2002 Volkswagen Golf GT TDi 130 1.9 turbo diesel from UK and Ireland
Awesome engine and comfort, but it falls apart at 100k
Ever since new, it has used a bit of oil, but since about 90k has used a litre every 1000-1200 miles which is apparently within manufacturers spec. It does mean the oil has to be topped up with every other tank of fuel though which strikes me as a bit ridiculous.
Neutral detent spring in gearlever has become weak and the shift has been quite "baggy" since about 70,000 miles. Only realised how bad when I drove a low mileage example recently. The gearbox also occasionally baulks into 2nd, particularly with cold oil.
One of the tappets became noisy on cold starts at around 80,000 miles.
Alternator failed at 95,000 miles.
Build quality is the biggest disappointment. I have a badly squeaking driver's seat, an intermittent rattle from inside the passenger door (dealer thinks it's the window mechanism, but can't seem to fix it), a rattling parcel shelf, a creaking brake pedal and a boot which seems to occasionally let in water.
Loads of little bits inside have fallen off or broken including the passenger footwell trim, the passenger seat adjuster handle, the glovebox catch, the wiper switch and a couple of pixels on the computer display.
In many ways, the Golf GT TDI 130 is the perfect car for modern driving. It's frugal (48 mpg average, despite fairly hard use), refined, comfortable and its 130PS engine is hugely impressive. The acceleration from 1500 RPM is almost surreal, and squeezes you hard into the seat. The phrase "quick for a diesel" doesn't apply. When it's between 1,500 and 4,000 RPM it's a quick car in its own right. Note though - the chassis can't cope unless you leave the ASR system permanently on. Dynamically this car is now well outdated.
The 6 speed gearbox and stacks of torque make the Golf an excellent motorway car with good stability and a faintly ludicrously tall top gear which gives just 2,000 RPM at 70 mph. General noise levels are low, although the engine is a little gutteral under load compared with more modern units. That said, the Golf laps up motorway miles effortlessly and enthusiastically.
The single biggest disappointment of this car however, and the reason I would think twice about another VW is the quality. People always say that Volkswagen build cars that disguise their mileage well, but this Golf leaves you in no doubt that it has done over 100k. Despite 95% of its mileage being on motorways, the gearbox has become baggy and has developed an appalling shift quality on cold oil, the steering has some play around the dead ahead, the suspension feels floaty and the interior looks tired. It rattles badly as well from all manner of places, as it has since about 30,000 miles. The engine is going strong, as you would expect from a diesel unit, and I suspect it pulls harder now than it did 100,000 miles ago, but it isn't as smooth as it was, and it truly guzzles oil. There is also some tappet noise on cold starts which never used to be there.
On the whole, I would rate this car as excellent were it not for the poor quality and disappointing durability. It's still a corker to drive with a scarcely believable power/economy compromise and good comfort, but one does feel a little short changed when, having stumped up the extra for the VW on the promise of it shrugging off high miles, engine apart, it sounds and feels thoroughly tired at just over the 100k mark.
Looking into selling it, and can scarcely believe the resale values. Bought it for UKP 13,750 in 2002, and it's still worth UKP 8,000 in private sale with 108k on it! Clearly the build issues aren't common knowledge.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 14th November, 2004