The Mk 5 Volkswagen Golf GTi is one of the best selling hot hatches of all time and with good reason. It’s quick, reliable, practical and easily modified for extra go! On top of all that, and the ace up the Golf’s sleeve is that it’s classless. It can show up at a race track one day and your mates flashy wedding the next day and fit right in at both. When we were looking for a project car here at MicksGarage the mk 5 GTi was the obvious choice. Launched in 2004, you can now pick an early one up very cheaply and while largely a very reliable, robust car, there are of course things to look out for. With that in mind we compiled a comprehensive buying guide.
While the engine is generally regarded as very reliable, it does make a fair old racket, especially at idle. This can be an issue as it makes ‘problem noises’ harder to hear. Noises to listen out for are a rattle that disappears soon after start-up but reappears a couple of miles later. This could indicate a problem with the camshaft-driven high pressure fuel pump, which is a known weak point. VW specialists recomend changing the fuel pump cam follower every 20k miles as a precaution
The sound of leaking air when you turn off the engine would indicate the PCV engine breather one-way valve has split, this would go hand in hand with a rough idle.
The engine cover houses the air filter and as such will have been removed and replaced numerous times for servicing, as a result the mounting grommets are often broken. While this doesn’t affect performance, a replacement cover can be expensive.
Ignition coil packs are another known weak point and tend to go in groups, so listen out for a misfire, especially under load as it could be a telltale sign that the coils are on their way out. It’s not a big or overly expensive job. Here’s a ‘How To’ video we made when changing the coils on our GTi
As with any car you should check when the timing belt is due to be changed (the interval is every 70,000 miles or four years). It’s quite an awkward job on the GTi as the exhaust downpipe has to be removed for access, which is fine if the bolts come out easily, if not, they may need drilling out. which isn’t so easy. Timing belt kits can be bought from about €180, It’s good practice to change the water pump at the same time
The GTI’s engine features direct fuel injection, so instead of fuel being injected into the manifold/inlet tract and passing over the valves, it’s injected straight into the combustion chamber. This can lead to the back of the valves getting badly coked up as there is no longer any fuel ‘washing’ the valves. Over time the coke/carbon build up can stop the valves from seating properly, which, in turn, can give poor top-end performance and high oil consumption – one litre of oil every 1000 miles is perfectly normal, according to VW. You’re not going to be able to see this when you go to look at a car but if you’re buying from an enthusiast they may well have done the job themselves so it’s worth asking about and certainly a bonus if it has been done.
Carbon deposits can also find their way into the engine oil which can cause problems with blocked oil strainers. We had that exact issue with our own car. Here’s our DIY guide to fixing it. If the oil strainer/pickup pipe gets blocked the engine will lose oil pressure which could result in serious damage.
The six-speed manual transmission doesn’t really give trouble and is pretty much bulletproof but isn’t the most inspiring gear change in the world. Lookout for a heavy clutch – a sure sign it’s on its way out.
The DSG gearbox is awesome but a complete service history is crucial. (the gearbox itself has to be serviced, it has it’s own oil and filter which needs to be changed plus the software gets updates) If it hasn’t been looked after properly, it can be slow to shift, hunt around and give very jerky changes. Anything wrong will be expensive to remedy, the Mechatronic ECU that controls it can fail – a clear tell-tale is lurching when you pull away, where it should be super-smooth.
The dual mass flywheels are also quite expensive to change when they go. Listen for a rumbling, clattering sound when the car is stationary
The Golf GTI is front-wheel drive but commonly suffers from excessive wear the inside of its rear tyres. This can be due to the rear shock absorbers becoming weak – if so, you’ll hear a droning noise, rather like a worn wheel bearing this is likely to be the culprit.
There have also been issues with rear springs breaking, so check for an uneven stance. This isn’t as bad as it might sounds as they’re very easy to change and are pretty cheap
The rear bushes on the front wishbones tend to wear, which can lead to the inside edge of the front tyres wearing quickly, so keep an eye out for that.
The 18” Monza alloys have a diamond cut surface and suffer quite badly from aluminium corrosion, getting them reconditioned can be quite expensive. We got ours reconditioned, you can check out the video here
As with most Volkswagens, the fit and finish is very good in comparison to it’s competitors. Make the usual checks for accident damage – check panel gaps, missing paint from the bolts holding the wings on, missing paint from chassis rails and miss-matching paint colour.
The boot lid release handle is a known problem, it can stick and not open correctly so check that the VW badge on the boot springs back smoothly into position. The rear high-level brake light can let in water. Replacement is a bodyshop job – they have to remove the whole spolier, replace and glue back on!
The interior is well built and uses quality materials, they are known to squeak and rattle a fair bit ours doesn’t seem to suffer from any of those issues. Make sure the condition of the interior matches the mileage ie check for abnormal wear on all the touch points – steering wheel, pedals, gear lever, seat bolsters, electric window and radio buttons etc
Door seals can leak so check for wet carpets or a whistling noise at high speeds. Air conditioning compressors can fail, so always check the air con works. If it doesn’t, it could be a high-pressure switch or it could be the compressor – new replacements are over a grand!
Engine In-line 4-cyl, 1984cc, turbo
Max power 197bhp @ 5100rpm
Max torque 207lb ft @ 1800rpm
Transmission Front-wheel drive, six-speed manual (DSG optional)
Tyres 225/45×17 (225/40×18 optional)
Weight (kerb) 1336kg
0-62mph 7.2sec (claimed)
Top speed 145mph (claimed)
Price when new £19,995 / €27,827 (2005, 3-door)
Parts Prices Supplied by MicksGarage.com – (correct as of Dec 2015)
Brake pads (front set) From €15.55 / £11.17
Brake discs (front pair) From €53.34 / £38.32
Clutch kit From €205.08 / £147.35
Dual-mass flywheel From €365.40 / £262.48
Oil filter From €7.01 / £5.03
Air filter From €7.30 / £5.24
Spark plugs (set of four) €49.00 / £35.20
Ignition Coils From €30.94 / £22.34