Volkswagen Golf (2004 – 2008) Review

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Volkswagen Golf (2004 – 2008) At A Glance


+Decent handling and comfortable on the move, impressive TSI engines, massive improvement over the previous Golf, high-economy Bluemotion models, high quality feel of interior, five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

-Generally harder ride than a Focus. 1.9 TDI diesel is noisy but far more reliable than 2.0 TDI. Demoted from 4 stars to 3 stars for too many expensive problems.

On average it achieves 95% of the official MPG figure

No car is as important to any car maker as the new Golf is to Volkswagen. That famous David Bailey, Paula Hamilton commercial, “Few things in life are as reliable as a Volkswagen” was for a Mk II Golf. But the Mk III was a step back. And though the Mk IV was an improvement, it has hardly been the last word in reliability. VW had pushed living on past reputation as far as it could. The cars still carry status a Focus owner can only dream of, yet the public probably wouldn’t have forgiven another Golf that didn’t really live up to it. "

If you've never ever driven a Volkswagen Golf before and your perception is of a rock-solid piece of superb German engineering, then this Volkswagen Golf will live up to that perfectly. It looks good. It feels good. And it drives very well indeed.

From the first point of contact with the Volkswagen Golf it's hard not to be impressed by the German cars excellent build quality. The weighty doors close with a satisfying thud and all the controls work with real precision. The Golf's sophisticated image still sets the benchmark for desirability among hatchbacks and it's easy to see why it remains so popular.

True, the safe looks won't break any boundaries but the simple lines and detailing appeal directly to Volkswagen's core buyers. There's not much that catches the eye, aside from the circular design of the rear light clusters, but the unfussy approach is neat. Fortunately what the Golf lacks in visual impact it more than makes up for in quality.

The cabin, although quite sombre, uses top quality materials with a layout that is easy to get on with and a high-class construction. There's good storage too although standard equipment isn't as generous as many other hatches of this type. But there are some great engines available from economical (if somewhat noisy) TDI diesels to advanced turbocharged TSI petrols.

Sadly, the Mk V Golf has not always been the paragon of reliability that buyers perception expected it to be.

VW Golf Mk V 2004 Road Test 

Looking for a Volkswagen Golf (2004 - 2008)?
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Real MPG average for a Volkswagen Golf (2004 – 2008)


Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

22–72 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

Satisfaction Index

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Ask Honest John

I can't trickle charge my car. Can I piggy-back power from a fully charged, matching battery?
"I'm not always wanting to drive my 2003 Volkswagen Golf 30-odd miles once every two weeks during this time of year to keep my battery charged due to low usage. I have no electric available within my garage, which is 200 Metres from my flat. Am I able to piggy-back a fully charged, matching battery to my car battery via jump leads for, say, a month? Taking the battery off and charging at home means the ECU resets during the next drive (for 20 minutes) and is not advisable according to my local garage. To keep swapping batteries within a 2 minute period is achievable but a lot of bother. Thank you for your technical assistance on this subject."
I'm struggling to think of any trickle chargers that can use a 12v battery as a power supply but it is possible in theory. Another option might be to invest in a jump pack with a three-pin socket which you can charge and then use that to trickle charge the car. Alternatively, you could go for a solar-powered trickle charger - although these can be very hit and miss and you'll need to make sure your car gets enough light to give it a fighting chance of success.
Answered by Keith Moody
Does my Golf need a modification to its cambelt?
"My Mk5 Golf has had one cambelt replacement done at the main agent in 2011. I have now done over 100000 miles and have booked in at an independent garage specialising in Volkswagen for a cambelt and waterpump replacement. But they tell me that I will need to have an insert to allow the stud between the tensioner and the cylinder to be appropriately tightened as this modification was not made in 2011. They have not proceeded with the cambelt replacement as they say that a specialist will need to be booked to come in (at a cost of £129 plus VAT) to drill out the stud and put in the insert to ensure that the stud holds. I have contacted the agent but they say that they don't deal with many Mk 5s and do not seem to be aware of this modification (but are rather vague about it). I have also looked on the internet and see some mention of an insert of this type but nothing definitive. Please would you advise as to the need for this? If it is not needed, the price of cambelt and water pump at the main agent is cheaper than the independent garage with an insert."
Yes, it needs the insert. Don't be tempted to save money by skipping the work. Without it, the 2.0 timing belt tensioner stud can shear and cause catastrophic damage to the engine. A replacement tensioner stud has been included in official Volkswagen timing belt replacement kits since mid-2013.
Answered by Dan Powell
Where is water getting into my Golf?
"My 2007 Volkswagen Golf is letting water in somehow and my rear passenger seat and floor are wet . It is now going to the front of the passenger seat. Also my rear driving seat floor is also wet. I just dont know where the water is coming from. Any ideas? "
It might be coming in via the pollen filter because the bulkhead vent well drains are blocked. Or the waterproof membrane between the door structure and the door trim of one or more of the doors may have become cracked and perforated.
Answered by Honest John
Could you suggest a low tech, low maintenance classic?
"With all the publicity about over complex, money pit, unfit for purpose cars - what do you recommend as a low tech alternative? I realise regulations don't permit this for a modern car, but what about something from the recent past which may be a potential classic or classic that would be worth keeping for many years. I want something cheap and easy to maintain, preferably without a rust problem. I saw a 1997 Jeep Wrangler with 30,000 miles on Auto Trader and it got me thinking. My current car is a relatively low tech 2005 Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI, which has suffered two turbo, DMF and throttle body failures as you predicted. My annual mileage is 6000 - 10,000, on mixed roads."
If you want simple, easy to maintain, something you can spanner yourself and with good parts supply - you'll probably be looking at a British car from the 1960s. You don't mention how many people you need it for, but if it's high-days and holidays then an MGB or a Triumph Spitfire is a good starter classic. If you need a family vehicle, look at something like a Ford Anglia 105E. These would definitely be in the 6000 miles a year bracket. Of course, you won't get the mod cons you require, or the performance, and rust comes as standard. If you want something more modern, then you'll have more choice and the ability to cover more miles - but with ECUs and all manner of clever things fitted, you're unlikely to be able to keep it going on your driveway if you're new to fettling. These cars also come with intermittent electrical faults as standard which, believe me, you can spend a lot of time and money chasing. Even 'simple' cars from the 1980s can give you a headache. For example, their fuel injection systems can be difficult to fix when they go wrong. Something vaguely 'agricultural' (in the nicest possible way) would be a good bet, something like a Land Rover Defender or Discovery. These have great parts support and fantastic clubs but also - like any ageing vehicle - have build quality and reliability issues that you'll need to overcome.
Answered by Keith Moody

What does a Volkswagen Golf (2004 – 2008) cost?

Buy new from £19,555 (list price from £23,355)
Contract hire from £177.04 per month