Volkswagen Golf Hatchback 1997 - 2004

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback 1997 - 2004

Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016


  • A reliable and safe car that provides plenty of comfort
  • Built using high-quality materials
  • Comes with a wide range of excellent engines


  • Handling isn’t as good as some rivals
  • Limited space for rear passengers


The Volkswagen Golf is one of the UK’s best selling cars of all time and the mk4 generation of was no exception. As with the previous generation the Golf was offered both as a hatchback and estate model. The build quality and interiors are excellent, putting even some of the more expensive cars to shame. Whilst the handling may not be as ground-breaking as previous generations, it is still very good. As with all Golfs, there is a wide range of engines to choose from allowing you to find an engine that specifically suits your needs.

Exterior and Interior

Both models maintain the characteristic Volkswagen Golf looks whilst the interiors are finished to a very high standard which is even better than some more expensive cars. The interior feels airy, but the three-door hatchback is limited in rear space. All models have limited legroom for back seat passengers. The seats are all comfortable and supportive, though, making long journeys bearable as long as you don’t have long legs. The boot space in both models is good. Everything feels very solid to the touch and the dashboard is well laid-out with all the controls being easy to use. There is a variety of trim levels to choose from but we’d go for the SE as it comes with more equipment and there were plenty of optional extras on it.

Performance and Economy

All engines offer excellent performance and power. The entry-level 1.4-litre engine is good for driving around town whilst the 1.6-litre should be fine for the majority of people as it adds a little more power making it enjoyable to drive on the motorway, too. The 1.8-litre units are all impressive, making the 2.0-litre option pretty much unnecessary as they are all quicker, more powerful and more economical than the bigger engine. The V6 engines are the real sporty powerplants with the 2.8-litre version going from 0-60mph in just 6.9 seconds, unfortunately, the fuel efficiency does drop down to 25mpg. The 3.2-litre model is even faster, reaching 60mph in 6.4 seconds and has an economy of 24mpg. The diesel engines offer good economy, performance and are the better engines to go for. This is especially true for the estate version because the diesel engines have higher torque levels. The base 90bhp unit is the slowest and isn’t the most economical either so is best avoided. The 110bhp diesel is better, but it’s really the top three engines that prove to be more popular. The 115bhp engine reaches 60mph in 10 seconds and achieves a respectable 53mpg, which is only just behind the smaller 110bhp engine. It’s the 130bhp and 150bhp units that offer the best dynamic characteristics - the smaller unit reaching 60mph in 9.3 seconds whilst the 150bhp engine doing it a second quicker - in 8.3 seconds. They both have the same fuel efficiency of 52-58mpg. Insurance costs vary greatly depending on the engine size, starting with group 4 for the smaller engines working its way up to group 17 for the 3.2-litre V6.

Like to Drive

This generation of Volkswagen Golf may have lost some of the edge its predecessors had over its rivals, but handling is still very good. Steering feels accurate and well-weighted, transmitting plenty of feel back to the driver. Golfs have always been popular for people that really like to drive their cars and this generation is no different. The car corners well, although there is some roll in the corners if taken at speed. The suspension provides a supple road manner soaking up bumps and potholes with ease. All in all, it feels like a very safe and fun car to drive, feeling just as at home on motorways as it does in town.

Faults and Repairs

There have quite a few problems with this generation of the Volkswagen Golf. Overall, there have been nine recalls over its lifetime, so make sure you research these and make sure that all the necessary work has been carried out. Other areas to look at are the suspension (rear bushes wear quickly and are expensive to replace), axles and the electrics as there were some glitches with the central locking and electric windows. The 130bhp and 150bhp diesel engines have been known to fail with the Turbo’s breaking, the duel mass fly wheel wearing quickly. When it comes to servicing, the Golf will work out as being more expensive than most of its rivals, however, it is a lot more reliable so you should be able to save money on repairs.