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.
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
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.
Original poster here with a final follow-up.
I have really enjoyed this car and was planning to keep it for another two years or more, but an historically heavy snowfall put an end to that idea. The carport collapsed on top of the car and damaged it enough that it would cost more to fix than it was worth, so I am moving on to another car.
I never fixed the solenoid in the starter that made the small, little, strange noise on occasion when I started it, and I never had any problems. I was going to do so at the next inspection (this month), but don't need to now.
There were no major problems with the car during the whole time I owned it. It always started and ran without incident, and never left me stranded. The only issues were minor (to me), but I believe common; interior fit and finish. The plastic "wood" trim on the doors would occasionally fall off, and the fabric around the door handle was a little loose. Otherwise, no complaints with this car. It has ended its functional life with almost 200,000 kilometers on the clock, and it was fun to drive all the way to its last trip to Costco (yes, there is Costco in Japan, too). I would recommend this car to anyone who wants a fun to drive, reasonably priced, hatchback or small car without any reservations. RIP, Golf GTi.
Sorry to hear that your car met a domestic accident that has ended its life. Thanks for your reviews and updates - it's important for those interested to get the views of people who have owned particular models for longer periods of time. So what car have you bought to replace it with?