This is the first car I've owned and I've had it for just over a year. In this time it's been a mixed bag. It has been a great car overall, but it has a few niggles which prevent me from recommending that you rush out and buy one straight away.
The engine is great. It produces plenty of torque if not much power, and never feels like it's only got 90Bhp. It pulls well, giving traffic beating acceleration in 2nd gear, spinning the wheels in first if you get it wrong and helping the car be an accomplished motorway cruiser. It's a real sleeper on motorways. People in much newer cars see the tail of it disappearing as it accelerates from 70 to 95 Mph like it's on a steam launch rail! The engine is efficient and returns around 45 Mpg if you drive it like you've stolen it, and above 50Mpg on relaxed long distance drives. This allows you top drive 650 miles between refills. Not bad for a heavy car. My major complain about the engine is that there is a fault and under heavy acceleration or under load on the motorway (up hills) it sometimes 'coughs' and judders, preventing you from accelerating for a short period. I have spent around £200 having this fault investigated, but as no one could diagnose it and the car really isn't worth that much I've decided to live with it. It's not a worsening fault and it's not dangerous, but it can spoil an otherwise pleasant drive.
The gearbox and transmission is fine if unremarkable. There's a bit of slack in it as you'd expect after 120,000 miles, but it has always been reliable. The clutch is good with nice weighting and feel, but otherwise it does it's duty without invoking comment.
The brakes are a weak point. There is a lot of travel in the pedal and you have to really give it a stomp to get the car braking heavily. There's also little feel or feedback. It's the only time you feel the mass of the car. When they're biting they do work well however and the car comes to a halt in a surprisingly short distance. I have never managed to activate the ABS which suits me just fine.
The handling on this car is surprisingly good once you learn its characteristics. I have cheap tyres on it at the moment which don't due it justice as the road holding on damp roads is very poor. On dry roads however the grip is good and you can get a feel for the chassis. It is well balanced for a front wheel drive car. If you push it you can feel the front tyres beginning to scrub wide before they lose all traction and this gives you plenty of time to correct. I have only swung the back end of this car out once under extreme provocation on a closed road, and whilst it wasn't particularly fun, there was enough response to gather the car up without totally loosing control.
Overall it's not a 'sporty car' it's not quick enough and the wrong set of wheels are driven. Driven correctly it can be surprisingly agile and fast flowing roads are a revelation. Cruising long distance shows what this car is best at though. The ride quality is generally very good especially on new road surfaces. Potholes and rough concrete roads can upset the damping and lead to the sensation that the shocks have suddenly turned solid, but this is rare. I've been in new cars that have worse ride (2004 Vauxhall Astras for example).
The quality of the body and interior is very high, and the previous owner had a high quality stereo with a 6 disk CD changer and four more (discreet) speakers fitted which means it sounds great. There are no squeaks or rattles to mention and everything electrical still works. I love the design and quality of the interior. I think it looks better and is more ergonomic than many middle of the range modern cars. It is also very comfortable and the fabric seats still look new. The interior can get very hot on summer days though and the interior ventilation is poor. The fan has 4 settings which are silent, quiet, loud and really loud, unfortunately these don't correspond to more air being blown into the car! It's windows down on hot days. I like the looks of the car and the body is totally rust free. The estate (avant) version has dated much better than the saloon and still shares the basic styling cues with the new A4. The roof rails also help it look a it more streamlined.
In total this car cost me £5000 to buy (£3000) insure, fuel and maintain over the last year which I think is very reasonable at 50p a mile so far. I've had to change the cambelt at 120,000 miles, but this only cost £200 at an independant VW audi specialist. If it lasts another 2 years before it dies then I'll be very happy with it and think it has been a great, reliable and interesting car to own and drive.