This was (and still is) my first car that I got in high school. I got it with 68,000 miles in 07 and have put on about 30,000 since then. Even with only 4 cylinders I have no problems getting up to speed on the highway and passing people. The gas mileage is ok around town but between 50-75 it really rocks. The interior was cheaply made, and there are a lot of cheap plastic pieces, but at 15 years old I'm not surprised that most of it is deteriorating. The biggest problem I had was with an intermittent speedometer, but I plan on running this car into the ground. If you can find one, you will not be disappointed.
All I really need to say is drive the car and then you would just get it. Its performance is great, wonderful and they are only getting better. I have an older one but it still runs like new. Saying that it is fun to drive is an understatement with this car. I find unnecessary trips to take now just so I can drive, even with the gas prices. I might not travel far for work and errands, but this car gets GREAT! It gets great gas mileage! It's only a 2.0L which is part of it, but even so I think that it is wonderful on gas. Its build quality is strong and you can't expect anything less from German engineering. I have always loved VW's and now it is crazy love. I would NEVER trade it for anything else! DRIVER FOUND.
I inherited this car with 31,000 miles on it, in practically mint condition. Aside from precautionary maintenance,new belts,replace brake fluid,etc , the car has performed perfectly. I now have 41,000 miles on it.The car gets about 30-35 mpg, has good acceleration on the highway, and cruises easily at 70 mph. Plenty of space inside.
Replaced headgasket at 96,000KM. One week later (today), IT'S GONE AGAIN!!!! The car is very comfortable, a good thing to know while you are waiting for Klaus to come with the towtruck.... Overdesigned, and very complicated, I think that this design quality is the real reason why Germany lost the war...
Overall, the Golf III is a decent car. The body rigidity has held, so no squeaks or strange noises from the depths of the dash. However, the locks freeze solid VERY EASILY and this causes your key to bend in unnatural ways. Also, they obviously cut corners in numerous places - the battery died after two years (a cell in the battery died - it couldn't be jumped). Also, the spark plugs coked-up 20K miles early - no warning, just died. Dealer "service" consists of numerous checks for $200-$300. To actually fix/replce something costs extra - not at Honda though. For Hondas, that price includes scheduled part replacement. Could be a dealer-specific issue, though.