Great car with some flaws
This 6th generation GTI is a great car and a massive improvement in reliability from previous generations. That said, Volkswagens have their reputation for good, or should I say bad, reasons. The performance, agility, speed, and build quality are great. The sheet metal, glass, leather, and trim are all high quality materials. The in dash computer and infotainment system are useful and easy to navigate. And the design, which is now 10 years old, is still contemporary and attractive, especially in the higher trims with special edition wheels and finishes. While I thoroughly enjoy driving the vehicle and frequently use all of its premium features, there are issues that a potential owner should be aware of and prepared to deal with before choosing this over another vehicle.
The weak points in no particular order:
-Water pumps are known to have a short life, requiring early replacement. VW has addressed this by providing warranty repairs with new, improved water pumps and coolant changes. Check the records to make sure this was done or contact a VW dealer to see if they will do the service under warranty.
-Oil consumption can be an issue. This was a bigger deal on the TFSI models(06-09), but some still experience this. I lose about half a quart between changes and the tailpipes are very sooty from burning oil.
-The next weak point is road noise. Even with high quality tires, the car is loud. VW did this intentionally to improve feedback to the driver since this is a performance oriented vehicle. Having reached my 30s, I’m starting to enjoy this feature less and less all the time.
-The DSG auto transmission is expensive to maintain and repair, requiring fluid changes every 40k miles and having a reputation for needing rebuilds when neglected or abused. Make sure that maintenance has been done at the correct interval on any car you look at. If it’s at 80k and never had the auto transmission serviced, don’t buy the car.
-Unreliable/weak AC requires leak repairs and recharging every 1-2 years. In just over 4 years of ownership and 35k miles, we have had the AC services 3 different times - twice under warranty and once out of warranty at 50k miles. Same thing happened on our 2006 - the compressor grenaded on a summer road trip and the system never held enough refrigerant to work right longer than a couple of years. Expect $150-200 to recharge the system, and additional costs to repair leaks.
Short version- buy if you really want the flexibility of the hatch, need the driving experience (which is great), and are willing to be diligent with maintenance and repairs. If you frequently decline recommended maintenance and stretch your oil changes beyond the recommended schedule, you should look somewhere else.