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Reader test: VW Golf 5 GTI

2009-09-28 13:23

Michael Brandon

Beads of sweat pour down my face.

My hands tremble and my heart beats heavily in my chest.

The VW sales staff look on. “No worries Boet, you got this,” one helpfully offers. Tentatively, I drop my foot onto the "go" pedal and the engine growls appreciatively. Instantly a wide grin crosses my face and we roll out the showroom and start the first of many kilometres to date. The beast is mine.

On checking pictures and reviews of the Golf GTI 6, I realised that given the weak attempt to facelift the 5, VW had given owners of the Golf 5 GTI every reason to smile. They poured so much attention to detail and so much production effort into the car (build quality is superb and the attention to the detail defies belief) that the 5 cost them an arm and a leg to produce.

By hacking a few cool bits off (no launch control on the 6, for example, and trim levels severely scaled down) and making the car a bit smaller (and R3 000 cheaper) they plan to recoup some of those losses. 

Take my word for it, I got my 2008 GTI 5 for R220k with 30k on the clock and every extra available – sun roof, leather with aluminium trim, metallic paint, DSG, ABS, iPod connectivity, xenon lights, 18-inch rims, multi-function steering, the works – for R130k less than a watered-down GTI 6. They even left the distinctive Germanic cross rim design unchanged for the 6!

Faster than necessary

The 2.0 FSI turbo mill delivers 145 kW and enables to car to go way faster than I will ever want to drive. Top speed is somewhere in the region of 230 km/h. The DSG box is lighting quick, offering gut wrenching, tyre smoking pull offs, especially in sport mode where the ABS has a critical role to play in keeping the car straight, yet with surprisingly little torque steer, it must be said.

The car comes standard with flappy paddle gear selectors, touchshift, normal and sport modes - effectively four ways to drive the car.

Fuel economy has also surprised on the upside with 7.8 l/100 km on the mixed cycle achieved so far. Driving in Sport mode does impact this figure notably with the fuel gauge dropping faster than house values if you choose to go this route regularly.

The overall package, for the price, represents the deal of the decade if ever there was one. Some 7 000 km later, the Falcon, as I have christened her, has delivered 100% reliability and pure enjoyment. It holds to the road like glue, especially through tight corners with the blood-curdling roar of the motor turning heads at every opportunity.

Damn I love my car. I look for any reason to drive her, even if for just a few kilometres on the bread-and-milk run – just to hear that baby howl at the moon with me hanging on for dear life at the wheel.


If you can get a late model, low km Golf 5, go get one; there is just nothing else that comes close. This is what real performance driving is meant to be about, no doubt about it.

A note on service, as well. Despite reports of VW dealers not exactly meeting expectations, the dealer I deal with has been nothing short of excellent. The car comes with a service plan to 60 000 km and balance of the manufacturer’s warranty.

A stray object on the freeway embedded itself in one of the fog lamps, fixed at the dealer with a minimum of expense and fuss within an hour. Parts availability, given that some 42% of the Golf 5 generation sold in SA were GTIs, is excellent.

Be warned, if you cross to a performance car like this after years of mundane driving in ordinary sensible executive sedans and/ or people carriers like I have, it takes getting used to. Handle with care.

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