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Buying Advice: Volkswagen Golf Mk VII

The hatchback benchmark.

The Volkswagen Golf Mk VII makes for a brilliant pre-owned buy right now. Golf, which enters its eighth generation later in 2020, continues to add awards and accolades to the rich history that started way back in 1974.

From the plucky first generation that turned the automotive world on its head and gave the driving enthusiasts much to praise with the GTI in 1976, the Golf has captured the imaginations and hearts of millions.

Looking at the Mk I and the present Mk VII are evidence the general size, construction, safety and performance of these two generations are as far apart as the North and South Poles, yet the German engineers have somehow retained the appeal of this hatchback’s classless and timeless style and charm. With a vehicle to suit every budget and driver type, from the commuter, to soccer mom to driving enthusiast, it comes as no surprise that the Golf is one of the most popular on the used car market too.

The forthcoming introduction of the Mk VIII means potential Golf Mk VII buyers will be in for a treat as these prices will take a knock. Once the new generation model lands, as with all new model introductions, expect the delightful “D” word to surface: depreciation is your friend when you’re a shopping and an enemy when you’re a seller.

South Africa is undoubtedly a car-loving nation: this is most clearly highlighted by the fact that 50 percent of all Golfs sold locally are the GTI… And the Mk VII offered the best GTI in its history.

Building on and substantially improving upon the Golf recipe, from its launch in 2013 through to today, the Mk VII has proven to be one of the most multi-talented vehicles on the market today – across all budgets.

With a number of petrol and diesel engines, automatic or manual transmissions, and spread over three trim lines, excluding the GTI and its spin-off limited edition iterations, the Mk VII is needs a deep dive to get to grips before you spend your hard-earned money on one.

The Mk VII was introduced locally in 2013 and underwent a nip/tuck in 2016, dubbed the ‘7.5.’ The pre-facelift model can be broken down and understood in this way:

Pre-Facelift (2013 to 2016)

Trim Lines:

Trendline
Comfortline
Highline

Sub-Model Lines:

GTI
Clubsport
Clubsport S
R

Transmissions:

6-Speed Manual
7-Speed DSG (Automatic)

Engines:

1.2 TSI (77kW) available only in Trendline specification
1.4 TSI (90kW) available in Trendline and Comfortline specifications
2.0 TDI (81kW) available in Comfortline specification
1.4 TSI (103kW) available in Highline specification
2.0 TDI (110kW) available in Highline specification
2.0 TSI available in GTI (154kW std/162kW Performance Pack); Clubsport (195kW); Clubsport S (228kW) and, R (206kW)

Facelift (2016 to 2020)

Trim Lines

Conceptline
Trendline
Comfortline
Highline

Sub-Model Lines

GTD
GTI
TCR
R

Engines:

1.0 TSI (81 kW) available in Conceptline, Trendline and Comfortline specifications
1.4 TSI (90kW) available in Trendline and Comfortline specifications
2.0 TDI (81kW) available in Comfortline specification
1.4 TSI (103kW) available in Highline specification
2.0 TDI (110kW) available in Highline specification
2.0 TDI (130kW) available only with GTD sub-model
2.0 TSI available in GTI (162kW); TCR (213kW); and, R (228kW)

What to expect in a Golf Mk VII

Each model was generously specced with standard equipment. Across the model range, standard equipment included electrically-operated windows; power steering; aircon; touchscreen media interface with a CD player and AUX input; daytime driving lights; multifunction steering wheel controls; a cloth upholstery; alloy wheels; remote central locking; a long list of safety systems including 7 airbags; electronic parking brake. It also features a useful 380-litre luggage space.

Climbing up the ladder of comfort and luxury from Trendline to Comfortline, added features include cruise control; automatic rain-sensing windscreen wipers and headlights; foglights; audio with Bluetooth, CD player, USB and AUX inputs; and, 17″ alloy wheels.

The Highline models further added leather upholstery with heated front seats; Xenon headlights with adaptive and corner lighting function; climate control; LED daytime driving lights; High Beam Assist; LED foglights; and, PDC front and rear sensors with a reverse camera.

For the GTI and R models, the added features included keyless access; LED and adaptive headlights; and, 19″ alloy wheels.

Of course this being a German product, a host of optional extras were available to choose from: digital instrument cluster; Voice Command; reverse camera; keyless access and start; panoramic sunroof; LED foglights; LED headlights; cruise control; Bluetooth connectivity; SatNav; uprated Dynaudio sound system; Performance Pack (for pre-facelift GTI models); adaptive cruise control; Park Assist; reverse camera; and, Advanced Phone Connection.

Any problems I need to be aware of?

The awesome DSG gearbox is known for its vrr-pah exhaust note that bangs on upshifts and barks on downshifts, but on pre-owned examples you’ll need to drive it very carefully and listen for any hiccups. When working perfectly, gear shifts are butter smooth: no delays or hesitations. The clutches in the gearbox don’t slip – unless they’re beginning to wear. If the one you’re driving lags or slips between shits (noticeable with an increase in engine RPM), it is advised to either walk away from the vehicle or to discuss the repair and servicing of the gearbox with the selling party. These can be easily remedied – but comes at a cost.

The quickest way to assess the gearbox’s condition is to investigate the service history. These gearboxes require servicing every 90,000km. If this has been missed, the gearbox’s mechatronics will develop reliability and performance faults. Once more, this can be repaired at a great cost.

For the faster models, it is critical to check the oil consumption. GTIs were known to burn extra oil and topping up this important fluid is essential to maintaining the engine’s reliability. Should it use excessive oil – more than 1 pint between services – it is a sure sign of damage and/or imminent failure. Needless to say, walk away from that one…

The Automatic Stop/Start feature adds extra load on the car’s battery. The battery will fail and create electrical issues with the car’s start-up and functioning of certain features. Swop out the battery – with a battery featuring extra capacity and designed for Automatic Stop/Start duty – is greatly advisable.

Other issues to take note of is that earlier models developed poor performing air vents due to age. An inspection of the piping will likely reveal a buildup of leaves and the like, and it is relatively easy to solve. Riding over speed bumps might also reveal two items: squeaky suspension and a gearbox rattle. With experience of this on two such vehicles owned, a change of rubber bushes solved the squeaky suspension and the gearbox rattle is a quirk one has to live with; there is no issue with the manual gearbox in this instance. Various workshops – including franchise dealers – reported this as a model quirk.

Which trim line offers the best value?

Closely matched on used car price lists are the Trendline and Comfortline models. If your budget can stretch, reach for the better specced Comfortline example. The engine of choice for the Golf Mk VII is undoubtedly the 1.4 TSI in either of the states of tune. It is that good.

Without the firm ride of the 19″ alloy wheels and crashy tyres found on the sportier GTI and R models, the 17″ alloy wheels offer the best compromise between road holding, comfort and handling without sacrificing bump absorption and droning road noise.

Naturally, the larger your budget the newer, faster and fancier your Golf Mk VII will be. The GTI, as mentioned above, is a popular model and is the most desirable Golf. Look extra careful over any GTI’s engine, gearbox and suspension components, as well as investigate the service history before settling on one.

Due diligence is critical for any purchase, but a reputable dealer’s quality stock will go a long way to ensuring that their products on offer meet and exceed quality criteria.

Do you have a few that I can look at right now?

2018 Golf Mk VII 2.0 TSI GTI DSG
• Only 1,335km
• R509,900
• See more: https://tinyurl.com/ydcgwegp

2013 Golf Mk VII 1.4 TSI Comfortline
• 75,000km
• R199,900
• See more: https://tinyurl.com/y8b7r7dn



2017 Golf Mk VII 1.4 TSI Comfortline
• 63,044km
• R259,900
• See more: https://tinyurl.com/ycxc5ucp



2018 Golf Mk VII 2.0 TDI Comfortline DSG
• 39,900km
• R329,900
• See more: https://tinyurl.com/yabkzke3



2018 Golf Mk VII 2.0 TSI R DSG
• 17,100km
• R489,900
• See more: https://tinyurl.com/yasc5w8y

Overview and Conclusion

No matter which version you opt for, you’ll enjoy a a smooth ride, excellent build quality, reliability, and refinement. The interior quality and features have stood up to the test of time, offering a fantastic cabin to enjoy long road trips. This is a class-leading and highly regarded family hatchback with a versatile personality and abilities.

Sell & Save!

The above selected vehicles are but three of the 300 or so CX-5s available on the pre-owned market in South Africa. Now that your appetite has been whet, which ones do you pick and which to avoid? To aid you through this quagmire of decisions, figures and financial-speak, we are able to assist you to find the source the best CX-5 for your budget with our Sell & Save feature. Contact Evan Rothman via e-mail at evanrothman@gmail.com and via phone by Call/WhatsApp/Telegram at 0834526892.


Beneath the layers of sound-deadening, leather seats, panoramic sunroof, lies one of the most accomplished chassis this side of a two-door sports coupe. Watch as the hottest Golf model yet thrashes the Nurburgring Norsschleife.

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