The Mk5 Golf is one of our favourite cars. The combination of good looks, sweet chassis and highly tuneable turbocharged engine make it a great choice. Launched in 2004, the Mk5 improved on the Mk4 in every area; it looked better, handled better and the new 2ltr T-FSI lump sounded much nicer than the 1.8T. Although it weighed in at 1328kg it felt much more like a true GTI than the previous numb handling Mk3 and Mk4s.
Performance wise the Mk5 got 197bhp and 207 lb/ft torque, which was enough to hit 62mph in 7.2sec and go onto 145mph. It may have been beaten in a straight line by the more powerful Astra VXR and Focus ST, but the Golf was the better all rounder; able to potter about round town, but also put a big smile on your face on a twisty B-road.
The exterior is pretty well sorted with subtle, but sporty styling, while the inside is well laid out and nicely put together. Optional leather Recaros are well worth having, or you’ll either love or hate the cloth tartan trim!
The Mk5 Golf makes a great base for tuning and there’s plenty to choose from. If you’ve got the cash, two special editions – the GTI 30 launched in 2006, and the Pirelli, which came in 2008 both got an added 30bhp, plus extras, but you’ll pay a premium. 3-door cars look better in our opinion, while the DSG (semi auto) ’box offers very fast changes and will add a fair bit more to the price. But we’d stick to a manual as they’re more fun.
VW Mk5 Golf GTi stats (2004-2009)
Engine: 2ltr 4-cylinder turbo
Top speed: 145mph
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The Golf is very reliable as long as it’s serviced regularly. Check that the cambelt has been done on cars over 80k as this will set you back up to £400. Minor points to look out for include front door seals failing allowing water to get in, and if the ESP light stays on this may indicate the ABS control unit has failed which is an expensive job. Aside from this look out for the usual crash damage and if the car’s been tuned, make sure the work has been done by a reputable tuner.
TUNING A GOLF GTI
The 2ltr T-FSI is one of the most tuneable engines around. A simple remap can take power to around 240bhp, while an exhaust including downpipe, sports cat and uprated intercooler can unleash over 260bhp. An uprated turbo kit will see you to around 350bhp, which is enough to worry some serious performance cars. At this point it’s worth considering a diff to reign in torque steer and transfer the power to the road. Stock suspension is okay, but a decent coilover kit from the likes of KW Automotive or Bilstein, together with uprated anti-roll bars will transform the handling.
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