Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Volkswagen Golf hatchback?
Volkswagen had largely sorted out the most expensive of its DSG automatic gearbox problems before this generation of Golf was launched, but there are still some early cars with which problems have been reported, so make sure the gearbox changes smoothly and there are no signs of temperamental behaviour.
Timing chains fitted to petrol engines have been known to snap prematurely; this can cause significant engine damage but can be mitigated by having the car serviced on time. This means a full service history is critical.
Faults with the navigation and entertainment system, as well as other electrical niggles, have been reported on some models, so it’s worth checking that all the electrics work as they should.
What are the most common problems with a used Volkswagen Golf hatchback?
Lights may fail without warning
An issue with the programming of the on-board supply control unit means the driver may not be warned of a light bulb blowing. It’s also possible for a message to pop up suggesting there’s a fault when there isn’t. The dealer is to install new software to fix the problem.
Passenger air bag
Due to a faulty weld in the gas generator used in the air bag assembly, there’s a potential for parts of the assembly to break off and cause injury to occupants. Affected vehicles are to have faulty items replaced.
Air bag and seat belt tensioner
Some examples may have an issue with either the air bags, seat belt tensioners, or both. Due to an error in the manufacturing process, these may not trigger correctly in a collision, affecting passenger safety. Affected cars will need to have all faulty air bags and seat belt tensioners replaced.
A tooling issue at the factory meant that some examples were fitted with engine cylinder heads that were not produced to the correct specification. This then lead to an issue with the fuel rail loosening over time and allowing fuel to leak, with the potential for an engine fire.
Front wheel bearing housing
The front wheel bearing housing on a small number of Golfs might not have been manufactured correctly and could potentially fracture. Your Volkswagen dealer should be able to check the casting date to find out if your car is affected and let you know whether replacements are required.
Incorrect front brake discs fitted
Some Golfs might have been fitted with front brake discs that are not of the correct thickness, which could crack under extreme circumstances. Contact your local Volkswagen dealer to check if your car is affected by this recall and needs to have replacement discs fitted.
Insecure head restraint
There has been an issue reported with the front head restraints of a limited number of Golfs where a burr created during the manufacturing process could prevent the locking mechanism from working correctly. Your Volkswagen dealer should be able to let you know if your car is affected.
Child lock failure
The child locks on some examples might disengage without warning and allow occupants to open the rear doors. Dealers fitted a new lock to sort the problem, so check that work has been completed if you think your car is affected.
Rear hub carrier
On certain Golfs there was an issue with the rear hub carrier not being manufactured to the correct standard, so in extreme circumstances, the car could lose a rear wheel. A recall was issued to replace the carriers on affected cars.
A small number of Golfs may have been fitted with seats where the welds on the backrest head restraint mounting could fail in an accident. You Volkswagen dealer should be able to tell you if your car requires a replacement seat to solve the problem.
High oil consumption
GTI models can suffer from high oil consumption, so it’s important to keep checking the oil level on these, even between services. If the level gets too low, it can cause damage to the engine or timing chain.
Adaptive cruise control
Examples fitted with automatic cruise control (ie cruise control that senses the distance from the car in front) can suffer from problems whereby the system gets confused and slams on the brakes. Often, there’s little that can be done to solve this. The system can be recalibrated, at a cost.
Is a used Volkswagen Golf hatchback reliable?
According to our most recent What Car? Reliability survey, the Golf finished midway in the table of family cars. Most issues centred on non-engine electrics, but nearly all problems were fixed within a week and under warranty.
Volkswagen as a brand finished in 16th place out of 31 car manufacturers included in our study.
If you would like to see the full reliability list, head to the What Car? Reliability Survey pages for more information.