By The Lenspeed Team
The Golf GTI seems to fill the gap of the do-everything car pretty convincingly, whichever generation you pick. From the stellar Mk1 which first spawned the hot hatch fever, all the way to the latest tech-laden Mk7, Golf GTIs serve their owners faithfully and, at most times, tirelessly.
In Singapore the MkV Golf GTI really re-launched the badge back into mainstream view, thanks to the quantum leap over its predecessors as well as the favourable moderate-low COE climate back in 2005. While nobody really paid attention to the Mk4 Golf GTI (which offered less performance than a diesel Golf in some cases!), mid-level execs looking to inject some excitement into their lives lapped up the MkV by the hundreds. It helped as well that going into its model year cycle, COE prices dipped to its lowest levels in recent memory in 2009 – sustaining the sales boom even right up to the point the MkVI came by to replace it. It almost felt like the MkVI came too early and disrupted the hay-making of the MkV.
With its direct shift gearbox (DSG) and 100bhp/litre output TFSI engine, the MkV was a potent machine and stands proudly amongst other performance cars even today. Handling has been tuned to err on the side of caution (read: understeer), but for most situations the car will reward you with stability, comfort and vast point-to-point pace. It is even fairly economical, with reported real usage figures around 10-11km/l.
These days, MkV Golf GTI are available by the bucketfuls in the market, so you can take your time to choose. Early cars (2005) are by now either exported or scrapped, so few can be had but you will have your pick from 2006 onwards. Best picks are from the run-out 2009 models, and there are some special editions worth a punt too, including the Pirelli Edition, ED30 as well as the VP1 (the last unique to the Singapore market). For bangerwatches however, 2006 models are the ones to watch out for as they are now asking for as little as S$30,000. A good Chinese New Year gift to yourself, maybe?
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
Lenspeed staffers have had a fair bit of experience with Golf GTIs. Between us we have owned the Mk2 8 valver, the Mk5s (early year and late years) and at least one of us are now pining for pristine Mk1s for keepers. At some point Golf GTIs (especially MkVs and above) are likely to have been modified, and while the EA113 engines are typically hardy, you’d be well-advised to watch out for heavy modifications which may affect the longevity of the drivetrain, especially the DSG which is only rated to be able to handle up to ~380Nm.
The most common modifications include an ECU Stage 1 upgrade (various brands are available or custom maps too), catback exhaust systems and big brake kits. Cosmetically, what you see out there is as varied as your imagination but many designs are an acquired taste.
Oil changes are advised to be done every 15,000km, but if the car has been modified, it is a good idea to reduce that considerably. The EA113 runs very hot, especially under heavy boost, so make sure service records show the car has been cared for with top-notch engine oil. It is common to have oil consumption between services (up to 1L per 10,000km is our experience), which is a point of annoyance for many owners, so keep an engine oil bottle handy with you always (check if the owner does!).
It is common to find coil packs failing (if you find this in service records) for modified cars, so check that these have been dutifully replaced. The 6-speed DSG rarely has any issues but earlier cars can feel slightly jerkier due to wear and tear. The gearbox is supposed to last the lifetime of the car but there are shops out there which can do a refurbishment for you. Volkswagen will also do a recalibration for you to reduce the jerks, which has been reportedly a good way to solve the issue.
Some GTIs imported to Singapore are made in South Africa (as opposed to Germany), and these usually do not show any major differences between each other. However, if you are looking at a parallel import model, note that OMV values tend to be lower and therefore will have a bearing on the asking price.
On the inside GTIs have lovely Recaro seats up front which only show excessive wear on its side bolsters – try to see if this can be rectified to prevent further damage but it is not a major point. It is common for early year cars to have peeling plastic buttons and knobs; these are generally easily replaced but can be costly. Check a collapsed rear headliner too, which looks more severe than it actually is – probably due to our hot weather, the glue holding it together gives way. It’s an easy fix, but will set you back a few hundred dollars.
Look out also for aftermarket head units, which were a common modification because MkVs were brought in to the country with extremely low-spec RCD500 units that offered no navigation, Bluetooth or USB connectivity. China-made units are generally to be avoided as they are slow, laggy and unsightly (operating system wise), but if you see RNS510 units installed you know the owner has put in some good money. Early 2005/2006 GTIs also have a limited functionality split-screen onboard computer (as opposed to a full screen in later models), so watch out for this if you like to tinker settings yourself. Generally, rattles are also common and can be a hide-and-seek affair to solve, but it is not a major issue unless it bugs you.
All in, the MkV Golf GTI is a quality product that warrants a new COE renewal, especially in this atmosphere of sliding prices. The MkVI that followed seems more polished, but it has the new EA888 engine which some say lacks a bit of character. It also feels a little bit “in-between”. The MkV, if well taken care of, will be a keeper. Our staffer with a MkV had this to say: “Every time I get the itch to look for another car to replace the Golf, there are many flights of fancy but nothing that can quite offer the all-in-one package that the GTI does. The great fuel economy, effortless torque from the engine and can-do attitude gives me no reason to ever sell it.”
Sold in Singapore between: 2006-2009, 3-door and 5-door
Prices: $30,000 – $75,000
Engine: 2.0-litre TFSI, EA113
Gearbox: 6-speed DSG
Performance: 0-100km/h in 6.9 seconds (stock – but a Stage 1 can bring that to low 6s)