Used 1997 Volkswagen Golf Hatchback

1997 Volkswagen Golf
List price range
1997 Volkswagen Golf


  • Excellent road manners, roomy interior, fun to drive, availability of upscale features.


  • Some controls difficult to decipher, staid styling, weak four-cylinder engine, can't get ABS on K2 model.

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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, "I couldn't afford a sedan" 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 1997, Volkswagen again offers the four-door Golf hatchback in GL trim. It's powered by the familiar 2.0-liter inline four that manages 115 horsepower and 122 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm, though a redesigned cylinder head results in smoother power delivery. 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. Later in the model year, VW introduces K2, Trek and Jazz versions of the Golf, all of which have four doors and the same powertrain choices.

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 six-CD changer and power moonroof.

The special-interest models -- K2, Trek and Jazz -- come with all the GL's standard equipment, along with a number of extras. The K2 appeals to winter enthusiasts and offers the buyer the choice of skis or a snowboard; a roof rack to carry said gear; heated front seats, windshield washer nozzles and exterior mirrors; special cloth upholstery; silver-faced gauges, the eight-speaker cassette stereo and a flexible roof antenna. The Golf Trek, of course, targets mountain bikers, and it comes with a 21-speed mountain bike and a bike rack for the roof; alloy wheels; sport seats; special cloth and carpeting; a leather-wrapped steering wheel; silver-faced gauges; foglights and a flexible roof antenna. Finally, the Jazz is solely for those who dream of a Golf that comes standard with the sound system, six-CD changer, velour upholstery and alloy wheels. Oddly, these special models are eligible for all of the remaining Golf GL options, except antilock brakes.

Regardless of which trim level you choose, 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.

1997 Highlights

The Golf's 2.0-liter inline four engine is fitted with a redesigned cylinder head, resulting in smoother power delivery. Other changes include the addition of a cargo area light, a new high-mounted brake light and open-door warning reflectors for all doors. Memory Red is a new exterior paint choice. Later in the model year, Volkswagen releases special-interest K2, Trek and Jazz versions of the Golf. The K2 targets winter enthusiasts, and as such comes with the buyer's choice of skis or a snowboard; a roof rack to carry said gear; heated front seats, windshield washer nozzles and exterior mirrors; special cloth upholstery; silver-faced gauges; and an eight-speaker cassette stereo. The Golf Trek targets mountain bikers, and it comes with a 21-speed mountain bike and a bike rack for the roof; alloy wheels; sport seats; special cloth and carpeting; a leather-wrapped steering wheel; silver-faced gauges; and foglights. Finally, the Jazz is solely for those who fancy a Golf with a sound system, six-CD changer, velour upholstery and alloy wheels baked right in. Curiously, none of these special models are eligible for the basic GL model's optional antilock brakes.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1997 Volkswagen Golf.

Overall Consumer Rating

Most helpful consumer reviews

I love my vdub
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.
First Car
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.
Last of the bad designs?
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.
Great car!
The millage on my manual transmission1997 VW Golf GL odometer, reads 181,377...I bought it used from a dealer in 1999 ,it had 36,000 miles. During the years it needed little repair, mainly maintenance such as changing the ignition coil once, the PCV valve and the breather house; the battery and the windshield wipers were replaced under normal maintenance .Oil change every 3000 miles.Now I change it every 4000 miles.It gave me many years of pleasant rides.Last year I charged the AC with cooling agent since I drove for years without AC! Recently I replaced its ignition switch, struts and suspension springs, lower support arm assy's and sway bar links then I installed new door handles and a new Sony 5100BT radio. It did not cost that much.I just cannot part with it ,it brings back too many memories.I drive it to work during the weekdays and will have the engine rebuilt when time comes.It's been a great car for me...
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Features & Specs

21 city / 29 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
115 hp @ 5400 rpm
21 city / 29 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
115 hp @ 5400 rpm
21 city / 29 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
115 hp @ 5400 rpm
21 city / 29 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
115 hp @ 5400 rpm
See all Used 1997 Volkswagen Golf Hatchback features & specs


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

More about the 1997 Volkswagen Golf
Used 1997 Volkswagen Golf Hatchback Overview

The Used 1997 Volkswagen Golf Hatchback is offered in the following styles: Jazz 4dr Hatchback, GL 2dr Hatchback, GL 4dr Hatchback, Trek 4dr Hatchback, and K2 4dr Hatchback.

What's a good price on a Used 1997 Volkswagen Golf Hatchback?

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Can't find a used 1997 Volkswagen Golf Golf Hatchback you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Volkswagen Golf for sale - 9 great deals out of 23 listings starting at $8,587.

Find a used Volkswagen for sale - 9 great deals out of 14 listings starting at $9,799.

Find a used certified pre-owned Volkswagen Golf for sale - 7 great deals out of 24 listings starting at $8,132.

Find a used certified pre-owned Volkswagen for sale - 2 great deals out of 12 listings starting at $11,257.

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Should I lease or buy a 1997 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