You can see when you drive this car what the fuss is about, at least you can when it works properly!
I've gone from a Skoda Fabia vRS to this car, which was done for financial reasons.
So far, the Golf has probably in its first two months cost just as much as the Fabia did in HP payments!! I'm hoping there is an end in site to the problems which seem to be coming one after another at the moment.
This car is a real drivers car though.
For starters, the most notable thing about it is the handling, which is very accomplished. The thing only weighs about 940 kg, so it can change direction quickly, and is very nimble. The brakes are excellent, very progressive, and no fade at all, unlike my last car. All the controls feel substantial, progressive and chunky, and the car (unlike most PAS equipped cars) submits every last bit of information about the road surface to your hands via the steering wheel.
Its easy to make this car go sideways, approach a roundabout at a speed you feel comfortable with, then start nailing it through the roundabout, and it will slide in a controlled fashion, very easy to control where the car is going.
This is a car that rewards good driving, but also can forgive bad driving, but you have to watch you don't get too carried away, as I did today, as the car will get out of shape if pushed too hard (as will any car however), but the limits of the car do tend to encourage one to push harder (much harder) than you would in more mundane vehicles! I entered a corner far too fast, and yet if I'd been in a lesser vehicle, I wouldn't have made it round, even if it was a hairy moment!!! So handling, big thumbs up, one of the best and most forgiving front wheel drive cars I've driven.
Suspension quite firm in this car, not much body roll, but ride is quite good considering, this is a car that was built at a time when normal sized wheels and tyres were still acceptable on hot hatches - this thing has normal 14 inch BBS alloys, and the tyres are probably of the same sort of size that your average 1.2 Clio or suchlike has on it - cheap to buy.
Performance is nippy rather than fast - it might only be 110 bhp, but its relatively light kerb weight means its quick enough to be fun most of the time. 0-62 mph comes up in about 8.7 seconds, and the top speed is 119 mph.
Engine quite torquey and flexible for a NA petrol unit - will happily pull at 30 mph in 5th gear. You don't have to rev this car to the redline to get the most out of it or enjoy it. In fact if anything, it seems to tail off much past about 5,500 rpm, and it clearly seems to deliver most of its acceleration potential between 3,500 and 5,500. Below 3,500 most of the time it pulls cleanly, but it lacks the low down urge of my old Skoda Fabia (hardly surprising - the Golf probably has maybe 110 lb ft of torque compared to 230 lb ft in the Fabia).
For me though, there is more to driving than just performance - my old Fabia was quicker in almost every situation, but the Golf delivers a much greater sensation of speed and is more fun to drive as a result.
Of course, the driving style needed for the respective cars is completely different, and the Golf isn't much slower when driven properly - unlike the Fabia, it seems to respond better from having the pedal forcefully pinned to the metal and using the revs, whereas the Fabia responds better to a more relaxed style.
Either way, this car is quick enough to give most modern 2.0-litre engined small family cars a run for their money.
The car itself is a remarkably civilised beast for its time, the cabin looks very dated, but still it is one piece. The car can be relatively quiet for a sporty car when you want it to be, but it's a long way off modern standards - mine has a few vibrations inside the cabin, quite a bit of road noise, and an imposing, booming exhaust note. I happen to quite like it, especially after the serenity of my old car.
There's nothing in the way of toys though. No electric windows, air con, PAS, central locking or anything like that. Just a sunroof. And isn't this supposed to be how a hot hatch is? A stripped out car with a decent engine... one of the last true GTI's for sure.
Overall, I can't complain with this car. I got it for a thousand quid, and hopefully once some of the teething troubles are out of the way, it will be a cheap and dependable car.