Used cars: how to buy a second-hand VW Golf GTi Mk5 (2004-2009)

Published: 20 March 2012

After kickstarting the hot-hatch thing 36 years ago, VW spent much of the ’90s and early ’00s doing its best to squander its headstart, turning out the lacklustre Mk3 and Mk4 Golf GTIs, which traded on a name instead of serving up genuine GTI thrills. But the Mk5 marked a return to form, the tartan-checked seat trim echoing the early cars’ upholstery, and giving a nod and a wink to those in the know that the good times were back. And they were: the Mk5 was as easy to live with as you’d expect of a VW, but the sweet chassis, well-judged steering and perky 2.0-litre turbo made it a hoot to drive too.

The Mk5 also marked the world’s first taste of a dual-clutch transmission. Us? We’d stick with a fairly basic spec – cloth trim, manual gearbox – and enjoy one of the best hot hatches ever.

VW didn’t mess with the recipe too much for 2009’s Mk6 GTI, which means the Mk5s that you can now snap up for under £6k are pretty similar to a £25k Mk6.

Buying and running a Golf GTi

We spoke to specialists Jabbasport and VAGtech. Here’s what to look out for:

• The DSG dual-clutch gearbox is generally trouble-free, but the Mechatronic ECU that controls it can fail – a clear tell-tale is lurching when you pull away, where it should be super-smooth. The manual gearbox is bombproof.
• Owners were offered the option of setting their Golf GTI up for long-life servicing (the car tells you when it needs a service), or time-and-distance servicing (set to 10,000-mile or annual intervals). It’s possible to switch the schedule at any point to suit your needs.
• The high-pressure fuel pump is driven off a camshaft, and the follower is prone to early wear, especially on cars with long-life servicing. If it fails, it can cause serious and expensive top-end damage. Jabbasport recommends taking a look at the condition of the follower on any car with 40-60,000 miles, and usually changes them every 20k as a precaution. It’s worthwhile, and costs only £28.
• The GTI uses a direct-injection engine, so instead of fuel passing over the valves, it goes straight into the cylinder. This can lead to the back of the valves getting coked up, stopping the valve from sealing properly, which, in turn, can promote high oil consumption. However, one litre every 1000 miles is perfectly normal, according to VW.
• The turbocharger’s dump-valve diaphragm can split, meaning you won’t feel the turbocharged kick at 2000rpm, performance building more lethargically instead. Jabbasport usually fits a replacement from the Audi S3, which uses a plastic piston rather than the Golf GTI’s rubber diaphragm
• The Golf GTI is, of course, front-wheel drive, but it can wear the inside of its rear tyres, to the point where the outside edge has plenty of tread, but the inside is down to the canvas. This can be due to the rear shock absorbers becoming weak – if so, you’ll hear a droning noise, rather like a worn wheel bearing.
• The PVC engine breather one-way valve can split. The symptoms are a poor idle, and the sound of leaking air when you turn off the engine.


   The knowledge




PRODUCED: 2004-2009
ENGINE: 1984cc 16v four-cylinder turbo, 197bhp @ 5100rpm, 207lb ft @ 1800rpm
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
SUSPENSION: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
WEIGHT: 1328kg
LENGTH/WIDTH/HEIGHT: 4204/2010/1485mm


1 25-year-old, three points, car parked on street, five years’ no-claims’ discount. £636, £200 excess, fully comp
2 35-year-old, three points, car parked on drive, full no-claims’ discount. £407, with £250 excess, fully comp
3 45-year-old, clean licence, car garaged, full no-claims’. £371, £200 excess, fully comp




Golf GTi 2005, three door, six-speed manual, 120,000 miles with full service history, last serviced at 117,329 miles, black heated leather Recaros, 18in alloys, heated mirrors, rain-sensitive wipers, six months’ warranty, trade. £4990
Golf GTi 2004, five door, six-speed manual, 80,500 miles, two owners, electric heated mirrors, cruise control, heated leather seats, six months’ MoT, trade. £5995
Golf GTi 2005, three door, six-speed manual, heated leather seats, full service history, 59,000 miles, private. £6995

Click here to find VW Golf GTi’s for sale



Headlight: £188
Exhaust backbox: £378
Shock absorber (front): £67

Thanks to: Jabbasport, 01733 211779 | VAGtech, 01908 410424

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By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator