8 Jan 2014

Living with - VW Golf GTi Mk5

Paul Eldred reviews his own Volkswagen Golf GTi Mk5

VW Golf GTi Mk5

I’ve just realised that I’ve owned my Mk 5 Golf GTi for over 6½ years – this is the longest I’ve ever owned a car … so it must be good? In all honesty I bought the Golf as a means to preserve the mileage and condition of my Audi RS4, which was “relegated” to being a weekend toy. The Golf had a pretty tough act to follow and the two cars are not in the same class at all and it would be unfair to try to make any comparisons.

From my previous article about the RS4 you may realise that I’m not averse to a little bit of subtle modification to a car – I’m not a fins, spoilers and wheels type bloke – but performance and safety mods type. So it wasn’t long before the Golf had a treat at MRC Tuning in Banbury. First off was a cat-back exhaust and a remap but was soon followed by a de-catted downpipe and a sports cat (but only because the original cat failed) and a tweak to the map . The car is now very useable and quick, providing 264bhp which is quite a way up from the stock 200bhp quoted for the car.

I bought the car with about 18,000 miles on the clock and the day after I bought it, it broke down – miles away from home and in a really heavy rain storm. The car was recovered by VW and taken to a garage in Buckinghamshire and (at my insistence) VW paid for hotel accommodation as they couldn’t provide a hire car that late in the day.
VW Golf GTi Mk5

Anyway – VW replaced a couple of coil packs and the cat under warranty. Sadly about three years after that there was a fuel injector failure which resulted in the car being recovered by the RAC to a garage. Oddly enough, on both these occasions, my partner’s mother was in the car with us … omen or just jinxed?

The car has been serviced every 10,000 miles and now has 127,000 miles on the odometer and has had two breakdowns in the 6½ years that I’ve owned it – now I don’t reckon that’s bad. I’ve had the driver’s side seat bolster repaired as it is badly attacked by buttons on my trouser pockets – but again you’d expect this with a car with this mileage. Surprisingly the clutch is still the original, despite handling that level of power so is a testament to the build quality of the car.

Over the last few years, we’ve used the car for road trips to watch the Barcelona F1 and visiting friends in the South of France – a good cruiser with plenty of room for the return trip loaded with crates of wine.

I’ve already said that the car is no match for the RS4, but really the performance is pretty impressive, as you can imagine with 264bhp on tap, the car is no slouch. Given good tyres and a dry road the front wheels grip pretty well, but, as expected, the front will break traction if provoked by some spirited acceleration. I’ve never noticed any torque steer but she does tend to tramline a bit when the tyres are towards the end of their life – but again that can be expected. Understeer? Yes of course, but generally the car has pretty good handling and lived up to the hype that was around when the car was launched. I may put stiffer ARBs on at some point. The car has the standard halogen headlights but I wish the previous owner had specified Xenons. The only thing that was disappointing from day one was the quality of the radio/CD player (RCD300), which I’ve subsequently replaced with a DAB version which has far better sound quality, and means I can listen to PlanetRock whilst driving!

The Monza II alloys are prone to kerbing as the tyres and hub are pretty much flush – I would consider some alloygators after they are refurbished next time.

If only VAG had a 4WD version of this car with that 2litre turbo engine rather than the heavier 3.2l V6 lump – that would be my ideal. However, I guess they do have that – it’s called the Audi S3 (but it only has three doors).

To date, this has been the easiest car to live with in all my years.

All photos: Paul Eldred

The video below shows Paul's Golf GTi on the rolling road at MRC Tuning
VW Golf GTi Mk5

VW Golf GTi Mk5