Overall, I have been very happy with this car. It is definitely fun to drive. As a matter a fact, I find myself driving much faster and more aggressively in this car than in my Cabrio.
My modifications started as soon as the warranty expired. That was when I installed a suspension kit (H&R sport springs, Bilstein Sport shocks, Neuspeed F, R,upper stress bar). The handling is now quite fantastic, but a little harsh. Oversteer is actually possible when entering a corner. Of course understeer takes over with a heavy foot. The only problem with lowering the car is the lowest point is now my oil pan and the front air dam.
The seats are fantastic. I occasionally do 12-13 hr road trips (stopping only for gas) without any discomfort.
This is definitely an enthusiasts car because as can be seen above, reliability is not very good. That surprised my quite a bit. My brother bought a Golf in 1994 (made in Mexico) and the car has been trouble free. The best thing I ever did was get the extended warranty (which luckily covered most of the repair costs.
The weakest point of this car is the cooling system. It is completely inadequate in my opinion. A large motor with a small radiator is a bad combination. You can watch the oil and water temperatures go up when you ascend a hill or speed past 75ish. Normal oil temperatures for me during the summer (100 F temps) are about 250 F and that is with an additional oil cooler installed. The car has never overheated, however.
This car also devour tires. I've tried different brands and compounds, but they all wear out in about 20K miles no matter how I drive the car. I am now finishing my 5th set.
General maintenance has been very low. I recently did my second tune up (plugs, cap, rotor) at 105K miles. The old parts did not look bad at all and the car did not idle or drive bad with the "old" parts.
Even with all the problems, I would never part with the car. It is such a kick-in-the-pants to drive. I still occasionally get comments on the car.