I purchased the GTI new in July 2008. My previous car was a 1.3L Honda Jazz, so this was a big change in type of car.
I purchased the car after reading a lot of car reviews. I think the main reason I bought the GTI was because I was drawn to the DSG gearbox, having previously had a CVT gearbox in the Jazz. So I guess I was influenced a bit by the engineering of the car.
I also found that most reviews of the car I read were positive.
I have now had the car about 3.5 years. I would have to say I have had no real problems with it.
In general, I would say it is a very good car. However, I have not driven in a lot of other cars, so it hard to make comparisons, but I would have to say it is a bit rough around the edges.
The ride is very hard, and it is noisy with road intrusion on our Queensland bitumen roads. But I understand that firm suspension and noise are a common feature of sports type vehicles, where they are reducing weight by not having sound insulation etc.
The car has good power, and can really move along. It tends to want to shift down to a lower gear very quickly, which I find isn't ideal, but I think this assists with improving fuel economy. It is fairly quick off from the lights, so I find this a fun part of driving this type of vehicle.
The car has enough room, but as a small car is generally fairly compact. The hatchback has room to store things, and has hooks for shopping bags which is handy.
The interior is pretty basic, but the quality is very good, and it looks okay, not real modern like some of the new cars, but it is well laid out, and easy to use. I like the bucket cloth tartan type seats, they make it look a bit different. The interior also has some metal trims around the dash and gearbox, which also add to the quality of the interior.
I find the stereo is okay, but the bass tends to not be as good as I would like, but I don't listen to the radio a lot, so this does not matter so much.
Visibility is okay, but I sometimes find with reversing, I like to be a bit careful, as visibility is not so good with the pillars of the vehicle etc. I have seen some people reverse out of car parks very quickly, and I don't feel this is very safe.
The fuel economy seems fairly reasonable. I believe I would have averaged about 8L per 100km since owning it, which matches the manufacturer's figures. I find that when you roll down a hill, the gearbox seems to go into neutral, and the fuel consumption figures on the trip computer will show that it is running at 0L per 100km. I find that when you drive around the city, you will use more fuel on take off and stopping and starting at traffic lights, but when you coast down hills, it means the average fuel consumption averages out. I find around town I average around 9L per 100km. I would also say that this result is not from driving in a fuel efficient manner either. So I believe that the car has good fuel economy combined with power.
The GTI may not have the additional power that a 6-cylinder Commodore has, but I believe it has similar power, and better fuel economy, and I believe the VW is way ahead with their engineering to offer good fuel economy and performance from smaller engines.
I have had a couple of issues with the DSG. It requires an oil pit stop top up every 6 months or so. I think the DSG uses a lot of oil. This is only a minor inconvenience, and the VW dealership always tops it up straight away and for no additional cost.
Car services are fairly expensive, the 60,000km service was quite dear, so if you are looking for cheap servicing, it probably would not be a good idea buying this brand. There are also not a lot of VW dealerships around, so I have to drive a fair way to get to the dealership, although they are building a couple of new VW dealerships at the moment.
Some of the features of the car are good. It has automatic night lights which are really good. When you park somewhere, the lights stay on for a while, and I have often had people sing out to me and warn me that I have left my lights on, but they turn off automatically after a short time, they are follow me home lights. There are also automatic windscreen wipers, but I sometimes think they don't work as well as they should. I drove a courtesy VW golf during a car service, and I thought there automatic wipers came on a lot quicker. I have mentioned this to the service people, but they deny there is anything wrong.
I sometimes the styling of the car is a bit fancy, and you feel a bit special when you drive around. The big alloy mags, and the styling of the car make it a bit different, not looking basic like most cars do these days.
Personally, if the ride was not so firm, and there was no road noise intrusion, I reckon this car would be nearly perfect. Whilst these things are a bit disappointing, I have grown to enjoy the car, the power, and the DSG engineering, and think it would be a good car for anyone to own. It also has 5 doors, and a hatch back, and can be used as a family every day car as well.
I plan to hold on to the car at least 12 months to 3 years. But I got flooded and have had a fair bit of expense, so may not be able to get another car for a while yet. If I did buy another car, I would strongly believe I would get another VW Golf, as I think they are a good car. I also don't have any family, so don't require anything bigger. I also think that VW is way ahead of other car makers in their engineering.