Top Gear’s guide to buying a used Volkswagen Golf

Oh good grief. We’re going to be here all day. 

In the Mk5 (and depending on the market), you can find the last vestiges of the naturally aspirated petrol engine, from a 1.4-litre four-cylinder in the misery-spec version (complete with a 0–60… er, ‘dash’ of nearly 15 seconds), all the way up to the silly-in-all-the-best-ways 3.2-litre VR6 in the R32. 

As we move to newer Golfs, the engines become increasingly turbocharged (as well as a brief dalliance with super- and turbocharging), generally reducing in displacement at the same time. So you can find turbo 1.2-litre Mk6 Golfs, for instance, or diminutive 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbos in the Mk7. 

The diesels are… diesels, and – aside from their place in one of the biggest automotive scandals ever – are about as interesting as a symposium on navel lint. They’re also somehow less reliable, sound like a yak trying to gargle a set of castanets and are barred from/charged for entering city centres to a much greater extent than the petrol-powered Golfs. 

For the city-slicker, there is the e-Golf, which is a wonderful foot in the door of electric car ownership – given that it’s a Golf in every way you remember, apart from not having to worry about the DSG blowing up. And if you insist on falling between two stools, there’s always the hybrid GTE version. 

As for trims? There are many. They’re generally confusing, they change frequently and most aren’t standardised across countries, let alone continents. The good news is that the GTI does seem to be (even if the base car is often called a Rabbit), so there’s a safe bet.

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