Overall the 1999 VW golf is a fantastic car. It has the handling of a go-kart, fuel economy like a moped, and acceleration like a puma. The TDI engine is exceptional with its milage and reliability. In burning biodiesel, I expect to reach 300,000 miles without any major issues, if the body lasts that long (salty Maine air, roads).
Phenomenal fuel economy, peppy handling, and it oozes torque. The diesel engine does NOT handle like the diesels we all remember Americans making in the 70's.
The center console is easily replaced with one with cup holders and an armrest, which makes it far more comfortable. The cup holder built into the dash is less than ideal. A sixth gear for highway travel would allow one to drive at 75+ and still break 50 mpg.
This was my first new VW and it has turned out to be one of my best cars. I have had to educate myself about the mechanicals of the vehicle because the dealer network is useless but this has made the ownership experience quite fun. I don't mind getting my hands dirty and the aftermarket segment supports these vehicles beautifully.
My favorite feature is the engine. This little diesel engine is peppy, frugal, and even smells good in a diesel sort of way. Afterall, TDI does stand for "Tiny Diesel Inside".
The interior materials need to be improved. The coating does not remain on the plastic as it should. The seats will not lean forward with the headrests adjusted. Just poorly thought out. The timing belt design needs to be improved also. It's incredibly difficult to replace.