Buying a VW Golf

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Buying Guide: VW Golf Mk6
The Volkswagen Golf has always been up there with the finest compact family cars, and the Mk6 version is one of the best of the breed. It built on the strengths of the highly acclaimed fifth-generation car, reinforcing the Golf’s position at the top of the class. And although it was replaced by an even better Mk7 car in 2013, the Mk6 remains a fine used buy. Stuart Morton, chief sub-editor of Auto Express and Carbuyer, talks us through what to look out for when considering a VW Golf Mk6.
 
It combines a classy, spacious interior with a practical 350-litre boot, as well as solid, reliable mechanicals and a choice of efficient and capable engines. This Golf is also reasonably good to drive, while not even the unexciting styling has dampened demand – this means it holds on to its value better than many rivals. So although you can pay more for a second-hand Golf Mk6 than for, say, an equivalent Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra, you should get more than the difference back when you come to sell.
The Volkswagen Golf
Which one to buy?
At launch in 2009, the Golf came as a three or five-door, with a practical estate following soon after. There was also a choice of S, SE and GT trims – aim for at least SE, as S models are sparsely equipped. The Match version, introduced in 2010, provides the best level of kit.
 
Under the bonnet, buyers could pick from a range of superb petrol and diesel engines. The 2.0-litre TDI diesel, available with 108bhp or 138bhp, has always been the more popular buy as it promises such impressive efficiency, with fuel consumption as low as 58mpg and 126g/km CO2 emissions.
Rear view of the VW Golf
Later in the Golf Mk6’s life, VW introduced an even more eco-friendly BlueMotion model, featuring a 103bhp 1.6-litre TDI diesel engine. This eventually cut emissions to 99g/km – meaning free road tax – and promised amazing fuel economy of up to 74mpg.
 
The company also added BlueMotion Technology to regular models, with green tweaks like stop-start, brake energy regeneration and low-rolling-resistance tyres improving efficiency. 

The Diesel engine
Lower running costs mean you’ll pay more for a diesel Golf, so don’t overlook the petrol models. VW offered 1.4, 1.4 TSI and 1.6-litre versions from launch, and the turbocharged TSI models in particular combine punchy performance with impressive efficiency. Unless you cover a high mileage, a petrol car can often be a better option.
 
Drivers with more of an eye on fun than efficiency also had a range of exciting high-performance Golf models to choose from. The GTI featured a 207bhp 2.0-litre turbo engine, and set a new benchmark in the hot hatch market with its agile handling, sizzling pace and great image. 

VW Golf interior
VW also unleashed an even faster, four-wheel-drive Golf R, with a 266bhp 2.0-litre turbo. Plus, the Golf GTD diesel mixed 168bhp performance with impressive 55mpg fuel consumption.
 
Most models came with a choice of five or six-speed manual gearboxes or the excellent six-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic. The latter is one of the finest transmissions of its kind, delivering seamless shifts and demanding few compromises in terms of performance or running costs. If you’re considering a Golf, test drive a DSG model; you might find you’re hooked. 

Other key options worth looking out for on a second-hand example include the adaptive chassis control system and the clever radar-based cruise control, called Automatic Distance Control, as well as Park Assist, which takes control of the car for parallel parking maneuvers. 
Plenty of room when the seats are folded down
Costs
Prices for the Golf Mk6 on the second-hand market start at around £5,300 for a 1.4 or 1.6 S. If you want a diesel, you can expect to pay £6,000-plus, and the car is likely to have a higher mileage.
 
The array of specs and engine options can be bewildering, so make sure you know what you’re buying. For example, VW offered two versions of the Golf BlueMotion, but only the later model is exempt from road tax. And some of the petrol models aren’t that much more expensive to run than the diesels, so think carefully about how you’ll use the car.

As ever, a comprehensive service history is essential on any potential buy. Maintaining that record can be expensive – VW dealers charge more for servicing than their rivals.
 
New buyers were able to choose between fixed servicing schedules, which meant check-ups every 12 months/10,000 miles, and variable plans that allowed up to twice as many miles between services. Second-hand Golf owners can change this schedule when they get their car serviced at a main dealer.
 
Plus, once your Golf has reached three years old, VW offers a fixed-price servicing scheme to take the sting out of workshop invoices. Alternatively, you can sign up to a pre-paid servicing plan.

eBay recommends the TDI version
Problems
 
No major issues have been reported on the Golf Mk6, although as it gets older it’s perhaps not as reliable as you expect from a VW. It finished a disappointing 89th in the Auto Express Driver Power 2014 satisfaction survey, after coming in the top 20 in the previous four years.
 
Still, the car has only been recalled twice. The first was part of a wider recall of VW models with the six-speed DSG auto, which could operate the clutch inadvertently and cause a loss of drive. A later recall concerned fuel leaks on 2.0-litre diesels. Make sure dealers have done the work to rectify these problems on any potential buy.
 
As with any second-hand car, a full service history is crucial. Diesels may be due for a cambelt change – this is needed after four years or 130,000 miles, and costs around £400 at a dealer. If it’s required soon, use this to haggle on the price.
 
Verdict

There’s no such thing as a bad buy in the Golf Mk6 range – every model serves up a brilliant combination of quality, driver appeal and low running costs. But we’d recommend choosing a TSI or TDI version, and buying a car in SE spec or above, to get the best balance of performance, equipment and value.
 
Whatever you go for, you’ll pay a little more than for an equivalent rival in the family hatchback class. But as soon as you climb behind the wheel you’ll feel the benefit.
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