This is what it would look like if it were owned by someone who knew how car washes and headlight cleaning worked.

Well, I've been wanting to do one of these for a while now, and I've finally decided to go ahead and do it. Plus, I believe this will be the first Jalopreview with Kinja. I've had this car for nearly 10 months now, so I've gotten to know it pretty damn well.

I'd like to mention that this car is slightly modified. I bought it through a dealership so I don't know the full extent of the modification, but I know there's at least a Neuspeed P Flo short-ram intake and a Magnaflow muffler. The ECU may be modded as well, but I haven't been able to confirm or deny that yet.

(Full Disclosure: Volkswagen wanted me to drive this car so badly they sold it to a man in Indiana who then gave it two his son who tracked the car for a while, then sold it to an odd sketchy dealership with apparent financial issues, who advertised it on some B-list car website that I'd never heard of who took a week to answer our call and then told us that if we payed with a check they would hold the title until it cleared, then mail it to us. My dad and I then had to drive all the way down there from Grand Rapids, MI where we payed in cash since we didn't want a sketchy dealership 3 hours away with apparent impending bankruptcy in charge of the title to my vehicle.

Volkswagen didn't really give a shit if I drove it or not.)

Exterior (7/10)

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And this is what mine looks like.

I actually really like the styling of the MkIV GTI. It's not particularly pretty or eye catching, but is that such a bad thing? It's not at all an ugly thing (although mine is slightly worn. See: headlights), and it makes no promises in terms of speed. Aside from the badging, there's really nothing to differentiate it from any other MkIV Golf. It has nothing to prove. The tinted windows and 17" wheels add a dash of style without compromising the subtelty and that antenna kinda makes it look like a mouse, which is non-threatening and fun unless you're a 1950's housewife.

Interior (5/10)

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This is not my interior. This is a stock photo of a Jetta's interior. My interior has leather seats and an aluminum radio surround. My interior is also slightly yellowed in places because the previous owner was a heavy smoker (I did get the smell out, though), and several bits are kinda worn. I docked a point for that. Stock, it's a 6/10. Everything feels nice, is generally well placed, and is of pretty decent quality. Nothing to write home about, but it's a nice place to be.

I will say, however, that the seats are quite nice, and do a good job of holding even my wide ass in place through the bends. There's also a lot of headroom (and I mean a LOT of headroom). I'm 6'5", and I have room to spare. The tinted windows do a good job of separating you both from the sun and from the prying eyes of other motorists.

Acceleration (8/10)

Based on pure numbers, this car is probably actually a 6 in acceleration. 0-60 with a manual transmission takes about 6.4 seconds (It's about a second slower with the automatic). However, the way this thing accelerates is absolutely excellent. With a gentle start, the car dawdles through low revs, working its 1.8 liter ass off to get the car moving, then just shy of 3k RPM, the turbo begins to spool and you slingshot forward with your ass quite firmly pinned to the seat. It may not be the fastest way to get to 60, but it's one of the most amusing.

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Also, overtaking in this thing is absolutely excellent. Drop down to 2nd gear at 45mph, put your foot to the floor, and suddenly you're doing nearly 70mph. No lag, no fuss, it just kicks you in the ass and you're gone.

Braking (6/10)

The brakes have good feel, nice progression. You push on them, you slow down. You slam them, you slow down very rapidly. They can be a bit dramatic in hard stopping, but they don't feel dangerous or wayward. They're brakes, they work, not much more to be said on the subject.

Ride(7/10)

Despite having "GT" in the name, this is not what you would call a "comfortable" car. On the highway, it's just fine, but once you get it on some normal roads you'll find that it's pretty stiff, and the suspension isn't particularly forgiving. It softens the blows enough to not be uncomfortable, but generally it's pretty unsophisticated. And yet, I really quite like it. It doesn't hurt or offend, it just skips atop the bumps happily, gleefully telling you about all the bumps and imperfections. It's like a kid in a science museum, telling you every last inane fact they find. Yes it's a bit much, but it's so joyful that you just have to like it.

  • Engine: 1.8-liter turbocharged I4
  • Power: 180hp (215hp with a chip. My butt dyno isn't very good)/ 173lb-ft (245 chipped)
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual
  • 0-60 Time: 6.4 seconds 
  • Top Speed: 138 MPH
  • Drivetrain: Front-Wheel Drive
  • Curb Weight: 2808 lbs
  • Seating: 5
  • MPG: City 21 Highway 28 Combined 24

 

Handling (7/10)

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Not me. Just wanted to break up the wall of text with some pretty pictures.

It's nimble, it feels lighter than it is, and it has plenty of grip. On ramps are a joy, since miles of grip mean you fall out of the seat before you fall off the road. Everything is nice and responsive, and it's generally quite predictable. The aforementioned stiff suspension really gives the GTI a lot of gokart-like qualities, but it also has the forgiveness and predictability of a well-sorted road car. It's just damn fun to drive.

The steering is quite nice, since it has enough weight and connection to tell you everything you need to know, but it also manages to filter out unwanted noise and remain light enough for easy day-to-day driving. I only wish it were a slightly quicker rack, so I could get a bit more agressive tossing the car into slower, tighter corners.

Gearbox (6/10)

Nothing particularly special here. Well-chosen ratios mean you can always be in boost when you want it, or out out of boost when you just want to pootle around saving gas. Throws are a bit long, but not terrible, and it can be slightly clunky from time to time, but it's generally pretty well sorted and I have no real complaints.

Audio (7/10)

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Photo is of a 20th Anniversary edition GTI. Same stereo & trim as my car, but I don't have the labeling/numbers along the top and my shif knob isn't as silly.

The optional Monsoon stereo is quite nice, but again, nothing special. It plays cassette tapes and CDs, gets loud enough for a bit of fun, and generally has pretty good balance.

The exhaust, however, is a different story. The Magnaflow dual-tip straight through muffler doesn't do a particularly good job of actually muffling anything and drones quite a bit, especially on the highway. And yet, I love it. It makes a delicious burble at idle, and does make a half-assed attempt at muffling itself when out of boost. However, when you bury it, you get a warning whistle right before the turbo spools, which is then promptly drowned out by the roar of the exhaust. It's a nice, deep, full-bodied sound, like a lion playing bass. No filtering, no buzzing, just unadulterated roaring engine. It's intoxicating.

Toys (6/10)

It has windows that go up and down when you push a switch. The seats have levers that let you move them back and forth and up and down. It has a fully-featured (for the time) stereo. It has manual (but quite good) AC & heater. It has a rear windshield wiper. The only real "luxuries" are the excellent leather heated seats. Everything you need, a little bit of what you want, and nothing else. It's refreshing, but sometimes I find myself wishing I had automatic climate control (which wasn't an option) and the fancy trip computer that can calculate your MPG and stuff (which was an option, just not selected on my car).

Value (8/10)

I got this car as a grad present from my parents, so really it's a 10/10 for me. We picked it up for about $5k with 130k miles on it, which is quite cheap. It's a solid car, hasn't really broken down, and generally treats me right. It's quite practical, lots of space in the back, and it's also incredibly fun to drive.

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It loses out a bit on gas mileage, since I've never actually gotten the 21/28 mpg it says on the sticker, getting closer to 13/21 (based off of VERY rough, half-assed calculations. No trip computer, remember), although I've got only myself to blame for that. Also, it takes 91 octane, but the stations around here only sell 89 and 93, so I've got to get the expensive stuff, which is a bit hard on the wallet.

FINAL SCORE: (67/100)

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Obviously not mine. What are you, daft?

It's a good car, and a strong jack of all trades. It's not perfect, but it does almost everything I love the hell out of it. It's a very honest car, and it has a good personality. In the end, isn't that what really matters?