I didn’t really want to write anything anytime soon about the VW Golf IV, but here I am. VW Golf IV, the one car responsible for the diesel craze and the VW craze in Europe. This is going to be good.
Why do I hate the VW Golf IV more than I hate low intelligence shows where the host dies of laughter if the guest so much as breathes but then gets resurrected by two slightly-dressed lady assistants?
Simple, this car managed to brain-wash most of Europe. Here, at the VW Golf Mk IV starts the german myth and the diesel myth. Yea, you could argue that the Passat B5.5 also had a say in this ordeal but it wasn’t as popular nor as cheap as the Golf. Swayed by the low fuel consumption and decent reliability, most people rushed in order to buy whatever had a VW badge on it. In fact, most slavs knew how to say “ 1.9 TDI “ before they could say “ Mama “ or “ Kvass “. No matter what kind of internet forum you got to and ask for car advice, the answer will always be “ 1.9 TDI “. Need a reliable 18-wheeler? 1.9 TDI. Best engine for Audi A8? 1.9 TDI. Did humanity really land on the moon? 1.9 TDI.
But let’s get back to the actual car. Launched in 1997 at about the same time as Dolly the Sheep and Hong Kong, VW Golf IV was already an Nokia 3310 in a BlackBerry world. Launched using old but reliable technology, the only selling point of the VW Golf Mk IV was the simplicity. Not much went wrong with this car, because there wasn’t much to go wrong in the first place. This car hails from the old-school, non-premium VW era. Simple and sturdy cars that go on forever and keep a low fuel consumption even at mileages that would make Audrey Bitoni envious.
Not giving too much of a thought to the car was an on-going theme over there in Wolfsburg in the early 2000’s. VW Golf Mk IV could’ve had any option under any engine. The words “trim level” were more of a gimmick rather than something serious. You could’ve had an basic 1.4 petrol engine with electrically-adjustable nappa leather seats, and you could’ve bought an 1.9 TDI 131 bhp (that was pretty much king of the hill) with less equipment than Natalie Portman. Which makes used buys interesting, you’ll never know what you get in a VW Golf IV.
VW Golf IV engines
- 1.4 MPI of 75 bhp – This engine belongs more in a Polo rather an Golf. Still, some people opted for this basic, entry-level city dweller that is everything but athletic. Ocasionally it eats water pumps and timing belts so make sure you check that maintainance interval. It’s still much too scrawny for the VW Golf Mk IV.
- 1.6 MPI of 101, 102, 105 bhp – The classic 1.6 SR from the VW Golf IV. An crude engine, with an demonstrated reliability, an appetite for oil, ignition coils and it suffers from the Disco fever, as it can’t stand still at stable rpm at idle. You’d think that this list makes it quite the expensive engine, and you’d be wrong. Everything here costs less than a bottle of Kvass.
- 1.8 MPI of 125 bhp – Too big for the 1.6, too scared of the 1.8T, too poor for the 2.0. There aren’t many complaints about this engine, chiefly because nobody bothered to buy it in the first place.
- 1.8 Turbo of 150 bhp – Genesis. The legendary 1.8T launched here, on the VW Golf IV and on Skoda Octavia I. Like Sir Patrick Stewart, this engine is still going strong today. Just remember that this engine eats ignition coil and engine oil like it’s no tomorrow, but hey, atleast you got one of the sportiest engines on the VW Golf Mk 4.
- 2.0 MPI of 116 bhp – The famous 2.slow from VW, this rolling monument of reliability is as rare as it is as good. Sure, you won’t get anywhere fast with this engine, but atleast you’ll never get to the repair shop for anything more than a spark plug and an oil change.
- 2.3 V5 of 170 bhp – The argument of “ 1.8T vs 2.3 V5 “ is still as heated today as it was 20 years ago. Still, the 2.3 V5 is much rarer, much thirstier and heavier on taxes than the 1.8 Turbo, but not that much faster. So why would you buy this “too good for 4 cylinders too poor for 6 cylinders”? That noise really is something else. By the way, good luck finding an mechanic for this engine.
- 2.8 Vr6 of 174 and 204 bhp – I honestly doubt that people will buy this engine on the VW Golf IV, save for the real enthusiasts who don’t need this article anyway.
- 3.2 V6 of 241 bhp – Sent straight away under the bonnet of the Golf R32, this fantastic engine requires it’s own article.
- 1.9 SDI of 68 bhp – The classic 1.9 TDI, albeit without a turbo. About as fast in a straight linie as John Goodman, this engine is dowright indestructible. It runs on used KFC oil, medical alcohol and whatever you can find in your shed. Legend has it that the blueprints for this engine were designed by Gutenberg, who was working on it part-time.
- 1.9 TDI of 90, 105, 116, 131 and 150 bhp – The 90 bhp version “ALH” is a rolling meme as it is reliable and economical. This engine single-handedly started the diesel craze in Europe and put VW on the map where it is today. The 105 and 116 bhp versions have issues with the ECU and the turbo and the 131 bhp “ASZ” version saw intense service under the bonnet of Audi A4 B6 under the “AWX” code. But still, having an 131 bhp 1.9 TDI under the bonnet of a VW Golf IV is like having Moet Chandon champagne in a can of Budweiser. There are some myths lurking on the internet that the 150 bhp “ARL” was mounted also in the VW Golf IV, but good luck finding one of those. Also, all 1.9 TDI engines suffer from worn engine mounts at old age.
General issues VW Golf IV
- The age and the mileage is the greatest issue with the VW Golf Mk IV. It was bought just by about everyone and most of the cars now on sale have astronomical mileage. Yea, sure, some diesels go above and beyond 700.000kms, but nobody except Keanu Reeves can avoid the passing of time.
- Like any VW of old school, the interior trims start to fall off or they just rattle everywhere. But then again, if you’re in for the market for an VW Golf IV in 2019, your quality and refinement standards should be as high as your expectations from an 1000 euros car.
- Rear brake cylinders tend to fall off or spontaneously leak brake fluid. Not an issue in the 1.9 SDI since you won’t ever have enough speed in order to actually need to brake, but on more powerful engines you may consider replacing them.
- The steering column is another component that tends to fall off once the Golf has gone past it’s first 2 million kms. But what’s the worst that can happen? The steering wheel will come off.
- Yep, no 2000’s VW with working doorlocks, and the VW Golf IV is no exception. They frequently identify as French and tend to go on strike every 2 key turnings.
- The automatic gearboxes are one brown mark on the history of 2000’s VW. I’d rather avoid them completely and so should you.
Verdict VW Golf IV
An old-school car built on old-school principles for old-school people. Built from the same materials as the Vidraru dam, this car hopes to last as much as it. But nobody can win the test of time and most of the cars already have billions of kms on each wheel. Sure, they’re honest, bare-bones, functional cars and they will last a life-time if properly cared for, but even an VW Golf IV is not eternal.
Why am I not a fan of VW Golf IV?
It’s not as much about the fact that the guy who designed this only had a pen and a ruler. No, it’s about the fact that this car brainwashed so many people that the second-hand prices in 2019 beg belief. It’s still bought as intensely as sliced bread, WD40 and calendars with Salma Hayek and it’s overpriced as such. You can’t expect over 2000 euros on cars from 1998, with optional seats and windows.
What engine would I recommend? Definatelly, the 131 bhp 1.9 TDI ASZ engine. It’s fast, it’s reliable, it’s one of the all-time greatest hits in the internal combustion world. As for the urban crawlers among us, the 1.6 MPI 105 bhp engine is all the engine you’ll ever need.