1999 Volkswagen Golf GTi 1.8 turbo from Japan


Puts the FUN in FUNctionality - and it's reliable to boot


So far the only thing was the replacement of the brake pedal light switch, which was cheap and easy.

General Comments:

I bought this car about a year and a half ago to replace the worst car I've ever owned (a BMW 320 Cabriolet, that was an unreliable money pit and always in need of expensive repairs), and so far I feel like I've died and gone to heaven with my GTI. This car has turned out to be everything the BMW was supposed to be, but wasn't. It has been reliable, FUN to drive, reliable, comfortable, reliable, roomy, reliable, a great size for Tokyo, reliable, convenient for hauling people and things, reliable, and a joy to own. Before I used to dread going out to the BMW when I had to drive, but now I actually look for excuses to drive this great Golf GTI.

The Recaro seats are comfortable for long trips and have great lateral support for energetic driving, and the back seat (4-doors in the Japan market) is easily accessible and reasonably comfortable for even bigger folks. The versatility of the hatchback and folding seats has proven to be a huge asset.

Perhaps my review of this car has been colored by the horrible experience of my previous car, but I have to say that after owning over 25 different cars in the last 40 years, that this one is about my favorite - and the list is not made up of your typical, run-of-the-mill people movers, either, it includes some interesting vehicles and some enthusiast cars.

Granted, this is not a perfect car, but it does what is says it will do with a good measure of fun thrown in to the mix. For this kind of money, what more can you ask for?

The only thing I would like to see improved is better handling in wet weather. My friend's Jetta has the same issue. Better tires help, but not enough.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 18th September, 2010

1st Jul 2012, 09:36

Original poster here with a follow-up.

Two years have passed since my initial posting, and I still love driving this car. I had the CV covers (at least, I think that's what they told me) replaced during the required 2-year inspection process, regular oil and filter changes, new wiper blades, and that's about it. Even though the tread is still showing enough depth, I should probably get new tires soon, since the sidewall is showing a little distress. There is a strange little sound right after I start the car, but my mechanic says it will be an easy and inexpensive fix.

Since I am starting to have some left leg issues, I may have to think about trading in for something with an automatic or semi-automatic if I can't get it cleared up. The Alfa 147 looks and drives great, but the Selespeed issues are a little scary. However, I think a 2004 or later should be a bit safer for reliability. It would probably be better to get an automatic Golf, but somehow it just doesn't seem right to me with an autobox. Guess I'll try one out just to see if it comes down to it.

Anyway, the whole point of this update was to let you all know that the car is still doing well, is still fun and interesting to drive, and has had no major problems. If you can find one that has been taken care of, it should take good care of you.

1999 Volkswagen Golf GLS 2.0 from North America


One fun hot hatch


Faulty door lock module - A common problem in these cars due to poor solder. This caused the door sensors not to detect if the doors were open or not, which led to locking and alarm issues. The unit was replaced by a dealer, ~$250. There have been no further issues.

Broken shift actuator arm - A plastic lever arm on top of the transmission that I most likely cracked when adjusting my transmission. Replaced myself, ~$25. There have been no further issues.

Faulty hatch latch - A common problem, in which a plastic piece in the mechanism breaks. This caused randomly functioning engagement and disengagement of the latch and issues with the latch sensor. Replaced myself, ~$30. There have been no further issues.

Faulty crankshaft position sensor (speed sensor) - This happened on two occasions within the last year (~145k miles). The engine would randomly not start and/or stop running. The unit was replaced both times by a shop, ~$200 x2. There have been no further issues since it was most recently changed several months ago.

Cloudy headlight lenses - Replaced myself with upgraded units, ~$100. Not a big deal.

Sunroof motor issues - Sunroof would randomly not open or close. I reset the motor and lubricated the tracks, ~$0. There have been no further issues.

Interior lights issues - The interior lights will randomly not work. I believe this is a ground issue, but have no idea where to look. This issue is unresolved.

General Comments:

This car is fairly quick, and handles well for a base economy trim level.

The 2.0L engine with manual transmission gets great gas mileage.

The hatchback design looks unique in the US, where they are not very common.

Keep up on the recommended maintenance, and this is a reliable car.

I extensively use and recommend vwvortex.com for research and guides.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 22nd March, 2010