This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest Volkswagen Golf Hatchback review.

4 out of 5 4.0
Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

Golf Mk4 is fast becoming a classic

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback (97-04) - rated 4 out of 5
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At a glance

New price £10,768 - £23,068
Used price £415 - £19,840
Fuel economy
Not tested to latest standards
View pre-2017 economy specs
Road tax cost £155 - £340
Insurance group 9 - 36 How much is it to insure?


  • Strong demand for good ones
  • Reputation for quality
  • Comfortable on the move
  • Neat design that still looks good


  • SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia do the same for less
  • Not as good to drive as the Focus
  • Higher-powered diesels need careful maintenance

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback rivals

Written by Keith Adams on

The Volkswagen Golf Mk4 delivers luxury, quality and refinement in a very safe package. Rivals may look or drive better, but none offer the Golf's superb cabin and solid but understated image.

It costs more than most small family cars, but depreciation is slow and running costs are reasonable. Fuel economy is fine on petrol-engined cars, but the diesel cars are excellent, especially the PD high pressure injection engines. These give enjoyable brisk performance combined with 50mpg, but watch their maintenance as they can get quite smoky with miles.

What's it like inside?

Anyone can get comfy in a Golf. The supportive seats are adjustable in several ways while the simple dash layout and good driving position make it an easy car to get on with. All the controls are accessible and feel superbly engineered, however the stereo controls are fiddly to use on the move.

The cabin is impeccably finished and puts some bigger and pricier models to shame. Space is well used and although rear space is limited on the three-door, the seats are very supportive and give a cosseted feel. It's fine in the back for a couple of growing kids, but adults will find it cramped. The seats are comfy and access in the three-door version is good, making it easy enough to get in and out of.


The Golf's small body makes it ideally suited to city living. It's also capable on the motorway and can motor at 70mph for hours on end. There's reasonable boot space - certainly enough for a family holiday if you're cunning with the packing. Inside, there's a world of hidden storage to discover, including cupholders and hidey holes for sunglasses and CDs etc.

What's it like to drive?

Solid and unexciting sums it up. There's a huge choice of engines and they're all good. Petrol units range from the humble 1.4-litre to the sporty 1.8T and smooth V5 but the 1.6-litre should be fine for most people. Diesel and sporty versions get all the attention and they Pumpe Düse common rail technology. Just watch out for smokiness and excess oil consumption.

They’re noisy but offer punchy performance and return upwards of 49 mpg - not bad for a car with sporty credentials.

This Golf lacks the edge that you'd find in a Mk1 Ford Focus or Peugeot 306, but this doesn't mean that it's dull to drive. It's more refined than ever before and feels composed and safe. The steering is its weakest link being almost devoid of feel, the ride is smooth and the result is a competent and relaxing drive. Quiet on the motorway it's good in town too and easy to slot into a tight space in the supermarket car park.

Ownership and running costs

The frugal 1.9-litre diesel returns over 50mpg and the petrol models aren’t bad either. Insurance for the hatchback can be high – particularly for GTI models – but smaller 1.4-litre models are a little more affordable to insure. Servicing and spares are pretty good these days, especially if you use one of the myriad of specialists across the country.

There have been plenty of minor problems reported that upset owners who thought that everything in life should be as reliable as a Volkswagen. The 1.8T engine had well-publicised ignition problems plus there were issues with door locks and windows, and general flakiness with the electrics.


It received a four-star Euro NCAP rating in 1998. There's ABS, driver, passenger and side airbags on all cars to complement its strong bodyshell. On the security front, all cars also get an immobiliser, remote central locking, and deadlocks, while SE and GTi versions have an alarm, too.

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback rivals

Other Volkswagen Golf (1997 - 2005) models: