What's it like to own the cheapest running MK5 Golf GTI on Earth

The fact that it can be almost perfect will boggle your mind...

5w ago

Unlike most readers on DriveTribe, and very controversially, I preferred the MK5 GTI with a DSG. This was something deeply rooted in my mind when I watched a drag race of the MK5s between a manual and a DSG when I was a kid. In the drag race, the DSG was very much quicker, thus I always preferred the two-pedal option.

However, having been a JDM thoroughbred my entire life, never had I thought of owning a GTI in my life. I know they are capable and all, but I've heard horror stories about them. Mostly about the turbocharged four and the DSG gearbox breaking down, racking up to extortionately high repair bills. I also thought that they prehaps lack the adjustability and the 'playability' of hot hatches of the same era, say the all-singing all-dancing, ever high-revving EP3 Civic Type R and the very orange and awesome Focus ST.

Therefore I was shocked to see this particular car for sale at such an irresistible price. It was listed for the equivalent of £1750, which is not unfair for a five door GTI in Hong Kong, but was unheard of in three-door guise. What’s more, the car only had two previous owners, has 83,000km genuine kilometers on the clock, and best of all, was supposedly “perfect”.

That got me hooked. So I decided to take a look, and I quickly realized the hidden problems. The right front was shunted, although the frame rails weren't damaged, the front bumper was sitting much prouder than the wheel arches; There were two warning lights on the dash: a bulb failure light and an amber assisted steering system failure light. The latter would undoubtedly scare most away. The car was also wearing 7-year-old Pirellis. Though I'm not at Silverstone, this would still make me shiver. The interior was also in a horrid shape, the faux leather on the door cards were falling off, the plastics were all sticky and the screen on the radio didn't actually show anything.

All these would scare your average Joes away. But to me these were symptoms of a car that had great potential of becoming a truly awesome car. These faults may seem horrifying, but I treat them just as bargaining tools as I knew how much it’d take to fix them up.

After some quick mental sums and further negotiations with the seller, we reached a happy equilibrium at £1300, which is undoubtedly the cheapest running MK5 Golf GTI.

What a car for that price. The steering, though lacks feel, was incredibly precise. The power was more than adequate at 200bhp. The torque curve was smooth from 1800rpm till the redline, therefore it just pulls and pulls through the rev range. The gearbox, though not as sharp as current iterarions of the DSG, was still way smarter than the automatic gearboxes of the era. Shifts were crisp, though gear choices were questionable at times in traffic.

The most magical thing, however, is the chassis and suspension. Even with questionably used rubber, it would just turn into the apex at whatever speeds you dare. Even if you've turned in too fast, the fronts would always fall into a gentle understeer, with the rears firmly gripping onto the tarmac even with aggressive throttle lift-offs mid-corner. It just gives you a very secure sensation.

The suspension is also a bit of a marvel. It was hard, but not too hard to shake your teeth off. It'd absorb the bumps but the rebound speed was so fast and it'll settle the car in no time, again, reassuring you that you're in a very secure car.

It just feels solid, especially for a car that costs a mere £1300.

Of course, I wouldn't leave the calamities unattended. The front bumper was sent off to be repaired, to find out that the clips in the right front fender was snapped right off, thus the bumper's right old state. The original radio was replaced with a second-hand Pioneer head-unit. The sticky plastics inside were dealt with using some cleansing wipes. The hanging faux leather on the door cards were all glued back together using contact adhesive spray. The blown rear brake light bulb was replaced, and the amber assisted steering light was cleared and fixed for good. No error codes were further found in the OBD2 so all is good.

This means, I now own a near enough perfect VW Golf GTI MK5 three-door. And I’ve decided to sell it. Consider me sacrilege but I’ve now found what I want for my daily driver. Something more invigorating, more alive and less Volkswagen-y, if you know what I mean, and certainly not this GTI. Alas, my pursuit for a better(worse) hot hatch continues.

Should you have any suggestions, do feel free to leave them in the comments.

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Comments (7)

  • Well bought!

      1 month ago
    • Thank you Matt! It sure was a rare find and an exceptional deal! Kinda miss it now I parted ways with it but good memories nonetheless!

        1 month ago
  • Nice write up mate! And also a VERY tidy acquisition for the price! You practically stole it 😅👌🏼 The fun factor (and capability) of the MK5 GTI is worth a gamble at £1300. Seems in this case, the gamble paid off. Noice! 🍻

      1 month ago
    • Thank you so much Stephen, and you are absolutely right, I stole it at that price haha. I am even more fortunate to have saved a car and made some profit out of my short ownership experience. Alas, I still have to find a new daily to excite my...

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        1 month ago
  • Nice find

      1 month ago
    • It certainly was, thanks for reading btw, really appreciate the comment as well :))

        1 month ago
  • Nice job keeping the fine driving Machine alive!

    I just gained mad respect for my Physician, saw him out at lunch his vehicle of choice not a 911 or an G-Wagon, but a GTI!

      1 month ago