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.
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.
Bought this from a friend last year and has been a surprising delight to own. I have both an older BMW 7 series and Porsche 944. I enjoy driving this day to day so much that the other cars pretty much stay parked. It's tight, nimble and can cruise for hours at 85 mph while sipping between 30-32 mpg. I'm six foot three and have no problem fitting in even with the moon roof! It is almost 11 years old and after having it detailed, look like brand new.
This is a sweet car to drive. Of course it has aftermarket exhaust and a new stereo system and non-stock wheels, but it's very fun to drive. Gas mileage has averaged around 31 mpg. You won't be disappointed if you're looking for a cheap, easy-to-upgrade, fun-to-drive car.