Used 1996 Volkswagen Golf Hatchback

Style:
1996 Volkswagen Golf
List price range
1996 Volkswagen Golf

Pros

  • Excellent road manners, roomy interior, fun to drive.

Cons

  • Some controls and symbols difficult to decipher, staid styling, underpowered four-cylinder engine, short standard features list.

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Edmunds' Expert Review

vehicle overview

The Golf is the descendant of the wondercar that started the econobox trend in the U.S. In 1975, Volkswagen introduced the Rabbit to Americans (elsewhere, this car was known as the Golf). Stubby and blocky in style, the Rabbit was inexpensive, fun to drive, and sipped fuel. Unfortunately, it also broke down, rusted quickly, and cost more than most were willing to pay to maintain. A switch to production in the United States doomed the Rabbit, and VW finally replaced it with an all-new hatchback -- this time bearing the Golf name -- in 1985.

The Golf was similarly stubby and blocky in style, inexpensive, fun to drive and sipped fuel. It too broke, rusted and cost extra to maintain. VW aficionados swore by them, though, claiming that once you found a mechanic who could fix one properly, VW ownership was like a cool club that only the automotively astute wanted to join.

Great for aficionados, but Volkswagen needed a broader customer base to keep afloat in the States. The third-generation Golf is stubby and blocky in style. It is fun to drive. It sips fuel, though not as frugally as it should. It is affordable. It is also supposed to dispel reliability fears by offering a 10 year/100,000 mile warranty on the powertrain, which VW advertises heavily. Since its arrival in 1993, we haven't heard any horror stories about maintenance costs, breakdowns or rust, so maybe this Golf will do the trick for Volkswagen.

Then again, VW must contend with a U.S. market that historically, at least, has dismissed hatchbacks as bargain-basement vehicles. However, Volkswagen sales have been on the upswing since the car was introduced, and VW management is beginning to pay closer attention to the desires of American consumers.

For 1996, VW splits its hatchback ranks into distinct Golf and GTI lineups; last year's two-door Golf Sport and GTI VR6 go to the performance-oriented GTI side, while the four-door GL hatchback remains on the practical Golf side. The Golf GL is powered by the familiar 2.0-liter inline four that manages 115 horsepower and 122 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm. A five-speed manual is standard, and a four-speed automatic is optional. Fuel economy isn't great for an economy car -- the Golf is rated at 23 mpg city/30 mpg highway with a manual and 22/28 with an automatic.

In mid-1995, Volkswagen promised that Golf buyers would have another engine choice for 1996 -- a 1.9-liter Turbo Direct Injection (TDI) diesel four-cylinder capable of delivering nearly 50 mpg on the highway, along with considerably more low-end power. However, this engine option was delayed, and TDI models weren't readily available to U.S. buyers until the Golf was redesigned midway through the 1999 model year.

Standard features in the Golf GL include dual front airbags, power locks, an alarm system, height adjustable seatbelts, 14-inch wheels, a 60/40-split folding rear seat (yielding 41 cubic feet of cargo space) and a rear window wiper and defroster. New this year are a glovebox, retractor locking seatbelts (so you can get your kids' car seats snugged down more securely) and a central locking switch. Features that most people are sure to want, like air conditioning, a stereo with a cassette player (and eight speakers) and antilock brakes, are all on the options list, along with luxuries like a CD changer and power moonroof.

Our experience has shown that the Golf would be a rewarding car to own and drive. Though not particularly speedy, it keeps up in traffic with no problem and feels stable at highway speeds. Unlike most economy cars, the Golf's suspension and steering communicate with the driver, and even in the guise of a four-door hatchback with seating for five and 17 cubic feet of luggage capacity (with the rear seats in use), it could actually be called fun to drive. Certainly, the Golf lacks the stellar reliability record of competitors like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, but for those seeking a bit more individuality and fun in an economy car, it might be worth the risk.

1996 Highlights

Last year's two-door Golf Sport and GTI VR6 models become a separate nameplate called simply the GTI. Meanwhile, Volkswagen trims down the remaining Golf lineup, leaving only the four-door GL hatchback for 1996. Upgrades include a smoother shifting automatic transmission, new cloth upholstery, the addition of a glovebox, retractor locking seatbelts (for more secure child-seat installation), easier-to-use height adjustment for the front belts, a central locking switch on the dash and a warning tone to remind you that you've left the headlights on. Additionally, VW removes the Roman numeral "III" designation from the Golf's exterior badging and adds Catalina Blue as an exterior color.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1996 Volkswagen Golf.

Overall Consumer Rating
4.09 reviews
5(33%)
4(45%)
3(11%)
2(11%)
1(0%)

Most helpful consumer reviews

96 Golf
Ryelland,06/23/2009
I purchased her online through E-Bay. The selling price was $3500, which at the time, was about $800 under book value. I flew out to Logan Intnl, picked her up and drove her back to Michigan all in a 26 hour period. Even with the flight, I was under book price, and she managed 39 mpg on the trip across New York state, and Canada. I have had 5 years of trouble free ownership, this past year she had some electrical difficulties, but I will get that repaired. The 2 liter, four door, manual transmission was what I wanted and needed for a 3 person family car. I have driven her to New Jersey once, and the UP of Michigan about 5 times. She waxes my wifes Taurus on the road, and is comfortable.
No Complaints; Love it
Robert,10/14/2005
I bought this baby new in '96, have 105,000 miles on it. No major, unexpected repairs, except mufflers (3 times); and the usual tune-ups, tires. The paint still looks great, I waxed yearly for first few years. It's built solidly, the interior is spartan but very functional (ingenious use of texturized plastics). It has never had a squeak or rattle, and still looks great in and out. I'll drive it until it dies, which might be a long time - as I see other reviews with much more than 100,000 miles. This is an uncomplicated, reliable - (Knock on Wood) - fun to drive, solid car, and I love it.
VW Golf
Wes,06/09/2006
I bought this car earlier this year, and I drive it extremely hard. I've had no problems with it as far as repairs and such, which for me is unusual. The car has a decent top speed, although the acceleration is really bad. Its handling is pretty good for FWD. It's good on gas, looks good, is very sturdy, and is a well made automobile for sure.
Buy Me
Stevo,07/23/2002
I love my car. It's small enough to go anywhere, has enough oomph to drive under any condition, and is a comfortable ride. The only think I could recommend is that if you do buy one of these bad boys, is change the air-filter for an aftermarket one. It will give you a big boost in performance.
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Features & Specs

MPG
20 city / 28 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
115 hp @ 5400 rpm
MPG
34 city / 44 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Diesel
90 hp @ 3750 rpm
See all Used 1996 Volkswagen Golf Hatchback features & specs

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver3 / 5
    Passenger3 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Marginal

More about the 1996 Volkswagen Golf
Used 1996 Volkswagen Golf Hatchback Overview

The Used 1996 Volkswagen Golf Hatchback is offered in the following styles: GL 4dr Hatchback, and TDi 4dr Hatchback.

What's a good price on a Used 1996 Volkswagen Golf Hatchback?

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Used 1996 Volkswagen Golf Hatchback Listings and Inventory

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Can't find a used 1996 Volkswagen Golf Golf Hatchback you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

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Should I lease or buy a 1996 Volkswagen Golf?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Volkswagen lease specials
Check out Volkswagen Golf lease specials