Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Jon asks: I have the chance to purchase a Mk5 GTI, a 2009. Manual transmission, of course. The car has fewer than 100k miles on it and appears to be in good shape. Clean Carfax. My concern is this: Words that have probably never been uttered are . . . “thank goodness I have an 11 year old Volkswagen….” What are your thoughts on the reliability of the Golf/GTI of that time period. Other than being stressed by having a turbo, it is a fairly basic car; no intrusive driver aids other than traction control and perhaps a mild stability control. Thanks, Eric, for any advice that you can offer me.
My reply: There is one rule – the same rule – when considering the purchase of any used performance car. It is to assume the car was driven as performance cars almost always are. You are not dealing with a used Corolla, driven by a middle-aged hausfrau.
Given the hard use most performance cars are subjected to, extra diligence should be brought to bear in ascertaining the condition of the clutch and transmission especially – if it’s a manual car, as in the case of the one you are looking at. A Corolla’s clutch can be expected to have at least 50 percent of its life left at 100k. But a GTI’s…? And the GTI’s box has no doubt been rowed eagerly. Has the lube/fluid been changed since the car was new?
I would also want to know the same as regards the engine. The life of a turbo’d engine – and its turbo – can depend hugely on the oil it is given and how often it is changed. Hopefully, this car has service records showing that the oil was changed per the VW severe use service schedule and with the correct synthetic oil and a high quality filter.
How about the struts? The GTI was probably exercised in the corners and may need new struts to exercise in them again. Not a deal-killer but struts can be pricey.
I would not worry much about things like brakes and tires; expect them to be worn and if they are, use the wear as a haggling point. It is relatively easy/inexpensive to buy a set of new tires and have pads replaced. But watch for toasted calipers and warped discs.
The rest involves all the usual rules about general condition, dings and dents, seat tears – and so on. If the car checks out as mechanically sound and if you can establish that it was serviced properly – and the price is right – I would not hesitate. These GTIs are great fun and also surprisingly practical cars that can be commuted in every day, like a Miata – but with back seats and probably five times as much cargo capacity, too!
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