I bought my 2002 VW GTI 1.8L turbo used with 50,000 mile on it. It is a rocket ship of a car: fast, nimble, quick as a cat. This car is a blast to drive. You can mod the car to make it even faster raising the HP from 180 to 240 with a new ECU chip. But, all this being said, this car is the best/worst car you'll ever drive for this price. It requires dedicated maintenance and $'s to keep it in top shape. You'll grown as you pay the $1500 shop bill every 6 months, but when you rocket out of the parking lot you'll say, "Yeah baby!" The best/worst girlfriend you ever will have! She'll rock your world and drain your wallet at the same time. And you'll just smile.
So, I bought myself an 02 GTI about a year ago with 73,000 miles and it was a one owner car. Interior and exterior of the car was excellent. Sadly, 1 month after buying the car...the glove box door broke. The next month, my car started to make a horrible noise. Took it to my trustworthy mechanic, and he said that the waterpump had gone bad. Along with that I had the waterpump, timing belt, etc..replaced; $1,000. Later on, my heater blower, windshield wipers, and turn signals ALL went out...in the middle of winter. Come to find out after replacing a few things it was the relay switch; $35. Still not finished, after dealing with that. The check engine light came on, needed a NEW TRANSMISSION.
I have owned my Gti from 2002 and I feel for the performance the maintenance and repairs have been reasonable and minimal. First place in Europe the timing belt must be replaced in 6 years or the required mileage (I think 60,000). I read here someone complained they had to replace their belt sooner - time or mileage - the truth is in the details. I had to replace a few batteries, a water pump, and a clutch (I was racing on the autobahn). Water pumps are easily broken in any vehicle, my fault the clutch as I had tuning up in my VW and off I'd go after some European idiot in his underpowered Audi, BMW or Mercedes that came up and sat on my rear bumper. Eat my dust was my motto. A good auto.
I bought my 2002 GTI back in 2006 with 39k miles on it. I decided, despite the car having a MIL light on (check engine light) that it would be worth the purchase because of its factory warranty.. This car has been an absolute nightmare starting within the first 2 weeks of ownership. List of things I have replaced over the years: MAF sensor, clutch (at 40k), 3 (YES THREE) throttle bodies of the course of 6 years, Coolant temp. sensor, hazard switch, ignition switch, two sets of coil packs, large engine cooling fan, upper and lower control arm bushings, struts are bad (at 130k miles..) the list goes on!! Know what you're getting into with this model year! I still have this car though.
I went looking for a used BMW M3 or Audi S4 and was dissappointed by availability around $30-$33k. Walked into VW and saw the newest 200HP VR6 and immediately asked for a test drive. Sadly, only a 1.8L Turbo was available. Within 2 hours, I had signed to buy the next VR6 coming into the lot thinking, "well if the 1.8 hums, imagine how a v6 will perform!" I was not at all dissappointed by my decision especially considering I was ready to buy a used car and walked away with a brand new one.