Volkswagen Golf (2004 – 2008) Review

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

If you're looking for the newer version, you need our Volkswagen Golf review

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 

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

20–72 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

Should I buy a Mk5 Volkswagen Golf?

"I'm thinking of buying a Mk5 Volkswagen Golf (2004) 2.0 FSI GT with approx 120,000 miles on the clock, two previous owners and part SH. Does this sound like a reasonable buy? What things should I be wary of when looking at this car? I've seen on the various forums that the Mk5 has its share of problems, with some people recommending the Mk4 instead. Also, I understand that it has electric power steering which can be problematic and prohibitively expensive to fix. Any advice would be gratefully received."
We've had quite a few issues reported with the Mk5 Golf: That said, any car of this age could be problematic. Look for something that's clearly been well maintained (tidy bodywork, matching tyres and an extensive folder of receipts are all good signs). Don't concentrate too much on a particular model but a Ford Focus is plentiful on the used market and should be cheap to run.
Answered by Andrew Brady

A used car we just bought is faulty but the seller won't help. What do we do?

"My niece just bought a 2005 Volkswagen Golf for £1000. After a week, it needs a new camshaft and clutch plate. This is her first car so she can take her driving test, but the seller doesn’t want to know. What should we do?"
Assuming this was a private purchase, it'll have a lot to do with how the car was advertised and what your niece was told. Buying privately is one of the riskiest ways of buying a car because if something goes wrong with it, you don’t have as much legal protection as you would if you’d bought the car from a dealer. You also have to take into account the fact this car is now 16 years old, so it should've been thoroughly looked over before your niece bought it as it's bound to have a few issues, even just from wear and tear. When buying privately (from an individual rather than a business), buyers have fewer rights. In short, private car buyers only have rights if the car isn’t as it was described. The car should be true to the advert and what the seller told you. Your niece won’t be entitled to anything just because the car is faulty or because the seller failed to mention something in the advert. However, the seller must accurately describe the car, such as the number of previous owners. They must also not misrepresent it, for example not disclosing that it has been involved in an accident or providing a false service history. If the vehicle wasn't 'as described', the buyer can either ask for the difference in value between what they paid and what the car is really worth or ask for the cost of making changes to the car so it matches the description. Have a full read of what you need to know here: I would also advise speaking to Citizens Advice.
Answered by Georgia Petrie

Could you recommend a safe, reliable car for £2000?

"My son is starting his first job and needs something to use to commute 35 miles each way via the M25. His budget is £2000. I expect him to drive about 15k miles per year as we expect him to work from home part of the time. He needs something safe for motorway driving that'll be as reliable as possible for the price. What would you recommend? Thanks."
Try to find something made by Volkswagen Group (e.g. Volkswagen, Skoda, SEAT, Audi) with the reliable old 1.9 TDI engine. A Volkswagen Golf could be a good choice. Find a good one and it'll be cheap to run while it's big enough to feel safe and comfortable on the motorway. Alternatively, stick to petrol power and look for a Ford Fiesta or Focus. They're 10 a penny and cheap to run.
Answered by Andrew Brady

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
More Questions

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