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Golf GTi 1.8T
Sep 2002-Oct 2005

I spent months deliberating over my 2nd company car, back in early 2002. It needed to be quicker than the Astra, but still equipped with all the toys (which I defined as cruise control, aircon, multi CD, sunroof, traction control) and different from the car most of my mates drove along with half the office. In other words, NOT a Golf GTi 1.8T. The short list I chose from was Audi A3 1.8T, BMW 318 Compact and the Bora 1.8T. Somewhere in the process it all went wrong. The Golf was more practical, cheaper and looked better than the Bora, the only reason I wasn't choosing it was purely to be different. The Golf won. Even specced with £3k of options it was still cheaper than the other cars with a reasonable spec. In an attempt to make my Golf visible in the sea of black, silver and dark blue GTis in the office car park I chose berry red paint, hence the car was referred to as the Tart Red Golf or TRG. To disguise their admiration for making a common car look different most of my friends accused me of driving a pink car! The 17" Santa Monica alloys also helped the car stand out, even though they worked out as a quid a day extra on the lease. Of course they're also far easier to clean than the standard multi spoke jobs.

Throwing options at the Golf actually meant that I got the car. Around this time there had been a number of redundancies at my company and even those that were staying had their car orders binned to save cash. My order would have been cancelled, but VW and the lease company charged the value of the options on top of the normal cancellation fee so it stayed!

I enjoyed driving the Golf. The chassis never felt as safe as the Astra's, the whole car felt more reliant on electronics (partly though my choice) and the brakes just weren't in the same league. However the extra power and subtle whistling of the turbo made the car more fun to drive. For a time it also felt quick - this all changed dramatically when I first drove my 7 at which point the Golf instantly dropped from it's all rounder position to the car that I commuted in rather than drove just for the sake of it. I think this is likely to be true of most cars from now on...

For the first two years my Golf was far more reliable than the rest of my friends' Golfs. As they moved on to other VAG group cars (hmmm) my car started misbehaving. The common coil pack fault took it off the road for a week, the fuel warning light would sometimes give half a mile of warning before the last few ml of unleaded passed from the tank and a botch adjustment of the gear linkage resulted in a new clutch and gearbox. In the remaining weeks before it was due to be returned the cruise control went intermittent and a heated seat failed causing me to open a Golf Failure Sweepstake amongst friends, family and colleagues.