The Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk5 ownership experience and why I love it so much.
When the Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk5 first landed on Malaysian shores in 2005, it immediately became the IT car for petrolheads as well as petrolheads with a family. The reason why the vehicle attracted these type of buyers was because it was a European car that had the perfect balance of comfort, practicality and most importantly, performance. It was labelled as the car that brought back the groove to the Volkswagen GTI nameplate.
While it can serve as a daily driver completing typical tasks of a family person on weekdays, it could also be used as a fun car on the weekends to let the inner hooligan loose. This is essentially the great formula for a Volkswagen GTI and the Mk5 had plenty of it. From its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine with 197bhp and 280Nm of torque, the GTI Mk5 could get you from 0-100km/h in 6.8 seconds. It handled tightly and confidently around the corners too so it was the complete package all around.
While those figures seem mediocre now, it was impressive back in 2005. We didn't have the likes of the Mercedes A-class, Renault Megane or fast Fords in Malaysia then to give it a run for its money, not much competition here which is also one of the reasons why it became so popular.
But for me, the thing that really attracted me to the car in the first place was the famous (or infamous) DSG (Dual Clutch Gearbox). I remember seeing a Japanese review of the car where they compared two Mk5 Golf GTIs against each other. One had a manual gearbox whilst the other had the DSG. My views on manual gearboxes changed permanently then as no matter how hard those professional Japanese race car drivers tried; the manual Mk5 could never beat the lap time of the DSG equipped Mk5. It was a revelation as I always thought a manual car would be better around a track.
Some people are afraid to purchase an Mk5 because of the same thing that impressed me, but let me give you an honest review of my ownership history with the Mk5.
Trying to find an unmolested Mk5 in its original form did take some time because many previous Mk5 owners moded the car to kingdom come. Who could blame them really, as it is a car with a great platform that can easily be pushed to make more power - some have been pushed to make 360hp with stock engine internals.
I bought my lovely Red Golf GTI Mk5 two years ago and it had 97,000 kilometres on the clock. The bodywork and interior was slightly worn but immaculate from a used car point of view. Some say buying a high mileage car with high mileage DSG was a big risk, as the clutch in the DSG gearbox does tend to wear out as they are a wear and tear part.
Know what you are getting yourself into
Before purchasing it however, I had asked around how much the replacement clutch would be. It varied from RM2.5k to 3.5k with installation. With this knowledge, I proceeded to purchase the car bearing in mind that I would need to put that mentioned sum away for when the time came to replace the clutch. After changing the fluids and general vehicle maintenance like wipers and tyres, I pretty much had trouble-free motoring for six months, enjoying the lovely DSG gearbox with its quick and smooth shifts. The burping noises it makes between gearshifts were particularly addictive too, and I was a happy Mk5 owner.
While returning on a spirited drive one weekend, the car started free-revving and a spanner symbol came out on the screen of the meter cluster. I stopped by the roadside and called up my mechanic. He asked me to wait 10 mins and try to drive the car again. I started it, it worked like usual, and I got home.
The next day I took the Mk5 to my mechanic, and he told me that my mechatronics were causing the free-revs as it was not engaging the gears. The mechatronic is the brain of the DSG gearbox, and it is responsible for engaging and disengaging the clutch.
Thinking of the worst, I asked him which one of my kidneys I would need to sell to get it sorted. He said, "don't worry there are plenty of good as new refurbished mechatronic units available now in Malaysia and it would not cost as much as the DSG clutch pack".
I asked him to proceed with the installation of the refurbished unit and asked him if he could check out the condition of my clutch pack at the same time. He said there was no way he could check the health of the clutch without opening the main gearbox up as the mechatronic was only on the side and did not need him to open up of the gearbox. Having a little extra cash handy, I told him to replace the clutch set as well since he would be working around the area (saving labour cost in the process).
Surprisingly when he replaced the clutch, he said the old ones were actually not in too bad of shape, a testament to the durability of the clutch on the Mk5. Yes, it cost me about RM10,000 to get both these issues sorted, but I wanted to enjoy my Mk5 without any further worries and drive it fuss-free.
And yes, since then, I have had trouble-free motoring only replacing the timing belt recently not due to it malfunctioning, but as more of a necessity as suggested in the maintenance schedule.
I've had many old cars in my possession before, and every time I say this one is a keeper, there is always something that has bugged me about them - let it be the cost of the replacement parts or simply unreliability. This time, however, I'm pretty smitten with this car and I truly do believe it is a keeper.
Apart from that one time, it has been reliable, practical, and brings a smile on my face every time I press the go pedal. There is truly nothing I would change about the Mk5; it was built with the highest standard and really does have all the boxes ticked. In fact, apart from my 5th Gen Honda Prelude which I still miss today, this is the only car that I have owned that has been to the car doctor the least amount of times.
Get yourself a Volkswagen Golf GTi Mk5 and put a smile on your face!