Engine problem on a used Volkswagen Golf

A reader's six-year-old Golf has developed a problem, and she's worried about getting the fault diagnosed by a main dealer because she could be landed with a large repair bill...

EPC warning light

I have a 2013 Volkswagen Golf 1.2 TSI S that I’ve owned from new and which has done about 45,000 miles. I’ve never had any problems with it at all until recently, when the EPC [electronic power control] light came on and it suddenly started to judder as I was driving on the motorway. I was able to drive to the next service station, where the car refused to restart after I’d turned the ignition off. 

The recovery service patrol said the problem was probably a faulty coil pack, although his diagnostic computer indicated that the compression was low in cylinder four of the engine. So the car was towed to my local garage, where the mechanic changed the coil pack and spark plugs. 

Volkswagen Golf

However, the mechanic has advised me to contact Volkswagen, because the computer is still indicating low compression in one cylinder, and he is concerned that there is a serious problem, such as a valve sticking. He doesn’t want to dismantle the engine to find out for sure due to the age and low mileage of my car.

I have contacted my local Volkswagen dealership and explained what has happened and that my mechanic would like to see if they make the same diagnosis. They were very defensive from the off, saying that I would have to pay £110 for the fault diagnosis and that I might also have to pay for any subsequent repairs that are necessary. 

They said that Volkswagen might make a goodwill gesture towards part of the cost, but the size of the contribution could be affected because the car hasn’t been serviced by a Volkswagen garage for the past two years since its manufacturer warranty expired. However, the car has a full service history and a reputable garage has serviced it regularly.

I would appreciate some advice on how to proceed with this, because I am very worried that I have a six-year-old car that might not be worth fixing if Volkswagen refuses to contribute to the cost of repairs.

Zoe Clark

What Car? says…

We would recommend that you get the fault diagnosis done by the Volkswagen dealership, because if it reveals a fault with the engine, Volkswagen is likely to make a contribution towards the cost of repairs. Because the car is out of warranty, the contribution will be a goodwill gesture, and you’ll need to show it’s been serviced in line with Volkswagen Group guidelines. However, it sounds like you are well placed to do this, so we wouldn’t be concerned about the servicing that has been done outside of the main dealer network. 

If the problem isn’t something Volkswagen will contribute to, we’d recommend getting repair quotes from an independent garage as well as the Volkswagen dealership so you can get the best price for the work.

Best family cars and the ones to avoid

Many people who once would have chosen a traditional 'family car' are now buying SUVs and MPVs instead.

However, that doesn’t mean the family car market is dead; it still accounts for a huge number of sales and is very competitive, so there are some great buys out there.

But what makes a good family car? Well, it has to be practical, cheap to run, good to drive, well equipped and good value for money; in other words, it needs to be good at everything. Here we count down the top 10 and reveal the models that are best to steer clear of.

10. BMW i3

The BMW i3 is an electric family car that uses super-light carbonfibre and aluminium to offset the weight of the battery pack that’s mounted beneath its floor, while a smart interior and great handling add further to its appeal.

In addition to the fully electric model, BMW offers a range-extender version with a two-cylinder petrol engine that acts as a generator to prevent the car's batteries from running flat.

Read our full BMW i3 review, see our latest deals or see our leasing offers


9. BMW 1 Series

A more conventional option from BMW is the 1 Series, which offers a strong combination of performance, fuel economy and CO2 emissions.

It’s still a little unusual in that it sends its power to the rear wheels rather than the fronts, but this makes it entertaining to drive, and ride comfort is also good.

Pick of the range: 118i SE

Read our full BMW 1 Series review, see our latest deals or see our leasing offers

8. Honda Civic

The latest Honda Civic is good to drive and has plenty of space inside for your family and their luggage. Add to that an impressive array of standard safety equipment and it's easy to recommend as an all-rounder.

We'd recommend teaming the frugal 1.0-litre petrol engine with mid-range SR trim for the best combination of economy and equipment.

Pick of the range: 1.0 VTEC SR

Read our full Honda Civic review, see our latest deals or see our leasing offers

Next: more of our favourite family cars >

Page 1 of 4

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

Buy a new car with What Car?

Before you buy, visit What Car?’s new car deals section.

We have discounted deals on most new cars on sale, so you're never far away from finding a new car deal in your area.

It's all based on Target Price, which is the price we think you should pay based on research by our team of mystery shoppers, and the best discounts they can achieve.

If you’re still not sure then our deals team can help; call them on 03302 216207 – lines are open from 8am until 10pm seven days a week.