Gearbox: VW has largely sorted its DSG ’box problem, but some early cars still have issues. Make sure the gearbox changes smoothly and there is no errant behaviour.
Engines: Petrol engine timing chains have been known to snap, causing major engine damage. Having the car serviced on time mitigates this, so a full service history is crucial.
Electrics: Faults with the sat-nav and entertainment system have been reported, so check that all the electrics work as they should.
Oil consumption: GTIs can drink a lot of oil, so it’s crucial to check the level between services. If it gets too low, it can damage the engine or timing chain.
Adaptive cruise: Cars with adaptive cruise control can suffer from problems with the system slamming on the brakes. It can be recalibrated, at a cost.
Recalls: There are too many recalls to detail in full, but they include issues with the airbags, seatbelt tensioners, fuel leaks, front wheel bearing housings, fitment of incorrect front brake discs, head restraints, child locks, rear hub carriers and seat backrests. Your VW dealer will be able to tell if your car is affected and if remedial work has been done.
Reliability: Our sister mag What Car?’s reliability data says petrol Golfs are more reliable than diesels. Petrols were given a reliability rating of 94.6% and diesels 89.4% – not terrible nor amazing. Volkswagen as a brand ranked 20th out of 30 in the same survey.
1.5 TSI Evo 130: Petrol Golfs are quieter and smoother than their diesel equivalents, and yet just as punchy on the road. Our favourite among the older cars is the 1.4 TSI 125, while on later post-facelift cars the 1.5 Evo 130 version gets our vote.