are the older GTI's still awesome?
July 13, 2008 12:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a used car that's fun to drive, nice power, great handling. I've been thinking about the VW GTI, which I hear fits all these criteria, but I've also heard that they don't get totally awesome until 2007. Is this true? Or can I go older and still get something super fun?

Also in the running: Mazda3, Honda Civic Si...
posted by alohaliz to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
The Volkswagen golf has been the main benchmark for all hot hatches since about 1982... They had a small fade a few years ago, but they've always been good, solid, performers with decent quality build and good reliability. There was certainly not really that spectacular a jump for the 2007 model, that's for sure.

Mind you, with absolutely no idea of budget, there is a 15 year band or more on which GTi you may be talking about. And with no other considerations (size, economy, how quickly you want to find one, suitability as a daily driver) you are asking a massively open question and won't get any useful answers beyond that except by coincidence.

You need to provide more information about your requirements and limitations.
posted by Brockles at 12:07 PM on July 13, 2008

I have a 2007 GTI, and I absolutely love it. Great power, handling, interior styling...and 30 MPG on the highway. Remember to always capitalize the I :)
posted by santaliqueur at 12:14 PM on July 13, 2008

I had a 1998 GTI (until Katrina ate it). It was a wonderful little machine, fast but compact and cute as hell to boot. I can't suggest it highly enough.
posted by nursegracer at 12:37 PM on July 13, 2008

We have an '01 GTI 1.8t (purchased used with 40k on the odo) While a fun little car with pretty good gas milage, that particular version (the Mk IV series) has it's share of quirks and foibles.

There's a general issue with the window regulators failing, resulting in windows that don't work (or slide down into the door). There's also a relatively common problem with the electronic door lock module on the driver's side failing, resulting in doors that don't always know if they're closed, open, or locked. It's not unusual for cars with these bad modules to spontaneously lock themselves and set off the alarm.

At 48k, we had to replace the transmission. The thing just stopped working completely one day. And, even though the VW warranty covers second owners up to 50k, VW refused to cover the replacement because we were over the time limit. That was $3,800 out of savings.

But, it's still a great car to drive. Just be aware that there are potential issues. As b1tr0t suggests, head over to the Vortex and read-up. I think you'd do better with a Mk V version, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:23 PM on July 13, 2008

My `03 Golf is awesome. I love driving it. I'm probably going with a GTI when it's time for a new one. Manual transmission is a must, of course.
posted by knowles at 1:35 PM on July 13, 2008

the older gti's were heavy buggers, so OP is right about them only becoming *really* fun again with the mark 5 version. the only one I really enjoyed before that was the mark 2 but hey, you probably won't want to go that far back. here's clarkson on the original gti and what happened next (this comparison might be interesting as well).

I drove a supercharged mazda miata for a bit, which is also known as the hairdresser rocket, but the thing was so light and so powerful with that extra bit in it that it felt more like a go-cart than anything else. probably not the kind of car you'd want to be seen in but I thought I'd mention it since it's so cheap.

the next car I got after that was a used boxster S (again top gear). there is a rather large difference in power and performance between the regular boxter and the S version and you really should try one out for even just five minutes. I swear to you you'll kick yourself you didn't do that years earlier if you don't and then in the future get to experience the joy. do not accept anything but the manual gearbox version.

you should be able to find a decent and not too old used boxster S for around $25k, ( helped me a lot) which is comparable in price to a new gti if I'm not mistaken but a massive difference in the load of fun you're about to get thrown your way. the huge plus about porsches is that you can get a babied low-mileage vehicle from your suburban dentist who'll cry when you drive away, the downside is that every little thing you break will cost you 5k to fix. porsche service is good but about as expensive as mercedes-benz service. I remember getting a bumper replaced once and they gave me a 911 gt2 loaner for the day. giving that back was the toughest thing I've ever done.

btw: I used to worry about a two-seater when I bought it. would it be a hassle doing shopping with? how about ikea? I ended up having storage problems exactly twice in three years and you wouldn't believe how many offers of help I got from friends eager to switch cars for an hour or two.
posted by krautland at 2:36 PM on July 13, 2008

Response by poster: To be more specific- by "older," I meant like '05ish. There's about a 5k leap from '05 to '07, and I'm trying to figure out whether that's worth it.
posted by alohaliz at 3:57 PM on July 13, 2008

when you say 05 are you thinking right about the time they changed models? (I remember this being a lot later in the US, sorry if I am hazy on it.)

the mark V is not as heavy ad the mark IV, so that does make a significant difference. I'd usually suggest not buying the first model year after a major change but the cars have been on the european market for a while longer, so this might be the exception to that rule.
posted by krautland at 4:06 PM on July 13, 2008

Pretty much every GTI ever made has been a fun car. Reliable? Well, that's another concern. Anyway, it might help if we knew what your background is, and your definition of fun. Civic Si and GTI are two very different versions of fun.
posted by knave at 5:50 PM on July 13, 2008

Might I suggest the Subaru WRX or STI. About the same price range, and arguably way more car if you go with the STI.
posted by Netzapper at 6:07 PM on July 13, 2008

Response by poster: so my background: the first and last car I ever had was an '86 Honda Accord, from 1998-2000. Since then, I've lived in cities and haven't needed a car, but now I'm moving to Santa Cruz so I've decided to grow up and buy one. So you could say I'm a little naive about this kind of thing...

I guess most of what I'm going on is from my boyfriend, who drives a speedy motorcycle...he's convinced me that I want something FUN (i.e., handles well, good acceleration). He had heard very good thing about GTIs, so that's what I've been doing the most research on, and I'm trying to decide whether I should splurge for an '07 or get a cheaper, older (04 or so) one.

And then every now and then I feel like I'm going to break down just get a good ol' Honda.
posted by alohaliz at 8:26 PM on July 13, 2008

My '03 BMW 325i was the same price as a '07 Mazda3 and it's a hell of a lot more fun to drive.
posted by desjardins at 9:26 PM on July 13, 2008

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