After the Volkswagen Beetle, the Golf is arguably the most recognizable car to come out of Germany.
Like the Beetle, the Golf sticks to its roots of being a simple and comfortable hatchback that offers a lot
of practicality, and in recent years, a lot of performance. The Golf is also one of the best-selling vehicles
worldwide and has sold over 35 million units over the years since its launch in 1974. It also coined the
compact car segment that paved the way for several other models in the decades that followed.
Unfortunately, the latest eighth-generation Golf will only reach US shores by 2022. But, if you’re on a
tight budget and are looking for an affordable city car with plenty of practicality and performance, a used
Volkswagen Golf fits the bill perfectly. With several thousand models leaving the showrooms every year,
you can easily find a used Volkswagen Golf for sale. But, the lineup can get confusing with several
generational updates and different models available.
Here, we’ll take a look at some of the better models and configurations to buy, and which ones to avoid.
The Golf was launched back in the early 1970s in the US as the Volkswagen Rabbit hatchback, and over
7 generations have passed over the years. The Golf was also sold in different body styles including a
three-door, five-door, and even a wagon body style for extra practicality.
But, the used market is usually filled with third-generation and newer models because of their popularity.
Before you start on your used Golf adventure, here are some factors to consider before zeroing in on a
Why buy a Golf?
Before we get started let’s look at some of the advantages and factors that put the Volkswagen Golf on
the map, and what made it so popular. Even in the face of modern competition, and minimal updates, the
modern VW Golf still remains an excellent buy in its segment.
First and foremost, the VW Golf brings a lot of value to the table. Even with the base model, you’re
looking at a comprehensive feature list including plenty of safety features and modern technology. The
standard turbocharged engine in modern models is also very capable and can run rings around the
standard versions of its competitors, reaching 60 MPH in just 7.5 seconds. Enthusiasts looking for a
manual transmission will also flock to the Golf as it’s one of the only models available with a smooth
manual as standard.
The Golf also excels in the ride quality and handling department, offering a perfect balance of both. In
fact, the ride quality feels like a far more expensive car with a well-sorted suspension setup even on the
The Volkswagen Golf is also an ideal size for hauling around the family with comfortable seating for 5
passengers and a practical and large trunk. Of course, if we consider the SportWagen models,
practicality is multiplied.
Volkswagen has also focused on safety with the Golf, and almost all models received excellent and
sometimes class-leading safety scores from the agencies. A lot of active safety and driver assistance
features are also available on the more recent models.
Overall, the Volkswagen Golf is arguably the definition of a modern people’s car, offering everything you
need in a well-rounded and affordable package. From its comfortable interiors to the excellent safety
ratings, there’s a lot to like about the Golf, making it an excellent purchase in the used market.
Some common issues to look out for
DSG automatic transmissions are a common failure point with Golfs and can cost a bomb to repair if
something breaks. Because of their complicated nature, repairs are also harder, and most issues are
usually traced back to a faulty mechatronics box that runs the whole system. IF the car is maintained
properly with regular oil changes, the issue won’t surface soon, but keep a lookout when shopping for
used models with DSGs.
If the box fails, you’ll likely have to replace the whole transmission, which can cost thousands of dollars.
Fortunately, the Golf is available with a manual transmission as standard which is relatively trouble-free
and is still sold to this day.
A lot of VW Golfs also reportedly have fuel economy issues, which can get worse over time. Although
this issue is reported for newer models, older engines are also susceptible to fuel economy issues, and it
is usually because of the throttle control unit.
Which model years should you consider?
Of all the Golf generations, the Mk7 models are the best options when buying used. Launched in 2012
with a complete redesign, the Mk7 Golf looks and feels a lot more modern than its predecessors with
several improvements. It’s also based on the modern MQB platform for better safety and handling.
Other than the standard 2.5L 5-cylinder engine in the older models, Volkswagen also introduced high-
performance GTI model with a 2.0L turbocharged engine, offering plenty of performance. The other
notable engine option is the 2.0L TDI diesel engine which returned an impressive 30 MPG in the city and
42 MPG on the highways.
For even more performance, Volkswagen also launched the R model with the Mk6 generation with all-
wheel-drive, and several other performance enhancements, making it one of the hottest hatchbacks on
Moving away from the performance aspect, the Golf is also available in a wagon body style for extra
practicality and performance. The Golf SportWagen is based on the same underpinnings as the regular
Golf and was launched in 2015 with a TDI diesel engine. But, after the dieselgate scandal the same year,
the TDI was discontinued, leaving only the 1.8L Turbo. Volkswagen also launched an all-wheel-drive
model of the SportWagen called the Alltrack with a Haldex system.
If you’re willing to spend a bit more, opting for a 2015 or above model year that offers a lot more space
and technology is the best option. It also received an updated powertrain with a 1.8L Turbo or a 2.0L
Standard, GTI, or R?
The most popular engine so far is the 2L inline-4 engine producing 115 hp that found its way under the
hood of most Golfs sold in the US since the early 90s. Although it offered adequate performance when
paired with a manual transmission, automatic models struggled when pushed hard.
But, for the enthusiasts looking for more performance, the Golf GTI finally reached US shores packing a
2.8L 6-cylinder engine, commonly known as the VR6, which bumped the power up to 172 hp. Although
finding a VR6 is hard, it is definitely worth a look.
With the mk4 models, the 2.0L engine was replaced with a more modern and powerful 1.8L
turbocharged engine producing 150 hp and a 1.9L turbo-diesel engine producing 90 hp. Both these
engines provided a significant boost in performance and efficiency over the outgoing model but were
plagued with reliability and electrical issues.
For more modern models, the standard 1.8L turbocharged engine is bumped up to 170 hp and is more
than adequate for daily use, while the GTI and R produce 220 hp and 292 hp respectively.
Overall, the Volkswagen Golf is still one of the better options in the used market if you’re looking for an
affordable and practical family hauler. Just make sure you don’t buy an unreliable or abused model, and
you can enjoy a safe and comfortable Golf adventure.