UK Car Road Test

Volkswagen Golf GT TDi 130 2004

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Cost New 16055    Residual @ 3 years 50%
Produced from  May 1 2001 to Feb 1 2004

 

Here we are with pretty much the last rendition of the last model Golf.  Gone are the pin sharp lines, lightweight compact size as it's evolved slowly over the years into this really rather bland nondescript Eurobox. The update is coming but will it push the VW back to the top of  the desirable pile or will it live in the shadow of the Ford Focus and other like-minded, sharp-looking, mid-range hatchbacks?

At least the old model went out with a bang and this one is a pretty big banger with 130bhp of diesel grunt to shove it along, not quite the barnstorming 150bhp model but still, at 130, enough to claim the badge of a GT.

It may not be loaded with modern sharp looks any more as this model approaches its middle to old age but in the glittering silver suit it looks pretty flash, even if it's a shiny shell suit deflecting attention from  it Grecian 2000-filled locks. With all of VW's attention to detail, it hides its age of design quite well and with the smart alloys and tricky headlamp clusters, is fairly attractive even if well past its sell by date in design terms.  

Inside it's pretty much the standard VW fare of mildly highlighted gloom. Personally I dislike jazzy interiors so the slightly dull, dark interior is fine by me. Either way, it is neatly executed and smoothly, solidly and precisely fitted. Other than the firm, sporty seats and the nice chunky wheel, there is little to get excited about but there is (as usual) little to complain about. If I must complain, it would be regarding the small and fiddly size of a few switches but, as always, they work flawlessly. 

The GT moniker is probably the most tenuous thing on this car. The "classic"  GTi owners club will probably go hairless at the thought of this car possibly one day applying for membership of their little club. Somewhere along the line, the sharp, little, light and lithe Golf GTi became this huge heffer with a truck motor hanging out of the front. How times have changed!

 

Along with it expanding girth came extra weight,  much of it down to the equipment which now finds its way into the car. You were lucky in VWs of old if you got much more than a speedo and a cig lighter as standard but today's buyers are unwilling to accept such low spec in return for promises of solid engineering and longevity. Hence the Golf finds itself as well specified as any modern car needs to be. Whether it's quite as well stocked as its 16,000 price tag suggests is debatable, though there are no glaring and obvious omissions and if it's not fitted you probably really don't need it.

Usual daft alien cup thingies

Open this arm rest and there are more.

extra shield to block out the middle bit of sun

Classic GTi

It certainly never feels lacking for anything as you drive along and, with the aircon on, it's as pleasant a place to sit and admire a traffic jam as any other car.

Comfort Features
Adjustable Steering Column
Adjustable Steering Column
Cloth Trim
Cloth Trim
Cup holders
Cup holders
Front Door Bins
Front Door Bins
Head Rests (front & rear)
Head Rests (front & rear)
Height Adjustable Drivers Seat
Height Adjustable Drivers Seat
Height Adjustable Seat Belts
Height Adjustable Seat Belts
Pollen Filter
Pollen Filter
Remote Petrol Cap Release
Remote Petrol Cap Release
Split rear seats
Split rear seats
Sports Front Seats
Sports Front Seats
Time Clock
Time Clock
General Features
12 V Accessory Power Point
12 V Accessory Power Point
Colour Coded Bumpers
Colour Coded Bumpers
Colour Coded Mirrors
Colour Coded Mirrors
Digital Odometer
Digital Odometer
Exterior Side Mouldings
Exterior Side Mouldings
Heated Rear Window
Heated Rear Window
Rear Wash Wipe
Rear Wash Wipe
Tinted Windows
Tinted Windows
Luxury Features
Air Conditioning
Air Conditioning
Cigarette Lighter
Cigarette Lighter
Electric Mirrors
Electric Mirrors
Electric Windows front
Electric Windows front
Heated Mirrors
Heated Mirrors
Radio Cassette
Radio Cassette
Trip Counter
Trip Counter

 

 

Service Interval Insurance Group Safety Rating Smog Rating
10000 10 Band (A)
Engine BHP CC Fuel Inj.
Turbo Diesel 4 Cylinder 16 Valve 130 1896 No
Cyl Camshafts Valves/cyl Compressor
4 Double 4 Turbo Charger
Top Speed 0 to 60 BHP per Tonne
127mph 9.6seconds 104
MPG@Urban MPG@Cruise MPG@Speed Fuel Type
39.8mpg 62.8mpg 52.3mpg Diesel
Kerb Weight Tow Weight Length Width Height
1270kg 1200kg 414cm 172cm 144cm
Boot Seats/up Boot Seats/Down Seats
331 Litres 1183 Litres 5

Not long ago I expressed concern about an A4 with the same engine as this and remarked that I thought it needed a six speed box. The Golf has one and it does help spread the ratios and make the most of that (in reality) short rev range.

It still needs more throttle than you would expect of a diesel to get it moving but once moving and coaxed along by sensible use of the box, it storms about at a fair old lick. Top gear is still very long so it does not have much pull below 40 or 50mph but then that's the other side of  a 62.8mpg cruising economy. There are small (400cc) motorbikes that cannot match the economy of this five seater car and that is impressive, given its sub 10 second sprint to 60 and a top speed close to 130mph.

The gearbox has that solid, rubbery weighty feel of most VW boxes with a firm centering over 3rd and 4th gear. It's not the quickest, smoothest shift in the world but the gears engage with a real positive doubtless feel and, in league with the steaming  torque of the motor, give a positively gleeful response to each hard, fast change. 

Note the badging -  we have had  TDiTDi  and now TDI . I've not seen a 150bhp version yet but perhaps that's got a  TDI badge.

Mated to the medium sized Golf chassis, the TDI certainly entertains with its massive mid range urge and gives the traction control a real working over as it goes from zero to hero in a few degrees of rev counter. 

The 150 must be a real hoot of a hooligan to drive. 

In the real world the extra torque generated through the mid range must be worth a real wedge of paper ponies, let's take a guess at around 20-30bhp. So I would maybe optimistically expect the 130horse diesel to keep with a 160bhp petrol across mixed roads where the rev counter's not glued to the red line and the gearbox gets a real work out. A top quality driver wringing the petrol's neck to perfection would lead the way admittedly but he would be working so much harder than the Turbo diesel driver.  

Now, the turbo GTi petrol delivers 150bhp and other testers found that slower across country than a 150bhp Turbo diesel so I don't think we are too far out with the diesel's advantage in that respect. 

Steer/Susp/Tech Features
Alloy Wheels
Alloy Wheels
Catalytic Converter
Catalytic Converter
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
External Temperature Gauge Fitted
External Temperature Gauge Fitted
Front Fog lamps fitted
Front Fog lamps fitted
Halogen Head Lights
Halogen Head Lights
Height Adjustable Headlight Aim
Height Adjustable Headlight Aim
Independent Suspension
Independent Suspension
Intermittent Wash Wipe
Intermittent Wash Wipe
Power Assisted Steering
Power Assisted Steering
Rev Counter
Rev Counter
Service Level Indicator
Service Level Indicator
Traction Control
Traction Control

It's sort of the way of modern cars that if they have any sporting pretensions to them, they are shown early on and then as time wears on, they fatten up, the steering is dulled down a bit to suit more people who aspire to the badge and the ride gets improved (generally at the expense of sharp handling). All in all, the concept is watered down to make it more acceptable to a wider, less focused audience. So the Golf  grew, got portly, got more predictable, got softer, got duller.  That would have been okay, of course, if the Focus had not come along and put the fun back into driving. Okay, so much of it is pseudo engineered in feeling but it's one of sharp response and a flexible sharp steering chassis caught every one else (including VW) on the hop.

By itself, the VW feels okay, if not exactly sprightly at the helm, but against the opposition it feels well mushy and devolved of input. It steers and grips nicely but there is little feeling of the driver being involved in the process; those clever Germans have engineered you out of the equation, well, that's almost how it feels. Different cars on the Golf-based chassis have a different feel; the A4 feels delicate, devoid of input and response and just sort of works; the Golf GTi turbo feels like a caged animal trying to get out with you controlling its convulsions with power assisted arms. If the TDI felt like that at least it would have some soul but the weight of the lump squashes the responsiveness of the chassis at the front at least. Again the diesel engine shows one of its down sides in a shared platform as its weight affects the balance of the car. 

If this sounds harsh it probably is as the Golf rides and steers perfectly acceptably. It's just that the more modern opposition has shifted the goal post in terms of sporting ambition and response.

Hopefully the new generation Golf will keep and enhance the good bits of the GT TDi concept with even more storming oil burners and plop it in a chassis that really does live up to the reputation so long held by the GTI badge. 

 

Alarm sensor

The GTI  seems to be on the rise again though the form is somewhat different from the creatures that spawned its birth. Gone are the sparsely equipped, stripped-out small machines with peaky 1600/1800 motors and protection of little more than a crappy steering lock that set traffic lights and insurance firms ablaze twenty years ago. Replaced with more mature well equipped  and much better protected cars of today, central locking, VIN, immobiliser and alarm try to placate the insurance firms although they still tend to be a little allergic to the legendary GTi badge and its variants.

Safety/Security Features
Alarm
Alarm
Antilock Braking System
Antilock Braking System
Engine Immobiliser
Engine Immobiliser
Front Side Air Bags
Front Side Air Bags
Front Twin Airbags
Front Twin Airbags
High level brake Light
High level brake Light
Locking Fuel Cap
Locking Fuel Cap
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts
Rear Seat Belts Fitted
Rear Seat Belts Fitted
Remote Central Locking
Remote Central Locking
Side Impact Protection
Side Impact Protection
Visible Identification Number
Visible Identification Number

The Golf also protects its passengers pretty well with strong safety rating, a multitude of air bags and bright lights all round.

 

As if calling a  diesel a GTi was not enough of a mind shift, reconciling 5 doors and a GTI on any other sporting badge remains pretty much impossible for me so I was quite relieved to see this one with just three doors.

Sporting practicality is one thing but let's not get carried away like with a T5 Volvo.

Personally  I think three doors just looks better as it also gives a stiffer chassis (as does a boot rather than a hatch). You don't even lose much in terms of real practicality and as I don't tend to travel in the back much, access is the least of my worries.

From a practical aspect you still get a generous amount of seating room and a large versatile boot area with split fold. The rear lip could be lower for loading but, again, if these things worry you that much then get an estate.  

Overall, all the things which make the Golf so popular remain - alleged stone axe reliability, ease of ownership, resale value, top build quality. However, I do find it strange how the fleet market loves them so much as many of the advantages only become really apparent much further down its lifetime. For the second owner though, it's an easy no-brainer buy, pretty much guaranteed not to cause you any worries for a good few years.

The last of this Golf generation in this mega diesel form presents excellent performance, stunning economy and only slightly off-the-pace dynamics. Can you think of a real reason why you would buy a petrol for road use? I certainly can't.

 


 

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UK Car Road Test Volkswagen Golf GT TDi 130 2004

UK Car Road Test Keywords: Hatchback Sports DiesleGolf GT TDi 130