Used 2002 Volkswagen Golf Review
Looking for a cheap, functional, fun-to-drive car? The Golf offers all three, though the departure of the four-door turbo takes away some of the fun.
We've always liked the Golf, a fun-to-drive, chunky-but-spunky hatchback that has been a bestseller in Europe for more than two decades. Here in the States, the fourth-generation Golf does battle against a range of compacts, many of them with less sporting credentials.
Both the Golf GL and GLS are powered by a standard 2.0-liter SOHC four-cylinder powerplant producing 115 horsepower. An optional powertrain on the Golf is the Turbo Direct Injection (TDI) diesel engine making 90 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque, with an EPA rating of 49 miles per gallon during highway driving and 42 mpg in the city. Of these two engines, the TDI provides the most get-up-and-go, but neither compares to the turbocharged 1.8-liter four that VW offered on four-door Golfs in 2000 and 2001 (turbo fans now must buy a two-door GTI). All Golfs are available with a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic.
The hatchback rides on front MacPherson struts and a rear independent torsion-beam axle. Separate shock and coil-spring mounts reduce intrusion into the luggage compartment and cut road noise.
Standard features on the Golf GL include an anti-theft alarm system, air conditioning, power locks, split folding rear seats with three headrests and three-point safety belts, and a tilting and telescoping steering wheel.
The Golf GLS adds a folding front-center armrest, one-touch up and down power windows, power heated mirrors, cruise control and velour fabric seats. Options on the GLS include a four-speed automatic transmission, a Monsoon sound system, alloy wheels, a power glass sunroof, heated front seats and heated windshield washer nozzles.
The Golf offers a multitude of safety features that we don't usually see in cars at this price point. Automatic locking retractors (ALR) and emergency locking retractors (ELR) are provided for the seatbelts. Child seat tether anchorage points are also included. Moreover, side airbags and head protection curtain airbags come standard. It all comes in an attractively packaged interior boasting high-quality materials, as well as the best rear headroom and storage capacity of cars in this class.
All new Volkswagen vehicles come with an improved 4-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, up from 2 years/24,000 miles. In addition, Volkswagen offers a fully transferable limited powertrain warranty that covers 5 years or 60,000 miles. Four-year/50,000-mile 24-hour roadside assistance is also provided.
With top-notch warranty coverage, high-quality materials and construction, a roomy and functional interior, and traditionally Germanic handling, the Golf makes a compelling case for purchase by cash-strapped consumers looking for an inexpensive set of wheels that doesn't feel cheap.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.