Don't delude yourself into thinking that you are getting "German engineering" on a budget because a lot of corners were cut to make a car this cheap. The engineering design thought is there, but it's betrayed by utilizing plastics instead of metals, and Brazilian assembly. This is most evident in the elegant, but squeaky interior. For the price, this car serves a very good purpose: a small yet spacious, relatively comfortable, nimble, easy-to-park city commuter that needs minimal maintenance considering it's German origins. The 2.0L non-turbo engine is reliable for a VW, easy on gas and acceptably quick in the city when combined with the equally reliable 5 speed manual transmission. I got this car in 2013 with ~80,000 miles on it, and have since put on another 35,000. Maintenance-wise, I have done the predictable, reasonable maintenance that has included oil changes (Rotalla T6) every 5,000 miles, timing belt, battery, engine mount, strut mounts, sway bar bushings. There has also been a small amount of unexpected maintenance, that is a result of design faults: original water pump with plastic impellers upgraded to metal impeller model ($70), coil pack cracked leading to misfires in wet weather ($120), low pressure power steering line cut by the nearby radiator fan ($15), thermostat failed ($30), center muffler rusted ($180). Future repairs include: grinding starter in cold weather, abnormal wear on rear disc brakes. Apart from the power steering line that almost left us stranded in middle-of-nowhere, Maine, the other repairs were not very urgent and not overly expensive.
I bought this car at auction in 2009 with 130000 miles on.I paid 2500 dollars (for ,then,6 years old ) Never had any problems with it ,super reliable. Now it has 235000 miles and it still drives good. I used synthetic oil. The fuel pump had to be replaced last year. Other than that only regular maintenance expenses (tires, brakes etc) still has the original clutch .Amazing
When I first bought my Golf it had 70k miles on it and I had every intention of driving it until 300k. Unfortunately at 148k that doesn't seem likely. For the first year i had it it went relatively alright, nothing too big. After that, it was all down hill. Almost all the knobs for the audio adjustments have broken off, the paint on the buttons and controls have all worn off, the ceiling lining it peeling off, the cloth padding on the doors is falling off, the hydraulic hood strut in the back has failed, not to mention the key fob wont unlock the trunk anymore, and that's just to name a few things. So far I've replaced the radiator, had several misfires, replaced 2 of the window clips (which have a history with failing resulting in your window falling off the track), the side mirror cover has fallen off on the highway twice, and not to mention it consumes oil like my gramps consumes whiskey. All in all, I've spent close to what I paid for it maintaining it, and that's only 80k miles in. Currently looking to sell it and get something more reliable.
I've had my 2003 Golf GLS for 3 years now. I bought it used with 10,200 miles on it. I've put 65,000 miles on it.
I like how competent it feels no matter the conditions. It's heavy enough to feel safe on the freeway and light enough to get great mileage.
I'm a paint contractor and I haul all my gear in it daily. It holds my Little Giant ladder with just the passenger front seat put down. I've even put 2'x8' wood planks in it and was able to shut the hatch. I call it my "clown car". When we go camping it holds all of our gear with ease...camp kitchen, coolers, coleman stove, sterilite tub, etc. My wife's 2010 Honda Insight can hold about half as much...really!
I've got 221,000 miles on my TDI and it's running like it's got a quarter of the mileage on it. It's a great commuter and the gas mileage is what sells the car. It is a little under powered but for 45 mpg's the sacrifice is well worth it. The looks are good but not everyones cup of tea (I've upgraded a few things here and there and it is quite the little head turner). The interior is much nicer than most American or Japanese cars but it is pretty basic for a German car. The build quality is typical German excellence, rock solid. The drive is nice, great for the highway but not the most fun car to take on twisty roads. My advice, upgrade a few things and this car will be golden forever.