VW Golf Mk5 (2004-2008)

The car that bridges mainstream and premium, VW's evergreen Golf is a cracker in Mk5 form. Some earlier editions of the Golf proved fragile, but this marked a return to form for VW - although complete reliability is still not assured. However, the Golf is great to drive, spacious and comfortable, while it's got a rock-solid image too. But the Golf is also a relatively costly car compared with its rivals, so expect to pay for the privilege of owning one.

Key Dates

2/04: The fifth-generation Golf goes on sale.

1/05: The GTi reaches showrooms.

1/06: The 247bhp R32 joins the range.

6/05: A high-roofed Golf arrives, called Golf Plus.

6/06: The 138bhp 1.4TSi replaces the 2.0 GT.

6/07: The Golf estate is launched and a 170bhp edition of the 1.4TSi engine appears.

8/08: The sixth-generation Golf is unveiled.

Volkswagen Golf Mk5 (2004-2008) Checklist

  • Check the stereo and climate control work properly, as they can prove temperamental.
  • Get the engine up to temperature then leave the car idling to see if the radiator's electric fan cuts in; it sometimes doesn't.
  • The rear light lenses can fill up with condensation, as their seals can fail, allowing water in.
  • The door seals can fail, allowing rainwater to get into the cabin, rotting the carpet.
  • On turbodiesels the turbocharger's oil seals can fail; repairs are very costly.
  • Air conditioning compressors and condensors can fail on the Golf GTi.
  • The FSi engine likes high-octane fuel; using 95-octane petrol can lead to running and starting problems.

We Like

  • Strength
  • Image
  • Dynamics
  • Cabin

We Don't Like

  • High prices


Volkswagen Golf (1997-2004)

Whether you want an unassuming shopping hatch or a race car for the road, there's a Mk4 Golf for you. With a wide choice of engines and bodystyles, there was a bewildering array of Golfs available. Considering its ubiquity, the Golf's image is strong (sometimes undeservedly so), meaning residuals are high. Despite this, there's no shortage of examples - but with frequently high parts costs don't buy an example that needs lots of fixing.

Key Dates

11/97: Mk4 Golf arrives with 1.4, 1.6, 2.0, 2.3 V5, 1.8T petrol engines. Also 1.9-litre diesel with turbo (TDi) or without (SDi). 3 or 5-door hatches available.

11/98: 2.3 V5 on sale.

8/99: Estate launched.

1/00: 2.8-litre V6 4Motion on sale.

5/02: ESP now standard. 25th Anniversary Edition GTi 1.8T appears.

11/02: R32 on sale.

5/03: 1.4, 1.8T, 2.0 get Euro 4 engine

Volkswagen Golf Mk4 (1997-2004) Checklist

  • Check headlight condition; they're pricey to replace
  • Leather interiors are durable, but costly to fix; watch out for plastic coating coming off the door armrests.
  • TDi 110 ECU can fail - make sure the engine doesn't stall when coming to a halt.
  • Interior trim often fragile.
  • Front windows come out of their carriers.
  • Pipe for rear wash/wipe can come adrift, staining headlining and filling boot with water.
  • 1.4-litre water pumps leak - which can lead to cam belt failure and destruction of the engine.
  • Rear brake calipers hoses fail.

We Like

  • Strong image
  • Solid and safe construction
  • Superb TDi engines

We Don't Like

  • Build quality isn't always great
  • Not great to drive
  • Equipment levels often poor