VW could make them.

    Still though, that 2.slow engine took every single red line excursion I could throw at it with nary a complaint. Windows did fall on occasion however.

  • avatar

    “A lot of young people had a Mk4 for their first, and last, Volkswagen.”

    A few middle aged folks too, yours truly included. I had an absolutely terrible ownership experience and I feel like I am a pretty long suffering individual. It takes a lot for me to hate a car, but VW earned it.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      Haha – so true. A good friend’s first ‘real’ car was a lightly used Mk4 Jetta 1.8T purchased in 2005. It looked and felt like a premium car and everyone thought he was doing very well for about 2 months. Then it started burning oil, smoking, misfiring, suffering from untraceable electronic shorts and was all around a horrid ride.

    • 0 avatar
      ...m...

      …likewise, about three thousand dollars in unscheduled maintenance every year from the day i drove it new off the lot….volkswagen made beautiful new cars but then everything just came apart, never a penny of which would volkswagen cover under warranty: say what one will about how they may have improved over the past ten years, but they’ve earned longstanding animosity honestly…

    • 0 avatar
      kingofgix

      Me too. I had 2 MkIVs. The first one I threatened the dealer with a Lemon Law suit. The dealer gave me 100% credit on my 2 YO old Mexican made 1.8T lemon towards a German made VR6 GTI. The improvement was minor. After about 18 months I traded it for a Prius and never looked back. The Prius was flawless and a total joy. Live and learn….

    • 0 avatar
      racerxlilbro

      Add my voice to the chorus of boos. Worst. Car. Ever. Window regulators? Check. Dash trim falling off while driving? Yup. Replace the front wheel bearings at 350 miles? Sure, why not! Steering wheel mounted incorrectly? Ok!

    • 0 avatar
      Redleg

      A 99 Mk IV TDI was my first VW, and I’m now on number 3. Each replacement was through changing life circumstances, and not because the car needed replacing. My Mk V GTI will pass to my son in caouple of years when he gets his license, while contemplate getting a Mk VII GTI or waiting for the new Golf SportWagon

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    “I sold it for what I’d paid for it new when it was two years old and had 25,000 miles on it.”

    Whaaa? How did you only put 25K on it in 2 years? Were you in a coma?

  • avatar
    Lythandra

    I have an 2003 1.8T GTI as my DD. Its still fun to drive. Nothing major has ever broken but I have replaced ALL the plastic bits in the engine bay. It never left me stranded but its certainly not as reliable as the Integra I had before it or the RX-7 before that. I’m involved with the local VW community and no one has any horror stories. I may replace it with the 7 later this year unless the hatchback WRX is announced.

    I may be lucky but mine has been chipped for almost 10 years and still burns zero oil. Never had any electrical shorts but I did replace the coil packs with aftermarket ones. Never had a problem after I did that with misfires and such. I run a set of sport springs and Bilsteins all around. It handles quite well still.

    • 0 avatar
      omer333

      There’s a guy on a Dart forum I frequent who has a Jetta of this vintage with the 1.8T. He claims it puts down around 260hp to the wheels and is still reliable. I have trouble believing him.

      • 0 avatar
        Lythandra

        I can totally believe it. 260 isn’t much for these engines.

        Mine is at 200 whp and 245 wtq but I have only done light mods, still on stock turbo. I have a friend that went big turbo years ago and he is doing 350 whp and he still DDs it. His is still reliable(ish) as that much power finds the weak links but its all dumb weak links that are easily fixable for us garage mechanics. His car is stupid fast tho and insanely fun to get a ride in.

        • 0 avatar
          omer333

          So the engine’s good, but the rest of the car sucks?

          • 0 avatar
            ...m...

            …pretty much, yeah: the engine and gearbox were wonderful in these cars, shame about everything else around the drivetrain, though…

          • 0 avatar
            redmondjp

            That’s EXACTLY how I would describe my 1997 Passat TDI, which I drove to work today. I love the 50mpg, but I am never sure what the next thing to fall off/break/work intermittently will be.

            Just this week, it has started blowing hot air out the dash vents when it’s not supposed to.

            All of my newer cars have been Hondas or Buicks. Not as fun to drive as VW, but they don’t break as often.

  • avatar
    redav

    I’m not sure what I’m supposed to see at that c pillar because all I notice is a big slab of blah smothered in meh.

    People say Toyotas are ugly, but they are far outpaced by VWs.

  • avatar
    JohnnyFirebird

    The MkIV continued to be sold in Canada until 2010 (and in other markets still being sold) and when I was working as a used manager at a VW dealer I found them surprisingly fun to drive, moreso than the next generation. Even with the 2.slow. (Though the 2.0 really, REALLY needs the manual transmission.) Reconditioning costs on a MKIV, particularly at 130,000 kilometers is pretty high – the major problem almost always being a torn flex pipe (under warranty in Canada until 130,000 kilometers or six years! Get it checked before then!) and electrical gremlins. A well-maintained model even into higher mileages gets a premium here, I don’t know if that’s a Quebec thing or applies in the US as well. They’re still much better made than the 2006-2007 Passats which accrue tremendous costs after they cross the 100,000 kilometer mark. Just from observation it seems like the Passats got better after that, though for all the complaining about the Americanized Passats the euro ones seem much flakier and less reliable. I can’t back this up with numbers, just from personal experience.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Being as this is a VW article on TTAC, I will be very disappointed if we don’t hit at least 100 comments of horror stories.

    If your wife’s cousin’s roommate’s uncle’s third grade art teacher had a Jetta with a bad transmission, the world must know.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      You can go to Vortex and get more of the same… Please point us to the VW owners forum that is all rainbows and unicorns. :)

      • 0 avatar
        TXCOMT

        I go to Vortex to read that awesome abandoned race tracks thread from time to time…you mean it’s about VWs?

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        There is always a guy (or girl) on Vortex saying that it isn’t that bad. If you buy software, a special tool, jack stands, and perform a complex sequence of tasks, you’ll be able to do regular maintinance for around $130 (plus $500+ for all the equipment the first time) instead of someone else charging you at least $400. Nevermind that the competitors sometimes charge less than that for a similar service. Oh, and buying the materials online for a VW oil change costs more than having a Ford dealer actually do my oil change/tire rotation/inspection.

        • 0 avatar
          Mandalorian

          We have not hit 100 horror stories yet, I am disappointed. You guys could at least mention the superior build quality of a Trabant over a VW or the much nicer interior of a Chevy Cavilier.

    • 0 avatar
      ...m...

      …i can count four, five, six, seven coworkers and personal acquaintances who all had the same platform fall apart on them, so there’s a good handful of ticks for your post count…

      …to offer some counter-anecdotes, i have two friends who came away from their A4s with positive experiences: just a handful of minor failures each, each cheerfully covered under warranty, with no major problems other than the frequent warranty service…of course, they both sold their cars within two years and moved on to something new, which arguably skews those anecdotes a bit…

      …VW earned their reputation with these cars…

    • 0 avatar
      Stumpaster

      i leased a 1995 Golf for 45K miles. I had to replace the rear light bulbs. I hit 105 mph in it one dark night.

    • 0 avatar
      kingofgix

      People bitch about VWs because they have had a terrible reliability track record. That doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions, but there were way too many bad parts and pieces. I have owned dozens of cars, 2 of them MkIV Vw’s, and those 2 were the absolute worst cars of all I have owned. One of them probably had more issues than all of my other cars put together. And I bought it new.

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    i owned a 2002 TDI manual for about 2 years, bought for $6000. I drove it perhaps 3-4 months and the interior of course was quickly falling apart, and the dash lights worked when they felt like it. the engine though was awesome. the rest of the time i loaned it to family, which also had zero issues with it. I sold it to the same guy i bought it from for $5500 with 15k more miles, and more broken interior bits. In hindsight I wish i still had it.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Uggh MKIV VWs were terrible. I owned two of them. 3 months into my first one, I got my first of many, many check engine lights – the the front windows fell in – on both cars – then the brake switches stopped working – and the glove box doors broke….etc…etc…etc.

    The list of stuff that fell apart on those cars is way to long to list here.

    Those cars were total and utter trash.

    • 0 avatar
      Andrew717

      I got a good one. 2005 Golf GLS, 2.slow and automatic, purchased used with 4000 miles on the clock on April 2006. Newest car I’d ever had, up till then. Slow as hell and god-awful fuel economy (worse than my prior car, a Buick Regal with the supercharged 3800, best I ever recorded was 24mpg highway) but the most reliable car I’ve ever owned. 8 years and 95,000 miles, only unscheduled service was a water pump failure when I had 200 miles left of warranty. Perfect timing. My wife’s Camry had FAR more issues. Great handling, great interior. When I traded it I felt like I was putting my dog to sleep. Wife replaced the Camry with a Beetle, it’s been more reliable.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I had a good experience with my 2004 Jetta 1.8t wagon, though VW had worked out many of the MK4 issues by the time mine was built. Bought it used with 35k, replaced the coil packs myself. Sold it 3 years and 35k later because I was given use of a free car. It was a Pontiac G6 2.4 and was an awful downgrade from my “Audi-lite” GLS wagon. But it was free.

    I sold it at 75k miles, probably before the demons took over. But it was a great car for me, comfortable, fast enough and reliable. I enjoyed the car on my weekly Pittsburgh to Harrisburg commute, it returned about 25 mpg at 75-80mph. Good, but our 06 Accord returned 29/30 mpg for the same trip, with only 20 less ponies and no turbo to feed.

    About the only thing was that a day after I bought it, the pixels in the awesome Monsoon head unit started dying.

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    Aside from the comments about what a great ownership experience SOME people have had with VW, I believe that VW sales in the US are a disaster.

    Having owned a VW Quantum and Audi 4000 in the distant past, I know to steer clear of VW today, just like I know to steer clear of GM products today.

    • 0 avatar
      TOTitan

      Just like investing in stocks, past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future results. In 2008 I bought a mark 5 golf which vw called the rabbit, for my daughter. It now has 96000 miles on it. To date it has never needed any warranty work and the only things I have replaced are the tires at 65K, rear brakes, one headlight bulb, and one tailight bulb. The car is still rattle free and handles great.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        TOTitan, is it possible that (maybe) the previous owner already had all the work done BEFORE you bought it?

        I had a 1988 Silverado 350 like that. By the time I sold it in Jan 2011 I had already replaced anything and everything that could go wrong with it and did go wrong with it, (with the help of Autozone, O’Reilly’s and Carquest). Oh, yeah and a Serpentine belt at Kragen in Lancaster, CA.

        The Mexican who bought it from me in Jan 2011 thinks it’s the best truck in the world because he hasn’t experienced one problem since he bought it from me in Jan 2011 with 105K on it even though he drives the daylights out of it 7 days a week, tows and hauls with it, and relies on it as his sole mode of family transportation.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          Well, instead of speculating wildly about his Rabbit and relying on your own experiences from the “distant past”, you could look at reliability info available today and see that VWs after the MkIVs have fared far better.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            “reliability info available today”…. EVERY auto maker has gotten better and more reliable, and that includes VW.

            But if someone has had a less than satisfactory ownership experience with ANY brand, including VW, why would they even consider buying that brand again?

            It’s like going back to the same restaurant to dine AFTER you got ptomaine poisoning from their food there.

            I know that some people do that, but not me!

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            highdesert,
            Yes, every automaker has improved. But the reliability stats are relative to the current industry average, so if a VW is scoring well in today’s improved field then it is a very large improvement over your Audi 4000.

            Your bad experience was 20-30 years ago? Time to move on. I may not buy again from an automaker that burned me, but I wouldn’t still believe my experience was valid decades later.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Yeah, when it comes to money, I’m not that forgiving.

            VW, GM and Ford took me for a lot of money when I bought there products, at a time when I didn’t have a lot of money to waste.

            GM also made me a lot of money when I sold my stock in 2007/2008, yet I won’t buy their crap product again because I don’t want to have to wait ten years for that GM car to be recalled. I could be killed waiting for the recall.

            And while your comment is aimed at me because I chose to mention my VW experience, you are discounting the multitude of former VW owners who turned their backs on VW after their poor ownership experiences.

            However, if you are happy with your VW ownership experience, I say, “Go with God, my brother”.

            There probably are an equal number who would disagree with you.

        • 0 avatar
          TOTitan

          hdc
          I dont think that is possible since the rabbit had less than 5 miles on the odometer when I bought it new from my local vw dealer. My daughter owns a border collie that she is training for herding competitions so she and her dog are always out on ranch trails chasing sheep. I will admit to adding a “Panzer Plate” aftermarket skid plate to protect the vitals from the inevitable contact with rocks. She calls the car Tank Bunny

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            TOTitan, Your daughter wouldn’t have room for five more large mutts, does she? (I’m only half kidding here since they are eating me out of house and home and jump up in the back of my truck any time I need to go somewhere)

            In my area, we have seen two VW dealers go out of business due to lack of sales.

            It wasn’t the dealerships at fault here since one was an excellent GM dealer who also sold VW, and the other an outstanding Chrysler dealer who also sold VW.

            So ultimately, if you or anyone else is happy with the performance and reliability of your VW product, that is all that matters. Obviously, in my area such was not the case.

            I gave our Passat/Quantum to our daughter in law, and the Audi 4000 to her husband, our son when they got married.

            Even though I had fixed all the problems my wife and I experienced with these two cars, other different problems popped up within the year of giving these two cars to my son and his new wife.

            There is NO VW dealer in my area any longer, the closest one is now in El Paso, TX, but it is primarily a Mercedes-Benz dealer.

            My point in engaging in this thread was to point out that many previous VW owners voted with their feet because of their poor ownership experiences with the VW product they bought. No matter how good VW is today, it is highly unlikely they will buy another one.

            I’m sure that there are going to be people who just love their VW! And that is great.

            In my case, I just love my Toyota products since I converted in 2008 from GM and Ford.

            But in view of all the VW hype, special deals and advertising, I would expect VW sales in America to be more robust than they are.

            Of course there is always China, largest auto market on the planet.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    My turn!

    Our 2002 Golf GLS was indeed a very comfy car. It did a lot of things well.

    Except for… a new auto trans at 15k, four stereo knobs cracking off by 80k, misfiring episodes resulting in a dead cat converter at 60k, two fouled O2 sensors, burning oil, peeling soft touch interior, broken armrest and worn-through carpeting before 90k.

  • avatar
    IRollC30

    I think I’m the only person who had a good experience with their MK4. I had a 2003 Jetta 1.8T, auto, Wolfsburg Edition. Purchased new and drove the hell out of it. Had issues with the sunroof leaking (every VW did in those days), coil packs, batteries every two years, but other than that it was a great car. We put 210K on it and sold it in 2013 to a young family member who needed a cheap car. He drove it for a month before he totaled it. :*(

    In 2010 we bought a ’10 Passat for my partner. That car has been rock-solid. The 2.0L has great power. We do our own service (DSG service included).

    I purchased for myself a 2012 VW Golf TDI in 2012 – so far that has been good as well. I’ve had to take this in once to have the DSG reprogrammed. Aside from that, it has been great. But it’s still rather new, so the real problems may have not manifest themselves yet.

    I think we are only of the lucky few who haven’t had serious issues – but I have heard the horror stories…

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      My wife still drives her 2004 GTI 1.8T, purchased new. Not willing to trade it since she hasn’t found anything else she wants (an Audi A1 or Polo GTI would do the trick, though).

      It had the coil pack recall, but still original window regulators, soft plastics in good shape. Never stranded her on the road or had to do overnight repairs at the dealer. Annual repair costs (excluding tires and maintenance) have been consistently between $500 and $1000.

      It all depends … on truedelta.com, Mk4 GTIs are averaging 0.7-0.8 repair trips per year, far from atrocious.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I only ever hear horror stories on the Internet. I’ve had a bunch of VWs, my circle of friends have had and still have a pile of VWs, and every one of them has been a great car, no major issues. I don’t get it.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        “I only ever hear horror stories on the Internet.”

        That’s not true! I am constantly being jabbed for my raving about our 2008 Japan-built Highlander, our UAW-built German-Italian 2012 Grand Cherokee, imported from Detroit, and my Japanese-American San Antonio-built 2011 Tundra 5.7!

        The reason I rave about them is because they are truly the best vehicles I have ever owned during my lifetime. And I have owned a bunch of new and used cars in 68 years on this planet.

        If I was unhappy with the performance or reliability of these vehicles, you would have heard me b!tch about them instead.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I meant no one ever tells me VW horror stories in person – and I know a LOT of VW owners past and present. I only read them on the Internet. Many of them the “my cousin’s uncle’s brother had the worst VW ever made” variety.

          But please do continue singing the praises of vehicles that have treated you well. So will I.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I haven’t had any VW horror stories either, but I’ve only owned various MKV Golfs and Jettas. My issue is more with the cost of upkeep. Those used to domestic or Japanese vehicles will be shocked by the cost of the 40K mile service, which is the first after the Carefree maintenance program expires) at the dealership (DSG or not). I am aware of ways around this, but many are not.

      • 0 avatar
        Andrew717

        My experience has been great, as has my wife’s and my sister’s. I had a MkIV Golf, they both had New Beetles. But my dad and best friend both had 2004 or 2005 Passats and the things were clearly built in an old Indian burial mound. My dad’s was meh, lots of little things, but my friend spent more fixing up his Passat (which was then 2-4 years old) than I have spent on car repair in the last 20 years.

        • 0 avatar
          th009

          My ex-colleagues ’99 Passat wagon is still going strong. Now driven by his son, it’s making annual trips from the Yukon back to Ontario, and to Yukon again. I have no repair data from him, but he has never expressed the desire to get rid of it.

    • 0 avatar
      drtwofish

      Make that two – I commented below that I have an ’03 1.8t Jetta that’s been in the family since 35k miles, and it’s been rock solid. Great little car!

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    My wife bought her B5.5 CPO with 35k and sold it at 165k. Great car when it was running properly. We had the common issues but also experienced a broken oil cooler, which led to a very expensive cooling system repair at the dealer.

    Most memorably I also replaced the coolant flange, the location and design of which was determined by a trio of sadistic German pixies with miniature pixie tools and miniature pixie knuckles. On longitudinal applications, it is between the firewall and the engine. Because it is at the back of the engine, it took 1.5 days. Were it at the front, it would take probably 2 hours and just 10 minutes actually replacing the flange.

    That was the biggest PITA job I have done on any car. Now I know why the dealer did not quote this job when they replaced the rest of the cooling system. I’d like a few words with the engineer responsible for that component.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    So the GTI was a “flop for 15 of its first 17 years” according to our “humble author”. Really?

    The Mk 1 was praised by everyone from the car magazines to even Consumer Reports. Ditto the Mk II, which traded a little bit of ‘fun’ for a little more room, quiet, comfort, and top speed.

    The Mk III was the first GTI not universally praised, as it was a lot heavier than the Mk II, without additonal power. Perhaps the author was old enough to buy a car in in the 90s and then waited for the Mk IV. I suppose since he writes the columns and considers himself an expert, he embellishes things a bit. Common trait of many journalists.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Car and Driver: “By November 1989. when VW entered this slugfest segment with its new (and overpriced) Corrado, the little GTI was pretty much an orphan. An orphan with asthma.”

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I still think you doth protest too much on this – I was an avid reader of Buff Books from the MKI era to the present, and while they certainly do sugarcoat things, I don’t remember any particular complaints about the MKIIs at all, and very few about the MKIIIs. The cars got a little heavier and less fun, but they got a LOT more refined too. I LOVED my ’84 GLI back in the day, but there is NO WAY AT ALL I would drive something like that as my only car car these days. My Abarth is a Rolls Royce in terms of refinement by comparison.

        I will say, it is too bad that VW provided such ropey examples of the older cars for you journalists to play with. I had a ’92 Jetta GLI back in the day as well, and it was delightful. Though I will admit I much prefer the revvier and smoother 1.8L 16V to the 2.0L version, even if the 2.0L was faster. My partner at the time had an ’89 GLI that I had a lot of seat time in, as I would always drive when we went anywhere together. He had that car for a long time too. Much as I prefer Golfs in theory, I always seemed to end up with Jettas until I bought a new one! Had an ’85 2dr for a long time too, my first VW. TTAC special – no A/C, no power anything but brakes.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    To add my 2 cents i had a 2003 VW Jetta 2slow. Drove it for about 5 years 50,000 miles and never even dropped a window. The coil issue was only on the 1.8 if i am correct. The 2slow was a little slow but you could beat the hell out of it. As far as the brake light switch that was changed during an early service and i understand many manufacturers had recalls for this switch and VW was not alone. As for the windows they were guaranteed for 10 years or 100,000 miles. By 2003 the plastic clips were replaced by stainless steel clips. We can thank TRW for this setup. Sold the car to a buddy of mine who still keeps it on the road with quite high mileage. According to him it is the best used car he ever had. And for the record the interior of his car is still in nice shape.

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    Hey, Jack, the wheels in the first photo are not “stupid” – they appear to be basically the same wheels that came with on my A5 S Line, and they still elicit a lot of positive comments. I do get what you mean about the Giugiaro designed original models though. The first car I purchased was a first generation Scirocco, which was purchased much for the Giugiaro design.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    2000 Jetta GLS VR6 here. Loved the car, but loved my extended warranty even more. The warranty company shelled out a good $10,000 in warranty repairs on the car before I ended up suing, and settling, with Volkswagen of America.

    2004 Golf R32 followed (it was a deal I couldn’t pass up) and that car was bulletproof. The only issue during ownership was a bad wheel bearing, but otherwise it was, and still is, the best car I’ve owned to date.

    2006 A3 Sportback – great all round car, but horrible suspension and worse seats.

    Upcoming….dunno. I had some great seat time in a new MK7 GTI over the weekend and while I’m looking forward to Jack’s review of the car, let me just say that it’s a car that had me smiling from the moment I sat in the seat until the moment I returned the keys. Absolutely outstanding car.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      OMFG I wanted an R32 so bad!! They were hot, they were a wicked hue of blue, and they were smoking fast! They were also unreachably expensive at the time. I think they were retailing for $27k upwards at a time when I got my Golf TDI for under $20k.

      If I could go back in time though, I’d do two things different- I’d get a GLS instead of GL, and I sure as hell wouldve kept it!

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        It actually stickered for close to $32 back in the day, if memory serves me.

        Yeah, I kind of fell into mine by luck. At the time my ’00 Jetta VR6 was getting long in the tooth and the R32 had been on the market about 6 mos. I took my car in for an oil change at the dealership where I’m friends with the sales manager and lo and behold, on the front line of the dealership is a loaded, blue R32 with a USED window sticker in it.

        So, my buddy the sales manager sees me eyeing the car and comes out. “You want it?” he asks me. I reply, jokingly, “Sure. For $25k I’ll take it right now.” He replies, “Well, I’ve got $25.5 into it, so anything over that and its yours.”

        Turns out that the service manager bought the car not six months earlier, his wife got pregnant not too long thereafter and told him, “get rid of it.” His loss was my gain, with a whopping 5,000 miles on the odometer.

        Loved, loved, loved that car. Did NOT love the 19mpg that it returned on the regular cycle….

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Volkswagen’s lack of reliability was actually a boon to their dealerships. Not just in repair costs, but in that wonderful opportunity to buy off cheap trade-ins and remarket them at insanely high retail prices.

    Back in the bad old days of 2011, I had one VW used car sales manager tell me that nearly two-thirds of their used car profits came from vehicles that were acquired for $3500 or less.

    That dealer network had a virtually monopoly in my neck of the woods. They could easily deal with the minimal profit margins on new Rabbits, because their entire back end was well greased by the $105 per hour labor charge and maintenance requirements that usually resulted in a far superior return (for them) than nearly any other manufacturer that was supposedly there to serve the mainstream consumer.

    If you don’t take care of your customers, they go somewhere else. Honda and a long list of other automakers took what VW more or less left for dead.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    My wife and I had a pair of Mk4 TDIs; hers a Jetta and mine the unicorn 2-door Golf. Apart from timing belts and the clutch I upgraded in mine when I chipped it, I did most of the work myself. a VAG-COM is a worthwhile investment when you own any VAG car of this vintage. I sold mine because both were the same age with about the same mileage, so if something went bad in one it was just a matter of time before it went bad in the other. I took over my wife’s Jetta and still enjoyed putting the miles on it when her stepfather sideswiped it in his driveway. After 9 years and 220k miles, and between jobs, I sold it.

  • avatar
    lzaffuto

    “Most amazingly, it has five valves per cylinder, something that Yamaha had done in its motorcycle engines to great acclaim and the engineering of which was an unequivocal shot across the bow of the Japanese automakers who hadn’t managed to do it despite sharing a country of origin with the technology’s originators.”

    Toyota had been putting 5 valve 4A-GE engines in it’s hot hatches since 1991 in Japanese markets. It’s a very popular swap into AE86s even here in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Toyota and Yamaha had an engineering partnership even back then, I believe. But there’s a big difference between doing a home-market special and making the 1.8t your backbone engine for the entire lineup globally. Elsewhere, most A6es were 1.8t.

      • 0 avatar
        AKADriver

        The 20-valve 4A-G was sold basically everywhere but North America. It wasn’t nearly the production staple the 1.8T was, but it was Toyota’s answer to Honda’s B16A, and saw fairly wide use as the engine upgrade option in Corolla-platform cars. But, to be sure, it was a premium upgrade, not a workhorse.

  • avatar
    omer333

    Can someone explain to me what it is about women and Jettas? I first noticed it when I was at college, seemed like almost every girl had a Jetta.

    That show “The League” even made a joke about women and Jettas.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      It’s pretty simple. Women liked the lines of the Mark III and IV Jetta the same way they liked the lines of the Rabbit Cabriolet, the New Beetle, and the Mini Cooper. They think it’s “cute” and the Jetta’s attributes (peppy, reasonably small footprint, decent dynamics, enormous trunk) were good enough for them. In my experience, women rely more on word-of-mouth recommendations from other women as a significant factor in buying decisions. So one college girl got a Mk IV Jetta, loved it, told her girlfriends and soon they became wildly popular.

      Then they all grew up, started families and drove Tahoes, Suburbans, and RX 350s. There was a post here in the past month from a guy whose wife was expecting and her girlfriends strongly advised her that the only vehicle to consider for the upcoming child transportation role was a Tahoe. It happens.

  • avatar
    drtwofish

    Around New Years I bought an ’03 Jetta 1.8T with 105k miles from my sister – she’d had it since around ’06 and ~35k miles, and reckoned it was the one and only reliable MkIV ever built. Other than the coil pack replacement (under warranty) and normal consumables, it just hasn’t needed much. The exterior still shines, the interior’s in perfect shape other than a few rattles, and the engine pulls strongly. Even with mediocre tires and likely worn struts, I’m impressed (after coming from years of e30/e36/e39 BMWs) at how eager this little sweetie is in the curves on the Parkway. After years of devoting every other weekend to fixing this-or-that glitch in the BMWs, which finally culminated in selling my M3 with the coming of our second child, it’s been a refreshing few months with an honest, so-far-reliable car. Sure, something will eventually go wrong, but this car’s earned enough goodwill that it’s ok.

  • avatar
    TW5

    I bought a 2001 GTI GLS 1.8T 5-spd manual in the summer of 2001. The initial quality and value were incredible. I paid $18,500 (IIRC), yet my GLS had the optional sunroof and Monsoon sound system. Looking back on the experience, the day I picked up the GTI was one of best days of my youth, and I got to road-trip the car to college for the beginning of the fall semester. During the two years I owned my GTI, people begged me to let them drive it because they had never experienced such smooth linear torque. After the boost controller was installed, the driving requests became more frequent.

    From the perspective of a young man, the best thing about the MkIV GTI was that it achieved the elusive goal of attracting members of the opposite sex. The GTI wasn’t try hard. It wasn’t pretentious. The boy racers hadn’t wrecked its brand image. The GTI was just a disarming 30mpg hatchback, but one that hid a naughty secret under the bonnet. Women were curious about it. If one sorority sister had a good drive, she told all of her friends it was a blast. The GTI could do 0-60mph in about 6.5 seconds, but with a free-spirited girl behind the wheel, it did zero-to-debauchery much faster.

    Looking back on the experience, I see that the MkIV 1.8T-powered VW’s were basically just legal drugs, particularly the GTI. It was a hit of ecstasy that made serotonin waves wash over you, but it had to come crashing down eventually. When the repairs started piling up, I realized the car would be unaffordable after the warranty expired. By the end of 24 months, the GTI was traded, and I had checked myself into automotive rehab. I have some fond memories, but the MkIV’s were too good to be true. I have no desire to relive the experience.

  • avatar
    jimble

    I have a 2004 Jetta wagon with the 1.8T, bought new, which has needed a lot of repairs for a car with only 66,666 miles on the odometer. But except for some cracking of the leather on the driver’s seat the interior is still in nearly perfect shape despite never having been garaged. Sometimes I think a new CUV with more interior space and fancier electronics might be nice to have, but the engine still feels really sweet, the car’s low profile compared to a CUV makes it feel well planted at speed and makes it easy to put my bike on the roof rack, and the luxury of no car payments for the last 5 years has more than compensated for the occasional repair bill.

  • avatar
    mypoint02

    When these started rolling out in ’99, I was pretty involved with a local group of VW enthusiasts and numerous online groups. To say that I was under the influence of VW Kool-Aid would be an understatement. The MkIV was more mature than I was at the time. Nonetheless, I thought it looked great inside and out and the chassis was much more refined than the Mk3. It actually felt like a German car when you sat in it and when you drove it. What I remember them more for these days, unfortunately, is the bad coil packs, window regulators, mass airflow sensors, and diverter valves (on the 1.8T) than what they looked like or how they drove. Seems no one was exempt if you owned an ’02 or later and some of these problems even carried over to Audi. Perception is reality for most people and seeing a check engine light and making numerous trips to the VW dealer for the same issues on a basically new car didn’t exactly build goodwill with their new customers. IIRC, they went through four revs on the coil packs alone. Audi recovered rather quickly, but VW still hasn’t.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    My wife had a 2000 Passat GLS wagon, bought 30 months old with 37k miles on it, from somebody who kept it immaculate and kept immaculate records. No issues while he had it. We kept it until May of 2010, when it had 162,000 miles on it.

    We used 0W-40 Mobil 1, the oversized oil filter, and it never burned a drop of oil, no turbo issues, never even had coil pack issues. It had one bad Kombi valve, which the dealer misdiagnosed and by the time I got the lowdown on it, had toasted its secondary air injection pump – I replaced both. It also had the front control arms replaced, and a month or two before we traded it in, I replaced the ABS module with a remanufactured one. Other than those items, we put brakes, a battery, tires, filters and oil changes into it. The interior stayed in pretty nice shape and it was a high-quality car and a great driving experience.

    She replaced the car with s 2007 Toyota Sienna Limited, 3 years old, with 44,000 miles on it. The Sienna now has 90k miles on it, it has had a couple of sets of brakes on it, several sets of tires, the volume control knob on the JBL sound system no longer works (the steering wheel one does), I have replaced the battery, one O2 sensor, its automatic tranny went nuts at 75,000 miles and started slam shifting and slipping out of gear, which necessitated a trip to the dealer, who flushed and refilled the tranny and wiped the module to make it re-learn how to shift, and just recently a creak in the front end made me think it had had a strut bearing gone bad…but in fact it had broken BOTH front springs…the right one half a coil from the top and the left one half a coil from the bottom (I am smelling TSB here, really strongly…). I built up new struts with KYB and Moog components and swapped them out.

    I think my point here is that the Toyota has had about the same number, severity and expense in terms of problems that the Passat had at the same point in its life. But it’s nowhere near as fun to drive.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Didn’t help that the VW service departments, just like my local one, basically sucked!! (This one was even called-out by Motor Trend for its suckiness after they had a long-term TDI-equipped Jetta’s DSG replaced there after the thing exploded during a drive through my area; they took forever to replace the unit, and left the car in a shambles.) Same type of thing as happened with my Mom’s MkIV Jetta–window regulators out (just as she was about to enter a car wash)–check, coil pack–check, creaky suspension that this joke of a service department couldn’t figure out–check!! Thankfully, an indie German-make garage in town kept the bills somewhat in check after the warranty expired!

    Bought an ’07 Civic four years ago and hasn’t looked back! (Her 2000 Jetta replaced a 1990 Civic after she was impressed with my brother’s 2000 Passat, which he fortunately sold before anything major broke when he got a company car; to this day she still regrets that decision.)

  • avatar
    hybridkiller

    I have a 2012 Golf TDI, purchased new, 37K flawless miles so far. I guess time will tell. The dealer gave a lifetime powertrain warranty with it (they’ve since quit offering that little perk) AND lifetime free oil changes. Price was ~$2K below invoice. The 40K DSG service at this dealer will be $300. Car is an absolute blast to drive and highway consumption @<65 mph is typically north of 50 mpg (no hypermiling). There's no conceivable way I could be any happier with this car.

    Say what you will about VW's heinous reliability history, but they must be doing something right – third largest auto maker on the planet and not all that far behind whoever's #2 this month/year – it doesn't look like they're going out of business any time soon (as much as I'm sure that hacks some people off to no end).

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I never owned a MkIV VW and therefore have no emotional baggage with the company and was able to let data rather than anecdotes guide my decision to buy a 2010. Looks like you still have to be a bit careful about which model/powertrain you choose, but the 5 cylinder models are doing well and the TDI and 2.0T are OK.

    50K miles later and no issues. It’s a fantastic car that is practical and enjoyable to drive. If it starts falling apart before its time, then I could still become disgruntled, but as of now I would happily recommend this car to others.

  • avatar
    Short Bus

    I’m the exception. My MkVI GTI has been the best car I’ve ever owned. I’ve been friends with quite a few people who have owned a variety of VWs going back to the MkIV range and none of them have had the issues you read about on the internet.

    I wouldn’t argue if someone said VWs had issues, because with all the stories clearly there’s something going on with them. But if I were to trust my real world observations I would claim that VWs were about as reliable as Hondas.

  • avatar
    honda_lawn_art

    Man, who doesn’t have memories of those. For a second, it almost made me miss my 1999.5 TDI Jetta. I didn’t find a decent mechanic until right before I sold it, that said, I think the cars, especially the diesels, could last for decades if you do find a loving mechanic that actually understands them, because much of the car really was built to last.

  • avatar
    hybridkiller

    “I never owned a MkIV VW and therefore have no emotional baggage with the company and was able to let data rather than anecdotes guide my decision…”

    +1

  • avatar
    JMII

    Figure I’ll add my story as well because I’ve seen both sides of the 1.8T in a Passat and in Golf 337 form.

    My brother owned a ’99 Passat and an ’03 Golf 337. The Passat was “chipped”, had some suspension mods. As a result it was much better then any pricier Audi of the same vintage. His experience with it lead me to buy a similar one (more on that below). Once his lease was up on the Passat he got a Golf 337 which was a special limited edition. The car so desirable (to VW Vortex members) he sold it 3 days after buying out the lease and MADE $3,000 profit! To this day its the best braking car I have every been in. It was downright AWESOME. Today he owns an ’12 Golf R and it amazing, the thing literally runs circles around my 350Z on the track. Thus my brother has nothing but LOVE for the VW and especially the Golf.

    Now our Passat… totally different story: fine for the first 3 years then complete CRAP. Engine wise the 1.8T was great – torquey, good on gas, no coil pack or O2 sensor issues or any other problems. But the interior was a complete mess. As I mentioned in JB’s other Golf thread I’ve never seen a vehicle interior fall apart so bad! Window regulators? Yep all four failed with the fronts failing again maybe twice, I kind of lost track it happened so often. The switch to sunroof actually fell out the day I traded the car in (at just 100K) for my Z. One of the headlights actually fell out too. I was so sick of that Passat I was to drive into a lake and collect the insurance money. Random parts broken left and right, things like the handle to the glove box! How does something that you touch about twice a year fail?!? The headliner sagged, door trim peeled, antenna broke… I could go on but you get the picture. Seriously it was worst interior of a car ever. As a result my wife refuses the notion of ANY VeeDub while my brother continues to love them.

  • avatar
    Defender90

    This my DD! And I am so glad I’m not the only person who has a little nerdgasm over those rear lines, that’s why 5 doors are nicer looking than the 3 door ones, which just seem wrong imho.
    The car is … a curate’s egg* – excellent in parts. Feels quality with nice Recaros and everything but some bits a cheap: the f*cking glove box broke ffs!
    And the bonnet/hood lock is absolute shite too.
    And the starter bearing makes a squawk like a chicken getting surprise butt sex.
    And the anti roll/sway bars are clunking and will cost a shitload to fix, I guess they’ve worn because it’s such a heavy beast.
    That weight makes it quality but a little hefty for the English country lanes round here, unlike my MK2 GTi 8 valve which was to the manner born.
    It would make a great vehicle for blasting across the continent in. Overall, compared to the MK2, this feels more like a Grand Tourer than a GTi, if you see what I mean.

    *Six careful owners… and two who just didn’t give a f

  • avatar
    Jason.MZW20

    The VR6 is quite possibly one of the best sounding V6s out there. It’d probably be better suited for a mid-engined platform where front axle weight isn’t much of an issue for handling.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Just got rid of our 2000 Jetta TDI. Sure the “soft touch” plastic was falling apart and the heater fan motor sounds horrible when it’s cold, but for being an early production A4 (7/99) it was remarkably reliable. The only expensive things that were replaced were the A/C compressor, alternator and flex pipe in the almost 10 years we owned it. Other than that it was brakes, tires, filters/fluids. We bought it in September 2004 for $9000 with 93000 miles on it. Sold it in May 2014 with 187xxx miles and got $4300 for it. So it turned out okay for us. Hopefully the 2014 Jetta that replaced it does as well long-term.

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    Oh yes the nightmares! My wife’s obsession with the Golf drove me insane, eventually her too. Regardless, she ignored my criticism and bought 2. I cannot recall a car with so many defects, so many breakdowns, and so many tows to the dealer. Window regulators replaced 4 times, leaks, rubber gaskets, inoperable sunroof, numerous engine disasters, transmission nightmares, and so on and on. I hated VW for producing a car with so much history and potential in Mexico. Disastrous mistake VW!


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  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States