Should I sell my Volkswagen Golf?


I've been looking through your website and I really appreciate your honesty and forthright disposition. I bought a VW Golf 1.4 turbo DSG fifteen months ago. And, before you start: Yeah, it's a shitbox!

I acknowledge your comments about reliabilty and in particular, customer service (which has been especially shocking). However, dynamically, the Golf is a great drive. I really enjoy driving it. 

Is there a time bomb ticking with regard to the DSG? Should I sell now in order to avoid major expense in the future? Are Volkswagen's reliability problems a thing of the past? (Peugeot's have had their own reliability and build quality issues also in the past. I'm just looking for a car with character which seems to be unavailable in the Japanese and Korean offerings.) I would very much appreciate your advice John.



The Golf is a beautiful-looking car (in that minimalist German way) that is also great to drive. Mototing journalists everywhere wet their pants in that undignified motoring journalist way, over the 'great drive' of the Golf. In fact, the ‘great drive’ of the Golf is grossly over-stated, in the context of where 'great drive' sits in the hierarchy of car ownership. (Most motoring journalists don't own cars.)

It's great to drive a car that's great to drive, but it's not at all great when that car shits itself for the third time in traffic, and the engine needs replacement, and there's an eight-week back-order on some of the required parts. Have fun enjoying that.

Obviously not every Volkswagen is problematic. Most are not. But the proportion of problematic Volkswagens is far too high. When a problem does arise, the dealer network is renowned for being bad at fixing it, and generally not giving a shit. 

This is why Volkswagen owners are split into two camps: those whose cars have been problem-free (the happy camp). And those whose cars have failed, often over and over (the monumentally pissed-off camp). The happy camp is numerically greater. The monumentally pissed-off camp is more vocal.

In reality, plenty of cars are just as good to drive.

Every Volkswagen has this 'secret feature' that's not in any of the brochures, and which they won't ever mention on the showroom floor: The whole car is a ticking time-bomb. The brand is off its meds on quality and reliability. I wouldn’t own a Volkswagen. Full stop. But I especially would not own one for a nanosecond after the warranty runs out. So I guess you’ve got 18 months (max) to decide what next.

Reliability problems in respect of Volkswagen are certainly not a thing of the past. The company is a quality basket case. It’s not just the DSG. It’s the whole architecture, all the components and the underlying systems. This is a consequence of them wanting to be the number one car maker in the world, and then needing to design and roll out massive inventories of new product to manage that objective by 2018. Inevitably, quality corners were cut, and are still being cut. It's disgraceful.

Replacement Options

Volkswagen Golf
1.4 Highline (your car) DSG

RRP: $34,340
Power: 103kW (4500-6000rpm)
Torque: 250Nm (1500-3500rpm)
Trans: 7sp DSG
Tyres: 225/45R17
Fuel: 95 RON
Cons: 5.2L/100km
Warranty: 3yr/100,000km
Made in: Germany

Toyota 86
GT auto

SP25 GT auto

RRP: $32,590
Power: 138kW @ 5700kpm
Torque: 250Nm @ 3250rpm
Trans: 6sp auto
Tyres: 215/45R18
Fuel: 91 RON
Cons: 6.1L/100km
Warranty: 3yr/100,000km
Made in: Japan

Subaru WRX
Base model CVT

Hyundai i30
SR auto

RRP: $30,190
Power: 129kW @ 6500rpm
Torque: 209Nm @ 4700rpm
Trans: 6sp auto
Tyres: 225/45R17
Fuel: 91 RON
Cons: 7.5L/100km
Warranty: 5yr/unlimited km
Made in: South Korea

Hyundai Veloster
SR Turbo auto

2015 Toyota 86.jpg

RRP: $32,790
Power: 147kW @ 7000kpm
Torque: 205Nm (6400-6600rpm)
rans: 6sp auto
Tyres: 205/55R16
Fuel: 95 RON
Cons: 7.1L/100km
Warranty: 3yr/100,000km
Made in: Japan

2015 Subaru WRX.jpg

RRP: $40,990
Power: 197kW @ 5600kpm
Torque: 350Nm @ (2400-5200rpm)
Trans: 8sp CVT
Tyres: 235/45R17
Fuel: 95 RON
Cons: 8.6L/100km
Warranty: 3yr/100,000km
Made in: Japan

2015 Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo.jpg

RRP: $35,290
Power: 150kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 265Nm (1750-4500rpm)
Trans: 6sp auto
Tyres: 225/45R17
Fuel: 91 RON
Cons: 7.6L/100km
Warranty: 5yr/unlimited km
Made in: South Korea

I can’t agree with you on “[character being] unavailable in the Japanese and South Korean…” Drive a Toyota 86 or a Subaru BRZ (same thing). There’s a car that looks like Pininfarina himself designed it, and it would eat a 1.4 Golf on a windy road any day of the week. So would a Mazda3 Astina. So would a Veloster Turbo. So would a Hyundai i30 SR. So would a Kia Koup Turbo. And then there's the saddest day for me in 2014: The day Subaru took the WRX STI Premium media evaluation car away, after plonking me in it for a week.

These Eurotrash brands are a joke (although Renault does alright with the RenaultSport Clios and Meganes - thanks to Nissan design and quality control protocols flowing from their corporate association at the top). I don’t know what “with character” means, either (from your question). Usually it means - I’m looking for an excuse to apologise away this nasty little shitbox that I should not have bought if I was rational at the time, and all I could come up with was “character”… Sorry to be blunt about it.

The market has moved on from the time when these European cars were hidden gems, with added features, more luxury, better refinement, and more performance. Those Asian cars I mentioned above would eat the shitbox Euros for breakfast on performance and dynamic criteria, and offer (in the case of the South Koreans) a vastly superior customer support package. (Let's not forget things like warranty and dealer network reach in our quest for 'character'.)

Aussies have embraced LG fridges and Samsung phones - and not because they’re cheap. Hyundai and Kia are exactly the same proposition, with four wheels and an engine. And that Toyota 86 really is outstanding. So is the Mazda3 SP25. And the WRX.

If you want to get rid of the Golf, and I strongly recommend doing it, let me get the brokerage to call you to discuss a plan for doing it right, and acquiring an objectively better replacement at the right price.


Thanks so much for your forthright comments! I think I should visit RMS and purchase “shitbox” numberplates!

I acknowledge that you are a motoring authority and therefore take your comments seriously. I knew when I bought the Golf that VW had some major reliability problems. I was hoping the new generation would have overcome these problems. To date, there appears to be no problems with the 7th generation Golf. I have driven 35,000 kms thus far which has all been trouble free motoring. I will reluctantly sell as I know it will become expensive to maintain post warranty.

I do however have to disagree with your “character” scenario. I purchased the “Highline” 1.4 turbo with DSG. I have previously owned Toyotas and a Mazda3.

Seriously mate, for roadholding, safety, finish, performance and economy and sheer driver enjoyment, the Golf is a class above. My daughter has a new Corolla and my wife a one-year-old Hyundai Accent. Nice, easy-to-drive cars that are cheap to service, and have great reliability. Compared with the Golf though, they are incredibly boring to drive. They certainly cant compare to the Golf’s 1.4 turbo for performance and economy.

I enjoy driving whereas many just see a car as a means from getting from A to B. I don’t think I’m imagining how good a drive the Golf is. After all it did receive Wheels COTY so it can't be that bad? Even present day reviews and comparisons rate the Golf to have better dynamics than the Japanese and South Korean opposition.

I spoke to Ben from the brokerage this morning and he was very helpful about sourcing and negotiating on a new car. I’m considering a Subaru Impreza (ugly styling) and Ben has convinced me to have a look at the new Mazda3. Also considering the Renault Megane.

I hope I’m not taking too much of your time, but I would appreciate it if you could address my points outlined above so I can get a better understanding. I value your knowledge and also your passion for cars is evident as well. I have been driving what I thought was a piece of European engineering excellence but it appears I may eventually have to accept the truth about it. 


I hope you don’t think I’m having too much of a shot here. You’ve got an emotional connection with the Golf - I get that. But, objectively:

Comparison with Accent and Corolla

Volkswagen Golf Highline DSG 1.4 = $34,340 + on-road costs. So not really much of a valid comparison with the daughter’s Accent (which is hardly an example of Hyundai's best work, I'd be the first to say). And nobody ever accused Toyota of building an exciting car (except for the 86) so the Golf will be better to drive than the wife’s Corolla. Agreed. 100%. Your problem is, in part, comparing your current Golf to previous cars you’ve owned (newer cars are better cars) and a pair of fairly uninspiring current cars. In comparison, I’m benchmarking it against competitors in the market and the Golf really doesn’t add up.

“For roadholding, safety, finish, performance, economy and sheer driving enjoyment…”

Roadholding: you’re not in a position to assess that, on a public road. Running up to the limit of adhesion frequently, are you? Probably not. People who make these comments are invariably talking about how the controls feel at moderate cornering inputs. For most people, and I am categorising you here, with apologies, this vague ‘roadholding’ terms really means now the feedback plays out at some cornering input well below the limit. I’ve done extensive track testing. Absolute roadholding of the Golf will me measurably identical to the Hyundai i30 SR (same tyre spec). That’s what roadholding is - subject to reasonable (not ‘excellent’) R&D in the suspension dept, which both cars have had. Golf feels a lot better than OK when you drive it into a bend. Good, even. Not better than a Mazda3 or Hyundai SP25 GT.

Safety - bullshit. How are you assessing that, exactly? ANCAP, which devotes many resources to the assessment of safety, independently, seems to think the Golf is the same as a Mazda3 or a Hyundai i30.

Finish. Volkswagens are minimalist. The finish is very good in the Golf, but so it is in the Mazda3. If ‘finish’ includes ‘equipment’ packaged up in that finish, then the Mazda3 SP25 GT (which is 10% cheaper and heaps more reliable) has bigger alloys, an extra speaker, separate amplifier, a proximity key, LED tail lamps, voice recognition and bi-xenon headlamps - all of which the much more expensive Golf lacks.

Performance. You’re really full of it here. Let’s go from A to B really, really fast: Need as much power as possible to do that. SP25 GT has 35 per cent more power. i30 SR has 29 per cent more power (despite both being 10% cheaper). Both cars will smoke the Golf 1.4 on a twisty bit of road, or a racetrack. And the DSG is good for performance driving, but not good enough to overcome the power deficit. Normal driving confuses the shit out of that DSG, so it’s second-rate in traffic.

I know you’re going to say: “But the 1.4 makes 103kW from 4500-6000rpm, and the Mazda makes 138 @ 5700rpm.” Trust me on how engines work. The Mazda 2.5 makes more power at 4500rpm than the Golf, and more at 6000, and more at all revs between. And it runs on regular unleaded whereas the Golf needs 95. If that’s engineering excellence, then I’ll eat my hat. 

Economy: The Golf is very economical. Agreed. That’s not why you bought it. Petrol's $1 a litre...

Sheer driving enjoyment: the Golf is very nice to drive. Agreed. But let’s put you in the Golf on any piece of twisty road (or race track). I’ll go in an i30 SR. We’ll time it. The SR will smoke you, A-B. See how enjoyable you find that.


The Golf isn’t bad - at all. Except in terms of customer service, reliability and parts supply. And value for money. Brilliant to look at, sit in, and feel. Except when it's broken down, which might be never, but like for all car owners, reliability is a game of Russian roulette. Volkswagen owners get to play with more of the chambers loaded.

On awards: Motoring journalists are obsessed with dynamic performance, not what cars are like to own. Giving that Wheels Car of the Year award to the Golf is a disgrace.

The Golf has cachet and bragging rights. It’s not objectively better than the other two. But it is OK to like it more, because liking something is (at least in part) subjective and irrational..

The Megane has plenty of character. So does the RenaultSport Clio. Mazda3 SP25 GT is the car I’d buy. As a practical, fun-to-drive proposition. Hell, I’d buy the Hyundai ahead of the Golf - just to see the look on the Golf driver’s face when the i30 SR rounds him up on a twisty road. That, and the five-year warranty with capped price servicing. And all the extra equipment. And no breakdowns. And if I had $40k to spend, have that WRX gift wrapped, and sent to my room...