Used 1997 Volkswagen GTI

1997 Volkswagen GTI
List price range
1997 Volkswagen GTI


  • Excellent road manners, roomy interior, fun to drive, speedy VR6.


  • Some controls and symbols difficult to decipher, staid styling, underpowered four-cylinder engine.

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Edmunds' Expert Review

vehicle overview

The GTI is a descendant of the wonder car that started the pocket rocket trend almost two decades ago -- the Volkswagen Rabbit GTI. The first GTIs were fun to drive and inexpensive to buy, but unfortunately, costly to maintain and repair. Nevertheless, this sporty hatchback earned a loyal niche of fans, who claimed that once you found a good VW mechanic, you could reap the benefits of an exclusive club. To date, we haven't heard many horror stories about maintenance costs involving the GTI, the performance version of the third-generation VW Golf, and the overall staff consensus is that this would be a rewarding car to own and drive.

Volkswagen sells the GTI in two trim levels -- base and VR6. The base hatchback is powered by the familiar 2.0-liter inline four that manages 115 horsepower and 122 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm. A five-speed manual is standard, and a four-speed automatic is optional. Fuel economy isn't great for a lightly powered hatchback -- the GTI is rated at 23 mpg city/30 mpg highway with a manual and 22/28 with an automatic.

The GTI VR6 is powered by its namesake 172-horsepower 2.8-liter VR6, a compact, narrow-angle V6 that Volkswagen's engineers created for smaller engine bays. Power delivery from the VR6 is smooth with a flat powerband. A five-speed manual gearbox is mandatory with the VR6; fuel economy is rated at 19/26.

Standard features in the four-cylinder GTI include four-wheel antilock disc brakes, dual front airbags, air conditioning, an eight-speaker cassette stereo, sport seats with height-adjustment for the driver, height adjustable seatbelts in the front, ALR/ELR seatbelts for more secure child seat installation, power locks, an alarm system, power moonroof, 14-inch alloy wheels, foglights and a rear window wiper and defroster. The options list includes the aforementioned automatic transmission as well as a CD changer.

Step up to the GTI VR6, and you'll get traction control, a sport-tuned suspension (with a beefier front stabilizer bar and gas shock absorbers in the rear), 15-inch alloys with P205/50R15 tires, cruise control, a trip computer, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and power windows and mirrors. The CD changer is also optional on the VR6 model, as are leather seating surfaces.

Late in the 1997 model year, a few lucky buyers will be able to get their hands on a more deluxe version of the GTI VR6, as Volkswagen offers a limited production run of the Driver's Edition. These special GTIs include all the standard equipment on the regular VR6, along with a special set of seven-spoke alloy wheels; an even lower, stiffer suspension with progressive anti-sway bars; red brake calipers; chrome-tipped exhaust pipes; special cloth upholstery and floor mats; silver-faced gauges; a round aluminum/rubber shift knob; red stitching on the leather-wraps for the steering wheel, hand brake and shift boot and deluxe door sill covers embossed with the "GTI" name.

Endowed with communicative suspension and steering setups and strong brakes, the GTI holds its own when two-lane roads turn twisty, especially in VR6 form. But as most enthusiasts know, the GTI is softer than other sport coupes and hatchbacks on the market. While this may not please those who demand all-out performance, anyone who needs a comfortable daily driver will appreciate the GTI's more subdued demeanor. Additionally, the benefits of driving a hatchback are immediately apparent when it's time to load groceries or luggage: with the rear seats in use, the GTI provides 17 cubic feet of cargo space, and you can fold down the 60/40 rear seat for a total capacity of 41 cubic feet.

Though solidly constructed, the GTI doesn't have quite the reliability record of competitors like the Acura Integra, Honda Prelude and Toyota Celica, so Volkswagen is offering a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty to ease concerns. Besides that, the GTI offers a lot of standard content compared to the competition -- next to BMW's 318ti hatchback, the GTI VR6 is a bargain. So in your search for an entertaining yet practical car, you should definitely put the GTI on your test drive list.

1997 Highlights

For 1997, the GTI VR6 gets new alloy wheels and a revised suspension that has been lowered by 10mm and includes stiffer shock absorbers, springs and stabilizer bars. Meanwhile, the 115-horsepower inline four that powers the base GTI is fitted with a new cylinder head for smoother power delivery. A cargo area light is now standard in the base model, and both models get a new high-mounted center brake light and open-door warning reflectors for all doors. Late in the 1997 model year, Volkswagen offers a limited run of the GTI VR6 Driver's Edition, which comes with a special set of seven-spoke alloys; an even lower, stiffer suspension with progressive antiroll bars; red brake calipers; chrome-tipped exhaust pipes; special cloth upholstery and floor mats; silver-faced gauges; a round aluminum/rubber shift knob; red stitching on the leather-wraps for the steering wheel, hand brake and shift boot and deluxe door sill covers embossed with the "GTI" name.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1997 Volkswagen GTI.

Overall Consumer Rating

Most helpful consumer reviews

Buy It Unless You Are Broke
All I am going to say is 170,000 miles of FUN! That is right, 170,000 miles and all it took was regular maintenance. If you buy it you will need to put money in it (don't buy it if you are broke). Maintenance is pricey, but you can do most of it yourself. BTW, this is one of four VWs I have had.
Fun to drive
I've owned this car from 19K miles to 240K. Overall this car is extremely fun to drive and handles exceptionally. The drive train is solid and at 240K miles my car still doesn't show any signs of weakness or burn any oil. I still haven't needed to replace the clutch or do any transmission work either. The dash and controls are built well and aren't cheap and plasticy like many cars that came out during that time. However, there has been a TON of stuff that needs constant attention outside the main drive train which seemed like it was built so cheaply it was designed to fail.
5 Years of Fun
5 Years of fun so far. Nothing to report bad but the body has begun to start making creaking sounds. Thier is 55,000 on the OD and it is time for the timing Belt replacement, Tires and Hoses. I have heard that power steering may become problem in future?
don't get this car!it happens everywhere
We bought this car brand new in Bangkok Thailand and after 30000km just when the car is out of warranty, it start to fall apart. We never drive it hard because of the traffic and then the transmission fail (140,000bath to fixed which is about $3,200), and then the abs fail every month, electrical gone nut.....we have to service it every months!!!
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Features & Specs

17 city / 23 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
172 hp @ 5800 rpm
17 city / 23 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
172 hp @ 5800 rpm
21 city / 29 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
115 hp @ 5400 rpm
See all Used 1997 Volkswagen GTI features & specs


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 GTI
Used 1997 Volkswagen GTI Overview

The Used 1997 Volkswagen GTI is offered in the following submodels: GTI Hatchback. Available styles include VR6 2dr Hatchback, VR6 Driver's Edition 2dr Hatchback, and 2dr Hatchback.

What's a good price on a Used 1997 Volkswagen GTI?

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Which used 1997 Volkswagen GTIS are available in my area?

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

Find a used Volkswagen GTI for sale - 12 great deals out of 22 listings starting at $17,028.

Find a used Volkswagen for sale - 7 great deals out of 11 listings starting at $8,084.

Find a used certified pre-owned Volkswagen GTI for sale - 9 great deals out of 21 listings starting at $10,932.

Find a used certified pre-owned Volkswagen for sale - 12 great deals out of 21 listings starting at $17,653.

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Should I lease or buy a 1997 Volkswagen GTI?

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 GTI lease specials