5 Nov 2012

Living with - VW Golf GTi Anniversary

Volkswagen Golf GTi Anniversary, Mark 4, 1.8 Turbo, 2002
Owner - Colin Hubbard


Back in 2002 I was working for Vodafone and had a massive choice of company cars to select from.  The Volkswagon Golf 25th Anniversary was on the list and at a price within my budget. This was the special edition, to commemorate the anniversary of 25 years since the launch of the original Mk1 Golf GTI. I eagerly went to select the Diesel 150bhp version of this fantastic looking car but found they had all been sold. Gutted, I had to opt for the standard GTI.

Leap forward 10 years and having sold my huge Mercedes E-Class estate and looking for something more nimble (the space shuttle may have been more nimble) I happened upon a petrol variant of the anniversary model in silver on eBay for a smidge under £4,600. These cars really hold their value due to demand and their limited numbers, plus it’s a Golf so not likely to throw its teddy in the corner or face huge repair bills.

I snapped it up and was the proud owner of a Reflex Silver 1.8 turbo 180 bhp Golf Mk4.

What it is I hear you ask?  Well it is based upon the 3 door Golf Mk4 GTI with either 150bhp Diesel or the 180bhp petrol as seen here. There were 1800 produced - 900 Diesels and 900 petrols and each was available in Relfex Silver, Tornado Red or Black Magic Pearl, equality split in numbers. Mechanically they had larger front brakes, slightly lower and stiffer suspension and beautiful 18 inch BBS alloy wheels. From the outside the car gained a votex bodykit consisting of front and rear bumper extensions and side skirts, red brake callipers and a stainless steel exhaust tailpipe. On the inside the car gained Recaro front seats with red stitching and GTI and Recaro emblems front and rear, red seat belts, silver satin finished centre console, pedals and door handles, perforated leather steering wheel and handbrake and a special plaque on the dashboard (only visible when you open the door).


The Golf Mark 4 in my experience is not the most dynamic car out there but it does do everything well, but not exceptionally so.

The engine at 180bhp is smooth and makes a nice gruff sound when the turbo spools up and kicks in. The stats are: a 0-60mph time of 7.9 seconds and a top speed of 138mph.  It is fast enough for my commute to work, spins the front wheels easily and overtakes with a bit of a run up but I have been spoilt in the past by a 250 bhp Astra and a 240 bhp diesel BMW so, no, this doesn’t feel that fast.
Adequate would sum up the performance. Maybe it would benefit from a remap which will give approx 220 bhp but. due to its exclusivity, I don’t want to ruin it's standard spec as it will devalue the car. 
The gearbox has a cracking shift action and makes gear changing a pleasure - the gearbox is a 6 speeder and helps acceleration with its close ratios.

Being a Golf the ride is safe and secure but if you’re after precision go drive a Renaultsport Clio. The car has a comfortable ride despite the large alloy wheels and again copes with my commute admirably.

The issue I do have with the car is wheel control, it feels like the wheels are not held to the chassis as firmly as they should. Imagine gripping a football with both hands at opposite sides, then try to grip it with your hands next to each other, its not as secure and that’s how this and my previous Golf felt. Again I’m sure there are cures for it (R32 suspension - Matt) like uprated anti roll bars but I don’t want to mess with it.

Braking performance is good with larger than standard brakes, and I’ve just renewed the disks and pads so work as good as when they left the factory.

General ownership experience
The interior of the car is a wonderful place to be and has a real feel good factor. The controls are well laid out and look great at night in their blue illuminated dials. The steering wheel has good reach and rake adjustment but the seat won’t go as low as I would like and isn’t the most comfortable Recaro seat I have ever sat in. Rear seat space is sufficient and I could take 4 further adults on a half hour journey whilst all being comfortable.

The boot is a good size but I have ruined it a bit with a 1500 watt stereo consisting of a 4 channel amplifier, two subwoofers and some front component speakers. It does give the German build quality a thorough test and shakes all 3 mirrors when it wants.

The packaging of the car is good as it isn’t too big to be difficult to park and yet holds 5 adults with luggage (if you haven’t ruined your boot) so overall not too big and not too small.

Servicing and costs
I usually service my own car but being a special edition model I was keen to keep up the VW service history so it goes to VW for a yearly oil change at £139 and I carry out all other jobs myself. It doesn’t use any oil despite its mileage of 87,000 and the 1.8 lump is easily accessible and worked upon.

The last service highlighted brakes were shot so its now got new disk and pads all round for £200 and whilst fitting these I notice the dampers were in poor condition so they are next to be replaced - they are another £170 for Bilsteins.

The car has been 100% reliable but there is a niggle with the engine in that it stutters slightly sometimes, nothing shows on my OBD reader and I suspect the issue is most likely to be the air flow meter but it could also be a coil pack which do commonly fail on these engines. Anyway a cheap fix as parts for these cars are easily sourced and at reasonable prices

Fuel economy on average is over 30 miles per gallon and this doesn’t include any motorway work, driven a little softer and on the motorway 40 mpg is achievable but I’m happy with its economy overall.

Overall it is a cheap car to fix and run though I am going through a period of replacing wearables.

Due to its scarce nature the £4,500 I paid for the car at the beginning of the year is fairly safe and so long as I don’t degrade the car with modifications that can’t be reversed I see no reason why I couldn’t sell the car for a similar price in a years time.

Reliability and Faults
As mentioned above the car has been 100% reliable.  I have been busy fixing a few parts that have worn but nothing has broken which shouldn’t have.

From past experience the only faults I know with Mk4 Golfs are the front anti-roll bar bushes wear easily and the coil packs are temperamental but both are relatively cheap fixes.

Over Impressions and recommendations.

This a a feelgood car, it looks fantastic on both the inside and outside, starts on the key every morning and is light on my wallet.

It has a great character and the kids love a ride out in it.  The Recaro stitching on the front and back seats matches one of their booster seats.

What car journalists fail to understand is that the majority of car owners don’t want a car that can hit 60 faster than a Ferrari and can handle like a McLaren - so long as it offers some flair in most areas then it's going to succeed like this Golf hence the numbers of ‘normal’ Golfs that have been sold. I am very happy with the car.  Sure I could buy a faster car but then I would lose economy, or a sharper car but then it might not be so comfortable.

I would recommend the Golf as being an all round good car, cheap to run, reliable and if looked after the Anniversary models offer a good investment.