So far, so good with my '03 1.8T manual wagon. I have had other VWs and wanted a small but sporty wagon and I picked this one up certified pre-owned in September 2006 with 34k miles on it. I have had to replace wear and tear items (brakes, etc.) but I have get to have a mechanical problem with it. Sure, it has quirks (sunroof sometimes opens by itself; cupholders are useless but I don't use them anyway; sometimes te rear hatch doesn't like to open). To me, these are minor annoyances that don't impact my love of the car. I plan to run it into the ground since there aren't any fun, small wagons on the market I like (new Jetta too large). So far, so good at 82k miles.
Engine (1.8T)! Good pick-up; I can pass in 5th gear without downshifting; Good clutch and shifter; size of the car; cargo area in the hatch
I bought my car new in 2003. I have had no problems out of it thus far. I love the get up and go of the turbo. Even though it is turbo, the gas mileage does not suffer. I get at least 30 mpg. It is fun to drive and economical. It is also the third VW that I have owned. It is probably all that I will ever own.