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VW Golf Mk II (1984-92)

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      18.06.2013 13:01
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      A lovely retro car with just a couple of potential issues

      My first ever car was a 1994 Volkswagen Golf MkIII 1.6 CL version, which was given to me by my mum when I passed my test as she was emigrating - I love that car as it had been in the family for a decade already so I felt I knew it well. In fact I still own the car and although off the road at the moment, it will be back to fight another day once some work has been done to it. My boyfriend and I both have classic cars and like to share a 'sensible' car between us so we've had a 1997 BMW 318i SE (which we sold when it developed a battery drain and the handbrake cable snapped, then the person who bought it managed to crash it) and a 1993 Jap import Toyota MR2 G limited (excellent car, but my boyfriend broke the engine) and so our most recent purchase was a MkII Golf.

      So why did we go back to a Volkswagen and why specifically a MkII Golf? As I've already said, I adore my MKIII - it just refuses to die and has never failed to get me anywhere. Our forays into slightly more modern/higher end cars hadn't gone so well as the technology in them meant they were/are much more complicated to fix when things invariably go wrong. The MKII Golf is of an age where things that break are generally easy to fix yourself, we already like Golf's, they're not expensive, known to be relaible and they have retro appeal etc. We bought the 1.8 GTI 8 valve version as I have to admit we do like fast cars!

      Looks:
      The MkII is very similar to the MkI in appearance and much squarer than any later models, which gives it a real retro appearance that appeals to a great many people. As a hatchback it's fairly small on the outside but quite spacious on the inside. Our particular car is dark grey (recommended for hiding dirt the best!) and I have noticed that the bright red ones seem to command the higher prices, although I'm not sure why.

      Interior:
      Our interior is grey material (as opposed to leather) which matches the exterior of the car. The dash continues the retro feel - everything is quite blocky! For a 23 year old car the interior has held up well with no cracks to the plastic parts and only one tear on the seats, which is situated on the right bolster of the drivers seat.

      Size wise the inside does feel quite spacious given the overall size of the car - VW definitely did a good job of maximising the useable space. You could fit 4 to 5 people in this car fairly comfortably and with better leg space than you can expect in a economy plane seat. The boot is more than large enough for a big food shop or well packed holiday luggage for a small family (or at least it was until my boyfriend installed a big sound system in there - we're not chavs I promise!)

      Comfort:
      I find most cars have uncomfortable seats on long journeys and these are the same - they're ok for a couple of hours, but after that the seats start to feel a little hard and I don't feel like my lower back is supported as well as it could be. Certainly our BMW seats were more comfortable as a passenger and the MR2 was better as a driver. They're certainly not bad seats, they're just not the best, but if you're a front passenger fancying a sleep, they do recline quite well!

      Drive:
      When we purchased ours the accelerator pedal was stupidly heavy and some investigation showed it was blocked by a lot of crud - a good clean out had it working like normal. Gears are easy to change, although ours does have some wear which means second makes a crunch when gearing up until the car is warm - this isn't a problem per se but does mean you sound like you don't know how to use a clutch to any passers by!

      Speed wise the 1.8 GTI is nice and nippy, even though ours isn't the 16 valve version - it certainly picks up speed quicker than our BMW, but it can't match the MR2 (but granted that was a 2l mid engine sports car!) I feel comfortable in picking up the pace enough to over take with ease in places where my MkIII CL would take a bit longer and I just wouldn't attempt it in my MkI capri.

      Obviously speed isn't the only important thing when it comes to a good drive - handling round bends is pretty good, there isn't much body roll evident as the later models seem to suffer from.

      There is one issue I do have with this car and that's reversing - I feel like I'm quite a good parker, but I despise reversing this car when it comes to fairly small spaces. The shape of the car and positioning of the windows means that when I line myself up to parallel park in a space I know the car can fit in, I soon feel like I'm wrestling with the impossible. Why? Well when you're attempting to get in the space it soon looks like you've half eaten the car behind - whether you look in the mirror or out the window, the front of the vehicle behind looks like it has been swallowed by your car. It's just impossible to see where theirs starts, yours ends and how much space is between you. You end up making silly little movements back and forth as it seems like you're in a really tight space, only to get out and find there's a good metre or so of space at either end! I never had this problem with my MkIII and even with the tiny rear window of the MR2 it was a breeze to park in any space.

      Another thing that comes into play when parking or doing 3 point turns etc. is the lack of power steering. The car does feel heavy when making small manoeuvres, although this isn't something you notice when normally driving - due to my much heavier classic which doesn't have power steering either, this isn't an issue that bothers me, although it might be something others should take into consideration.

      Community spirit:
      There aren't many cars of this age that generate a feeling of community on the roads - most people just scowl at each other as they drive, but old VW drivers look out for each other. I've lost count of the number of times I've got a thumbs up or a wave from other old VW drivers I don't know and it always makes me happy, it makes driving a much more pleasant experience when there are so many idiots on the road. It's something that just doesn't happen when I drive my MkIII.

      MPG:
      On the dash you can monitor your supposed MPG - given the age of the car I don't know just how accurate this is (and I haven't got around to doing any calculations to check), but I have to admit I enjoy watching it and seeing how high I can get it to go! When buying this sort of car of this sort of age, you can't expect anything fabulous in the MPG stakes - that's not what it was designed for and it just won't compete with the MPG's on many of todays cars. That said it seems to me to be half decent for its age - it seems to sit around 39-43mpg on average while I'm driving and at one point I had it up to 46mpg.

      Cost:
      I don't know how much these retailed at when new, but we purchased ours earlier this year (needing the cooling system fixing, without tax, but with MOT) for just £425 which I think was an absolute bargain. Looking at some I've seen a few go for over £1k, but £800ish seems a fairly normal price at the moment. We managed to get all the parts we needed to get her running well from local auto factors, cheaply and quickly.

      Of course purchase cost isn't the only one you need to consider - tax and insurance are the other two big ones. Given the age and engine size the tax is in the higher bracket, currently coming in at over £200 a year. Unfortunately as a GTI insurance won't necessarily be all that cheap either - especially if you're young. I managed to get my boyfriend and I insured on it for £550 which was by far the cheapest quote we got (some wanted a grand, which was ridiculous in my opinion), that price was about £200-250 more than the cost would have been if I insured my MkIII at the same time and to get the price we did we had to put it on a classic policy. Obviously the price you pay will depend a lot on you and where you live.

      Recommendation:
      Overall I do like this car a lot - I love the way it looks, the drive (for the most part), availability of parts, ease to fix, reliability etc. The main downsides are the visibility for parking and insurance (not the cars fault). If you want that retro feel without spending a fortune and getting a reliable every day car, this is definitely one I would recommend.

      *Edit*
      I've just remembered that when we first got the car my housemate went round it opening and closing each door and saying 'sounds just like a Golf' before getting in his own car and later texting me to say 'My doors are s**t' - Golf doors honestly do make a very satisfying noise!

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        06.02.2009 14:55
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        True icon

        This car is still and will always be the best Golf. I bought one about 8 years ago for £3000. It was the GTI 16V Big Bumper Edition, Royal Blue, sunroof, power steering, bucket seats.
        It is a superb car to drive and although some people don't like the squareish shape, I think it looks great. The usual golf touches make the interior functional but sporty, the golf ball gear knob a particular design classic that is still found on the modern models.
        The BBS alloys were a nightmare to keep clean, nothing short of spending 2 hours with a toothbrush on them but it was worth it as they're part of iconic attraction of the car.
        The car had 110,000 on the clock when I bought it, 6 months later a friend told me that he knew someone who desperately wanted to buy my car. I told them that I was not looking to sell it but if the price was right I might consider it. He turned up and offered me £4000, I nearly snapped his hand off! I was loathed to sell it but what a return on a car that age with that mileage. I imagine if I still had it now that it would probably be worth a tidy sum.
        Who knows, perhaps one day I will buy another just for the hell of it!

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        01.02.2009 19:49
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        I love it and am going to get another.

        The volkswagen Golf mkii is probably one of the most iconic vehicles of the 80's and 90's. I have previously owned a volkswagen golf mkii GL with the 1.8 litre engine. I loved owning this car it was brilliant. I loved the old school interior and the great way that the car handled.

        There are loads of different engine options and probably the best and most well known was the GTI. It is a fabulous engine and it even comes with a slightly different body kit to the other eninged vehicles.

        The drivability of the vehicle is excellent it really is a pleasure and the handling is better than i would have thought from a vehicle of this age. The seats in my 1.8 GL were really good and did a really good job of holding me in the seats.

        This car is one of my absolute favourites and i would have to say defintiely more fun to drive than my 2.8 V64motion that i am driving at the moment. So much so that after writing this review i am seriously considering selling my v6 and getting a mkii gti. Simply a brilliant car.

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        04.12.2002 00:45
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        I own a 1990 MKII 8V GTI, of which I am a big fan - in fact I love it. Since they were born in '84 I've loved them and have now had 2. Having been forced to sell my first when I was given a company Fiat Punto (what a comedown!), I knew I just had to have another. I bought this one 3 and a half years ago when it had done approx. 100,000 miles. It has now done just under 140K, burns no oil (gets new oil & filter every 5,000 miles) and as a result it seems to get better and better as the miles pile on. In the time I've had it, with the exception of replacing brakes, tyres and exsaust & cambelt, the only work I've had to do is to replace the throttle cable, clutch & cable, 2 frount shocks and a starter motor (which also died very slowly). The car (touch wood) has never let me down, hasn't a spot of rust, and let's be honest I drive her damned hard ! In fact I have always driven it 10/10ths and unfortunately have received a few points along the way! In short the car is built like a tank, still looks great, and is still enormously entertaining to drive. I agree that on the motorway it is somewhat noisey, however having driven the new 1.8T my view is that they lack the fun factor - in fact they are in a different league and have clearly been designed for comfort and practicality - with a good performance off the lights to go with it. They are very good cars, but I suspect designed with different/ modern day priorities in mind. I think the Mk II GTIs are perhaps the last of their type in terms of the hot-hatch driving experience. What you get is wonderfully predictable handling, a grunty/revey little engine which will leave most of the competition at the lights (I know I need to grow up) and a car that still looks great ! I will certainly keep mine until it breaths its last breath, because I know that the modern day alternative just simply will not keep me smiling.

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          14.06.2001 22:58
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          i bought my 1986 8v gti for 1200 quid and boy was it money well spent, for the small sum i paid i got a very quick beautifully well balanced car with handling that can be described as nothing short of amazing, i only ran the car for 12 months but in this time i had more fun in a car than in the entire time i've been driving for. the only real draw backs are that its a heavy car so can be tiring on long journeys, bit heavy on fuel and did have a tendency to run hot, but apart from that the car was excellent, and for a performance car it was suprisingly gentle on tyres. during my time driving the gti it was 100% reliable, the only money spent on it was for the services and cambelt change, which were all reasonably priced compared to similar types of car.all in all i doubt i could have bought another "hot hatch" of this sort of quality for the money it cost, would i have another one.....you just try and stop me

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            22.03.2001 16:52
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            I bought a 1990 red 16v GTi about 3 years ago, it had been run in quite a bit because it had about 70 thousand miles on the clock. By the time i got rid of the car it had done nearly 100,000 miles. I owned the car for nearly two years before i accidentaly wrapped it around a tree, which is surprising because it gripped the road extremely well. I never had much wrong with the car apart from one wheel bearing 6 months after i bought it and the occasional new tyre, it was deffinately a car i would have kept. It already had some TSW five spoke alloys on it when i bought it and them alone made the car look really smart, the standard suspension was brilliant enough without having to hand over about £300 for a set of modified springs and shocks. The only thing i didnt like about the golf was that sometimes it sounded a bit noisy through creaks and rattles from the parcel shelf and dash board. If there is any one who likes fast cars then this car could be for you. It has a lot more power than the original 8v and you can certainly feel the difference. The body hardly ever gets a rust spot and the engines run forever. The interior is stylish for the age of the cars and looks as good as anything today. Comfortable seating and driving position is a good advantage with the golf. The golf has the looks and body styling that you never get bored of and they are still sought after today. Volkswagen couldnt have made a better car at the time.

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            05.01.2001 22:06
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            We owned a 1991 Golf 1.8 GL auto with the big bumper! It was a classy car in black with grey velour trim. The acceleration was first rate, even when fully loaded, and far more relaxing than a manual drive. Back in 1995 we paid £5000 for it and it was well worth it. With power steering it made every journey a joy, and the superb driving position gave you an excellent view of the road. It handled very well and was quite capable on motorways, delivering speed and security without sacrificing it's grace. Fuel consumption was a little higher, being an automatic, and insurance was at group 12. But, being a VW, and so well screwed together, you expect to pay a bit over the odds for such refinement. In the two years that we owned the Golf, we had no serious problems. We had it serviced on schedule and generally took care of it. It was one of the best cars I've ever driven. I wonder where it is now?

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              03.09.2000 21:01
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              I can only agree with everything johnrushton has written about his car, but I've got some things to add [and fortunately I havn't written mine off!]. I bought my 1989 black 8v 2-door GTi in 1993 with about 50,000 miles on the clock, and I've had very little trouble and a lot of fun in it since - it's now at about 110,000 miles. I keep thinking I should change it, but then I think of the cost [I paid just over £4k and the car was worth £3-3.5k for the past few years, and only fell significantly recently with the general fall in car prices - hence my cost of ownership has been relatively miniscule] that I'd have to come up with for a shiny new box... What went wrong in 60,000 miles and nearly 8 years? Ignoring the routine service items like tyres/exhausts/brakes/cambelt/batteries etc I've had 2 rear wheel bearings, 1 starter motor, 1 radiator, 1 heater pipe and 1 heater fan. Absolutely nothing else, and the car has never actually failed to start [the starter motor died slowly!]. I replaced the original [rusting] steel wheels last year with some nice BBS multispoke alloys, and the standard suspension about 5 years ago with a lowered Boge spring and gas damper kit [this transformed the handling]. I use a ski-style roof box when we go on touring holidays - the standard luggage caparity isn't bad, but this really makes a difference when the kitchen sink has to come along as well. I strongly echo the suggestion to use a local VW specialist garage for maintenance - their rates for parts and labour are usually about half to 2/3 that of VAG. Just find a garage you like and trust and stick with them [extra plug for Cowley Road Garage in the North of Cambridge!]. I've got nothing against VAG except for their prices - for example, they'll always change a part-worn item like brakepads while a local specialist will discuss it with you and judge whether you'll last until the next service. For some
              items VAG are actually cheaper that the independents, so it's always worth asking them for a quote. The car's looking a bit worn now - mainly from minor knocks around the waistline from careless idiots who let their doors swing open in carparks - and it's got the odd creak and rattle. Compared to modern cars it's noisy on motorways and the lowered suspension loosens your fillings over rough roads. However, it still starts first time every time, uses no oil between services and provides fun and [reasonably] speedy transport. I can also fit in the family.

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              17.08.2000 05:29
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              My mum bought her Golf 1.6 CL in 1989 and it has recently passed on to me - and I can honestly say from first-hand experience that this is a very very good little car. The car has to date done about 50,000 miles. Now, I realise that that's not as many as it could be (one careful lady owner, and all that) but the car has only broken down twice in this entire 11-year period: once when rain got into the engine due to a blocked vent and killed the battery, and once when the accelerator jammed open, which was eventually traced to a manufacturing fault. Not bad considering the problems that some people have with cars that are seven or eight years younger. It starts first time, every time (without wishing to sound like a salesman) and this particular model is powerful enough to feel fairly comfortable overtaking in. Ours has also passed its MOT every time. I can get at least 35 mpg from this engine, which is just as well with current petrol prices, but be warned that insurance may be higher because this is a desirable car. I make no comment on the servicing charges, because everyone seems to have their own ideas on what is a good price for servicing.. All in all, if you can find one reasonably cheap, then this is a well-built, solid, reliable car, which will go on and on for ever (or so I'm told). Let's hope new generation Golfs are as good in ten years' time.

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                09.08.2000 19:21
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                I bought a 1.3 mark 2 Golf cl AND it was useless. Considering I was paying insurance group 7 I thought that this car might ahave soom umpph but no it was pants. Not only that it was unreliable to boot. I really do not like golfs, over priced, high insurance and no performance. The only decent ones are the Vr6 and 16v gti's. I should have bought an Astra or something else. I did like the fact though that it was built like a tank and had no rust. If you going to buy a mark 2 Golf buy at least a 1.6 even if you drive slowly because you will be pushing this one up hills otherwise. It also used alot of petrol and did not handle well due to the racing bike wheels on it.

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                  09.08.2000 00:56
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                  I ran a 1989 8 valve Mk.2 GTI from new for 120,000 miles until I stupidly wrote it off last Christmas going a bit too fast on an icy road which the local council had kindly forgotten to grit. This was the best car I ever had, hence why I kept it so long, and I never had much trouble with it in over ten years. In fact most of the bother I had was caused by other people like the charming young men who stole it from outside a pub in Newcastle in order to remove the alloys. This did so much damage (at 8 years old) that I had to really grovel to the insurance company and garage in order to avoid it being written off. I also used to get pulled over for speeeding quite a lot though I usually got off with a lecture when I had a business suit on and turned out not to be a teenager (by about 25 years). I really loved this car and it rarely let me down bar the odd new battery, etc. I never drove a 16 valve but the grunt on the 8 valve between 50 and 70mph in top never ceased to amaze me. When my local VW franchise became too pricey to maintain the car I switched to a small non-franchised specialist who was prepared to fettle the car rather than just replace everything with new parts and although it wasn't an economically sound judgement to keep the vehicle (as my wife kept reminding me!)it was such a good car I never regretted it. Even when you really over cooked things and lifted-off the throttle in panic the car was so safe it just dug you out of the hole without any fuss and let you carry on. Ironically a month before I wrote the car off I'd had the front wheel bearings and suspension bushes replaced and the whole suspension optically re-aligned at a VW main dealer and the car was really going well - which in retrospect might have been its downfall! When we had our big moment the car started to slide and I caught it once but overcompensated and clipped a kerb and from that point on I was just a passenger as we spun twice and finally caught a telegraph pole square on
                  that nice wide c-pillar which bounced us back on the road facing the right way on the opposite carriageway. As it was the middle of winter, pitch black on a winding country road and I had my two children in the back I was somewhat perturbed as a following vehicle carefully drove around us and departed at speed. Needless to say the car didn't let me down starting on the first turn of the key and without any lights and accompanied by many strange noises and warnings on the dashboard got us the last few miles home. When we got out I saw virtually every corner of the car was damaged and the front was a complete mess. My daughter just burst into tears and I must say I felt like joining her as I knew the car was a write-off. In spite of the lack of airbags, etc. there was no intrusion to the passenger compartment and all the doors opened and closed leaving us without a scratch and it was this combined with all the fun I'd had with the car that convinced me to buy another VW GTI. I toyed with the idea of picking up the latest Mk.2 I could get and I even had a look at a Corrado VR6 (which is really just a very grown up Mk.2 GTI)but in the end economic reality made me consider a new Golf. I never liked the Mk.3 but the Mk.4 looked good and all the motoring magazines raved about it, especially the GTI Turbo, so rather reluctantly I took a long, and very fast, test drive in this model and to be honest I was very, very impressed by just how far VW had progressed in ten years. So much so that I bought a new Mk.4 GTI Turbo which has just completed 8,000 trouble free and very enjoyable miles. The car isn't perfect, you've got to remember to drop down a gear or two after slowing to enter a roundabout otherwise it bogs down, and you don't get the rollerskate feel of the Mk.2 as the suspension is softer and the power steering lighter. It also has a slight tendency to bob up and down on undulating motorways but other than that I love it. It's understated, beau
                  tifully made and feels like it will last forever, but you know I still miss my Mk.2 and in my heart of hearts I'd still like another maybe just as a weekend car for high days and holidays.

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                    24.07.2000 23:56
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                    I've had my 1990 Golf Driver for 2 years now. Wanting a GTI but not being able due to insurance, I plumped for a Driver, 1.6 and still quite sporty. Well you pay more for a VDub, but what you get is RELIABILITY. I've let it go without a service ages, even stacked it once into a field, and it just keeps going. I don't recommend trying this by the way! Handling's quite heavy by today's standards, but nice and controlled, gears are good. I personally admire how the interior doesn't rattle much for a 10 year old car. Brilliant. And it's roomy and ideal for a family runaround, I'd say. All I can really fault is the sunroof, it has leaked before, that's it really. Spares are not cheap, but normally somewhere does cheap parts, my advice is hunt around before buying.

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                      01.07.2000 19:14
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                      A good general all rounder, spares uncomfortably expensive when bought from dealers. My 1989 MK2 provides a good and safe drive. Good grippiness when cornering and a reasonable fuel economy, although nothing eye-brow raising. At 120K miles it has had a few replacement parts (wheel bearings in front, brake discs, and usual bits 'n' pieces). However for the past 12 months the distributor has been playing up. These models had two types (Bosh or Drusillier). A replacement Drusillier distributor from the dealer circa £380 seems at tad expensive when a replacement from "German and Sweedish" in New Maldon, London is £60 + VAT. Several other owners I know with similar age / milage golfs have similar problems. Good source for cheap original / pattern parts are the above factors German & Sweedish, or European Car Parts who are in SE London. If you are looking to buy a MK2 golf have a look in the distributor cap. If the contacts look all chewed up and the rotor arm has excessive play, prepare yourself to shell out to get it fixed.

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                      25.06.2000 05:17
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                      I have had my 1985 Golf for 7 years now.Having taken it from 86,000 miles to 180,000 now all without any major mechanical problems. These cars are so well built that they feel as if they can go on forever. Parts are readily and cheaply available with a number of autofactors dealing specifically with VW. The first MK11's are now 16 years old,provided they have been regularly serviced they should go on to give many more years of trouble free motoring. They are good fun to drive, giving lively acceleration and sporty handling. Some may feel the suspension is a little hard though. Fuel ecomony is okay, mine gives around 32mpg. Depreciation is low, as these cars are in demand. I prefer the early 1984 - 1887 cars they are generally better fitted out with electric windows,alloys, computer etc. Many 1987 -1989 cars seem a little bland with their standard steel wheels. 1987 onwards saw the 16v engine being used as well as the 8v.1990 onwards are fitted with alloys and big bumpers, these cars do fetch a premium price over the older variants. I have no plans to change the car but when I do it will be for another MK11 Golf.

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                      20.06.2000 19:22
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                      I love Volkswagens! I have grown up with them, my uncle running 3 dealerships in London for a long time. I had to wait a long time to own my first though. But it was worth the wait. It had been a long time aim of mine to purchase a MkI GTi, but my aim changed when I was offered a MKII GTi 8v in old Campaign Green for 1500 pounds. It is a 1985 Model, fitted with 1990 doors, grill, lights, etc, but not those awful big bumpers that make the GTi's look all dumpy and fat. It is one of the early MKII's and started its life as a left hooker, imported into the UK and converted. It is bloody quick, reason being it has the last 1.8 litre engine from the Campaign MKI's (fitted as standard in factory), beware if you buy an early one, they may be quicker than the later MKII's but more difficult to source engine parts from. The engine spec is different and in fact produces a bit more torque than newer models (if I remember the engine type is DK as opposed to the later PBP). It revs gloriously up to the 7000rpm red line and is wonderfully responsive in every gear, particularly 2nd and 3rd, and 5th will hustle you from 70mph to 90mph quicker than you could say Speeding Fine! It has no problem reaching 60mph in under 8 secs, all this without engine mods! Be aware that tire wear is high at the front, especially if you are like me and love to attack roundabouts. It gets a little lively in the wet and may understear if pushed, easily corrected though by lifting off a little. The grip in the dry is outstanding, I challenge anyone to find a similar sized car than sticks to the road as the Golf does... It is a wonderful car! Who needs this new breed of GTi's with PAS, Elec Windows, ABS, TSC, ESC, etc, I suggest everyone drives an old MKII GTi and gets back to basics, there is nothing like the feel of driving a car you control completely. Avoid 16v GTi's if you want rapid bursts of power as they tend to have
                      a lower torque curve. Buy one! You will always have a smile on your face, even if you are just nipping down the shops!

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