Volkswagen Golf Mk5 (Typ 1K) review, problems, specs

Volkswagen introduced the fifth-generation Golf in 2003 for the European market, while the US clientele received the hatchback in 2006, when it also revived the Rabbit moniker. It came with a wide range of improvements over the VW Golf Mk 4 and retained its status as the king of small family hatchbacks thanks to its driving credentials and overall quality and practicality.

Pros & Cons
Strong Points


Strong Points
  • practical
  • pleasant to drive
  • potent engines
  • comfortable
  • high-quality build

Recommended Versions
Strong Points


Weak Points
  • more expensive than its counterparts
  • loud diesels

Stay Away From
  • as a rule, avoid 4Motion versions
  • entry-level 1.4-liter version
Strong Points


Known Problems & Recalls
  • timing belts are known to have failed on some 1.4- and 1.6-liter petrol versions
  • some models displayed issues with the steering rack
  • pay attention to the front suspension system and be on the lookout for clunks and squeaks, as well as unusual vibrations
Car Details

This is Volkswagen we’re talking about here, which means there are plenty of engines to choose from. The petrol department is home to 1.4-liter mill good for 75 HP and a 1.6-liter FSI unit. A 1.4-liter TSI engine was added to the range in 2006 and was offered in two power outputs: 140 and 170 HP. VW’s game is higher in the diesel range, where the Germans offer three diesel engines with excellent credentials: 2.0 SDI, followed by the good-at-everything 1.9 TDI (105, 115 HP) and 2.0 TDI (140, 170 HP) mills. Then there’s the Bluemotion variant, which uses an upgraded version of the 1.9-liter diesel engine and promises better fuel consumption without altering performance and response.


The Golf Mk 5 offers comfortable and predictable handling, just as most clients expect from the car, although its rivals from Ford and Honda put the emphasis on a more engaging driving style. However, the suspension setup is the best compromise between a soft ride, which does a good job in absorbing shocks, and a steady, controlled stance in corners. There’s a small amount of feedback making its way through the steering, but drivers will benefit from a precise manual transmission for fast and accurate gear shifts.


Euro NCAP tested the Golf 5 and awarded it five stars, making it the first Golf to earn a top safety rating after going through the standard crash tests. Such a result was attained thanks to VW’s decision to fit the Golf Mk 5 with standard twin front airbags, passenger and driver side airbags as well as head airbags and anti-whiplash protection plus three-point seatbelts up front and at the back.


Inside the Golf 5, you’ll find plenty of room for four average-sized adults and you can easily accommodate three children on the back seat. There’s plenty of head, leg, shoulder and hip room no matter where you choose to sit in the VW Golf Mk 5. Speaking of which, don’t worry about the firmness of the seats, as your back will be properly supported during extended trips, while noise will stay out of the cabin. There’s really nothing to say against the fifth-generation Golf, as the car easily dominates its rivals in this department. The dashboard is neatly arranged and retains the logical setup displayed by the VW Golf Mk 4.


Apart from some squeaking plastics inside the cabin, the Golf 5 shows impeccable build quality, which means it will hold its value over time. However, do watch out for scratches and dents on the body exterior, especially on high-mileage vehicles.


Boot space is rated at 275 liters, which is not so great, but it will fulfill your needs as long as you don’t overreact with luggage and shopping bags. Inside the cabin, VW fitted the Golf 5 with cupholders, deep door pockets and other cubby holes, plus a generous storage compartment below the center console.


The sat-nav system is rather simple and only comes on high-spec models. Otherwise, all you get is a CD player, but top-of-the-range trims levels add a multifunction computer, climate control and iPod connectors.


With the addition of the Bluemotion variant, the Golf 5 improved an already good reputation regarding fuel consumption. Expect the lowest values to be offered by the 1.4-liter petrol mill and the three diesels. For example, the 1.9-liter TDI plant returns 53.3 mpg, while its slightly bigger peer offers 47.9 mpg on an average. The fuel-saving Bluemotion derivative ups the ante with 62.8 mpg. Keep in mind diesel options are more expensive, so if you’re looking to buy a petrol-powered Golf 5, remember this: the 1.4-liter mill returns 38.7 mpg while the more potent 1.6-liter FSI unit is good for 40.4 mpg. Also, the petrols are cheaper to run in the long run.


Plenty of standard gizmos for the VW Golf 5: ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, ESP and a lot of airbags for the driver and passenger, along with ISOFIX seats and remote central locking with front electric windows. The goodies are in the higher trim levels, namely xenon lights, climate control, leather-upholstered seats, rain sensors, cruise control and alloy rims.


Since the Golf 5 retains its value due to the high quality build, finding a bargain is rather difficult. Diesel versions are the most expensive but at the same time very frugal, although if you’re operating on a tight budget, a petrol-powered Golf 5 is equally good at saving fuel as it is at delivering decent levels of performance and comfort. Word of advice: avoid the 1.4-liter mill and go for the 1.6-liter unit as an alternative.

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