Used Volkswagen Golf Hatchback 1998 - 2004 review

Category: Family car

Fully deserves its image as a premium, high-quality small family car

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback (97 - 06)
  • Volkswagen Golf Hatchback (97 - 06)
  • Volkswagen Golf Hatchback (97 - 06)
Used Volkswagen Golf Hatchback 1998 - 2004 review
Star rating

What's the used Volkswagen Golf hatchback like?

The VW Golf is the kind of car you respect more the longer you own it. Above all else, it conveys a sense of robust, deep-seated quality, from the classy cabin with its well chosen materials to the solid-looking (if rather plain) exterior.

Although there's adequate space in the rear for adults, they don't have as much room as in a Ford Focus. However, the driving position will suit most sizes of driver and the layout of the dash is logical.


Fully deserves its image as a premium, high-quality small family car

  • Superb diesels
  • Classy cabin
  • Strong residuals
  • Costly to buy
  • Handling is stodgy

The Golf errs more towards comfort and refinement, and rides reasonably well. It's a relaxed motorway cruiser, but the price you pay for the comfort is less-than-sharp handling, and it feels stodgy in corners.

With a huge array of engines available, there's a Golf for everyone. The best diesels are badged PD and combine a smooth, strong response with excellent economy. The petrols start with a sluggish 1.4 and top out with a blistering 3.2 V6, but the 1.6 is adequate for most needs.

Ownership cost

What used Volkswagen Golf hatchback will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a Volkswagen Golf hatchback?

It won't be as cheap as a Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra. In fact, membership of the Golf club commands a premium over the majority of its rivals.

However, once you've shelled out, depreciation is slow, so you'll recoup more when you resell it, and you'll always find a ready market for tidy, cared-for Golfs.

Until then, you're looking at a low fuel bill for diesel versions (between 51mpg and 58mpg, depending on the model), although insurance groups vary dramatically, from the 1.9 SDi's group 4 to the hefty group 14 of the 150bhp 1.9 TDi PD.

You'll need big pockets for the V6 petrols (group 17, about 25mpg), but the V5 is better (group 14, 32mpg). The 1.6 nudges 40mpg and is in group 5 or 6, depending on trim. Golfs aren't cheap to service, but their overall reliability record suggests you won't fork out that often for repairs.

Our recommendations

Which used Volkswagen Golf hatchback should I buy?

There are three- and five-door versions, and a bewildering mixture of engines and trims. Petrols include a 1.4, 1.6 (100bhp and 105bhp) 1.8, 1.8 turbo (150bhp and 180bhp), 2.0, 2.3 V5, 2.8 V6 and 3.2 V6. Then there are the diesels: a non-turbo 1.9, and turbocharged 1.9s tuned to deliver 90bhp, 100bhp, 115bhp, 130bhp and 150bhp.

If that little lot starts to make you go blind, just remember this series of numbers and letters, 130bhp TDI - that's our favourite engine because of its extra muscle and minimal thirst.

Among the VW Golf petrols, pass on the 1.4. The 1.8T has good mid-range punch and the V5 and V6 are swift, but the 1.6 has a better mix of performance and value. Of the hot versions, the GTI is underwhelming, but the high-performance R32 is a cracker.

Equipment levels improved over time, so you're best off buying as late a car as possible. All gained ISOFIX child seat mountings in June 1999, and air-con became standard on most models in January 2000, but a three-point third rear seat belt was optional for most of the model's life.


What alternatives should I consider to a used Volkswagen Golf hatchback?