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Close to buying a GTI....input needed! (long post)

3644 Views 28 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  BlueFrogPosse
Ok, first off I'm new to the small performance car world and I've never owned or even considered purchasing a VW. I'm 34 years old, married with 2 kiddos (6 and 5 months). We recently purchased a Honda CRV as the "family car" and I'm looking to upgrade my current old tired ride a 1999 mazda protege. This car would be for my transportation to and from work and to take my boy to school. Rarely do I ever have anyone else in my car so I want something small, fairly economical, but fun.

So Saturday morning we set off to look at 3 cars on my short list:

1. Mazda3 (sport, touring, and grand touring)
2. Honda Civic (standard and the si)
3. VW rabbit

I hit the Mazda dealership first. I like the overall looks of the Mazda3's and the first one I drove was a standard transmission which is what I wanted. Well, the first thing I noticed and didn't like was the gas pedal is way too close to the brake and my foot would get stuck when I tried to shift. No good there so on to the auto. I liked it a lot more even though I prefer to shift my cars myself but I could live with it. The grand touring package is nice with heated leather seats etc. Two things I noticed about the car that I didn't like though.
1. HUGE blind spot
2. Front divers seat area felt a bit too cramped (Im 6'4")

So..the Mazda is a "maybe".

On to the Civic. I used to have a 2004 and liked it for the most was boring but reliable. We looked at the new models and the first thing that I noticed and didn't like AT ALL is the weird placement of the speedometer! I don't think I could put up with that for looks like it was made for someone who can't see etc. I didn't even look at the si since they didn't have a 4-door model.

We then went over to the VW dealership. All I kept hearing from friends was "don't buy a VW they have the worst car reliability" but I wanted to see one anyway. I drove a 2-door rabbit since they didn't have any 4-doors. I didn't like it all that much. It was TOO basic for me and didn't feel like it would be all that fun after a while. So we started to leave and I saw the GTI's. They had 3 2-doors on the lot and I test drove the standard transmission. As soon as we pulled out of the dealership lot I was impressed! Wow...this car didn't feel anything like the Mazda or the Rabbit. This car felt awesome! I wanted it right then and there! However, I really need the 4-door......which I think I can get for a decent price after researching a bit.

So here are my main concerns with the GTI

1. Overall reliability
2. Rattles in the Cabin (I keep hearing about this)

My heart tells me to go for the GTI and have fun. My practical side says get the Mazda3. I'm torn! Any advice?

Thanks in advance!
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Well, you're in the right place for advice on whether to buy a GTI over any other car. I agree that the Civics are still boring cars and I never even considered them while shopping for my current car. I did, however, test drive a MazdaSpeed3 and I was NOT impressed. From the beginning I thought I was going to like the Mazda better than the GTI. Power-to-weight, cargo room, price...MS3 had the edge. What it really took for me was the test drives. The Mazda seemed somehow uncomfortable, and just didn't feel as fast as it should have. I wasn't in the market for a speed demon, but I do like the experience of getting fast every once in a while. Long story short, I thought the GTI felt faster (although I know it's not), it's a more comfortable drive, and altogther much more fun. Now I'm the proud owner of a Black 4-door VW GTI.

On to your concerns: VW reliability has had a bad rap for as long as I can remember. Frankly, I think it's all in urban myths. I bought my wife a Passat about a week before getting my GTI, and these are the first two VW's I've ever owned. I have heard from both sides of the argument. This guy says VW's are crap and won't buy one, this other has owned nothing but and never had a problem. For me, the argument is settled by the fact that no one who thinks VW's are crap has ever owned them. And no one I know who's owned them before has had more than the usual car complaints.

Rattles in the cabin: I have heard of them, I have them from time to time. When it got the worst for me, I took my sunglasses out of the center console. Really, though, sometimes I do hear a little rattle and have to start looking for the source. The good news is that it doesn't seem to be getting any worse. If I find it, I'll shim it and forget it.

Good luck with your buy and enjoy your new GTI.
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well as someone who traded in a 1999 protege for a GTI, and test drove all the cars that you mentioned ( and more) I can safely say that you won't be dissapointed with the GTI. I loved my protege to death and we had many long, fun trips together but it was time to get something new and better.

The 3 has a massive blind spot and my protege seemed to fit me better than the 3 (i'm 6'2"). I have a couple friends that bought a 3 and they like it, but i just couldn't love it.

I looked at the civic si and just like you I hated the instrument panel layout. I tried to get past that in the test drive but the interior made me feel like it was my first car and and all I could afford was something made out of plastic.

Honestly, when I was looking for cars I wasn't even considering the GTI until I test drove it. It is extremely versatile/practical It might not have the space that the 3 does or the proven reliability of the honda, but I still think that you'll be in for a treat. VW has done a lot for the redesign of their 06 cars and I'm pretty confident that reliability won't be an issue. And I haven't heard any kind of rattle in the cabin or anywhere for that matter. sometimes a bolt just comes loose. don't forget alot of these guys are hooligans that live at 100 mph.
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Sounds like you guys were in similar positions as me.

I agree for some reason the Mazda3 just didn't feel comfortable to me. The spec say it should as far as driver seating area size etc. but it just felt a bit cramped up there as compared to the GTI. Plus the GTI was just so much more fun to drive!

I'm feeling better about the reliability factor now. From what I've been reading the GTI seems to be the most reliable VW in the line up at this time.

I love the fact that I'll be pretty much one of the only people around with one. I live in a relatively small town (200,000) and I haven't seen any new GTI's on the road....Civics are at every stop light and there are quite a few Mazda3's running around as well.
what town are you in? I just moved to Dallas and have only seen 2 GTI's this entire time and those just happened yesterday
The VW reliability issue has entirely to do with the Jettas manufactured in Mexico. The GTI and Passats are all manufactured in Wolfsburg, so no worries there.
I bought my GTI a few months ago and love it. I traded in my porsche and have no regrets at all. It has been on of the funnest cars to drive for me so far.
Lubbock Texas here...home of "we all must drive massive SUV's"

So here is another wrench in the works.

The GTI that I test drove I love. It's a Candy White with pkg#1 2-door. I wanted it right then and there....but the wife insists I get a 4-door. Well the 4 doors are hard to find in this area and I have a connection with a dealer that can get the 4-door with the same options but it has to get here from NY and I have to pay that cost (roughly $500) plus the $500 more for the 4 door all in all I would be paying about $1000 more for it vs. the 2- door.

However, I bet I could get a sweet deal on that 2-door they have here. It's the end of the month....they want to get some cars sold and I'm sure they will come down on it. Especially since I know someone over there etc. has 128 miles on it. Should I be concerned about that? It appears it has been test driven a few times with over a 100 miles on it. The other "issue" would be the whole 4 door vs. 2 door thing!

Here are my current driving habits in the old 99 protege:

I take my 6 year old son to school and then myself to work.
I go home for lunch and then back to work....rarely do I ever go to lunch with anyone and if I do it's typically one person.
Drive home (wife pics up both kids in the CRV)

Weekends I take the protoge to jiu jitsu classes on Sat. alone & run a few errands typically alone. If we need a lot of groceries or need to all go out as a family we take the CRV....soooooooo......I guess I could live with the 2 door but I don't want to get it and always go "Man! the 4 door would be better!" I'm officially TORN!!!!!!!
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I got really used to having four doors on my protege and somtimes i miss them, but only when I have people riding with me. I do however use the back seat and hatch area for storage and I have had no problems getting to items that are in there. The one thing that I have noticed that I don't like or at least I'm not used to is that the doors on the two door model need more room to open since they're longer. But I haven't had any serious problems with that.
I think I'd miss 4 doors a bit...but overall probably not that much.

I'm alone in my car 90% of the time.
I've always driven 4-doors, so the GTI was my first 2-door. I agree there is the odd time when other people are travelling with me that the lack of doors is an inconvenience. Especially since my idiot friends time and time again can't figure out how to put the seat forward (keep pulling on the lever on the bottom that makes the seat go up and down). But I've gotten used to it, and I actually like the bigger doors - easier for getting in and out.

As far as fitting groceries into the trunk, there's no shortage of space with the seats down. I transported a deep freeze in mine with room to spare.
The thing my wife isn't understanding is that this is NOT the family car!

Heck we just got rid of my 04' Civic for the the CRV so we could have a family car! We couldn't all fit comfortably in the Civic and even though it was four doors it was a pain in the ass to bend over to get our daughter all snapped in. Not to mention once she was in and our boy....there was NO room for anything else. So that's why we wanted something taller and bigger......thus the CRV.

I started driving her old protoge until I found something I wanted......enter the GTI. But she seems to think I'll hate having only 2 doors.

Lets talk about reality though....the GTI isn't designed to be a family car regardless of how many doors are on it. We would never use it for a family would be like being in the Civic again.
seems to me you gotta smack her around a bit! haha just kidding. if you own a CRV and get any sort of car big or small i am pretty sure you would still use the CRV for faminly outgoings reguardless on what car you hard 2 or 4 door.
If we were dealing with convenience plus comfort, I would still take the two door GTI over the 4 door Honda. There is a lot of room in the back seats, and when your back there, it feels like the car is hugging you, because of the small cool things, like the arm rest built into the door, or the floor/armrest airvents. I guess you would get these things too with the 4 door, but my friends have no problem with getting in the back seat. I can believe that it would cost about a grand to find a 4 door. I looked around here for months (Plano, to the DFW area, to all of Texas) before I settled on the 2 door, and as much as I say I would have liked the 4 door, I don't think I would have.

It sounds like you don't need a 4 door, so don't get one. If you aren't happy with the 2 door, use $500 of the shipping fee you would have paid to get the ECU chipped 8) If you aren't happy after that, then there's no hope.
I looked at both the 2 door and the 4 door, and decided on the 2 door. I sat in both back seats, and actually believe that the 2 door has MORE back seat room than the 4 door. The trade off is that it is kind of a pain to get into the back seat with the 2 door.... once you are back there it is more roomy though. I am 6'4'' tall and, if my wife (5'6'') is driving, I have more than enough room in the back seat.

I have a 2 month old kid, and although we have an SUV as the "family car", I do take him in the GTI every now & then. I can tell you that it is not easy getting the car seat in the back, and you can pretty much forget about someone riding in the front seat (unless they are really short) when the car seat is in the back. Since 99% of the time I am the only person in the car, this was not a big deal, and the fun factor of the GTI more than makes up for the inconvenience.
I don't intend to turn this into a 2-door vs 4-door thread but I will say this: I have yet to accommodate passengers in the back seat of my GTI. I do, however, appreciate the ability to throw my backpack, gym bag, computer, etc. in the back without having to fold the seat down. I'm not saying one is better than the other, but I am glad I bought a 4-door. It's up to you to decide if those two extra doors are worth the $1000. I almost paid $700 extra to get a Candy White version of my GTI delivered from out of town. Luckily, the only ones anywhere in California had been delayed or sold so I went with the Black Magic they had on the lot. And I must say, I'm glad I did. I love the car and I didn't have to wait.
Good points by all.

As it stands now a 4 door with the options I want in the color I want is a rare bird where I live. The dealer I'm working with is having a difficult time finding one. He found one in NY but it was a DSG....something I didn't want.

So......that darn 2-door is still on the lot with the options I want. My wife is really against the 2 door though but I think she is speaking more on emotion than anything else. She keeps forgetting we just bought her a brand new CRV as our family car. Our 04 Honda was a pain in the ass and it had 4 doors....these are small compact cars either way you look at it if you try to put a bunch of people and stuff in them they become a pain 2 door or 4 door.

I can see losing the ability to just open the back door to put in a bag or whatever being something I might miss. But difficult is it to just sling it over/between the seats? These cars are built for long road trips...I'd be lucky to put 6 miles a day on it.
I am 6'4'' tall and, if my wife (5'6'') is driving, I have more than enough room in the back seat.
Your wife makes you sit in the back?

My experience with 4-door compacts, including my old Jetta, is that the extra doors in the back really don't add that much. THey're so tiny I think it's actually easier to exit a 2-door from the back as opposed to a 4-door, once you get the seat moving thing out of the way. My buddy has a 4-door Mazda 3 and I always have a hard time exiting because I can't just move one leg outside the car and just get up, as I would from a front door. I have to point my body backwards and step out of the car in a stern-ward direction. With a 2-door, once the seat is up you can exit the car from the back seat in a forward direction.
Thalo said:
I am 6'4'' tall and, if my wife (5'6'') is driving, I have more than enough room in the back seat.
Your wife makes you sit in the back?
well, the one time we have both been in the car with the baby, I was not in what I would call "good condition to drive" aka I was drunk as a skunk. With the baby seat installed behind the passenger seat, there is no way I could sit in the front... my kness would be in my face, so I had to sit in the driver's side rear behind her.
Well I'm right at 6'3 ish and I couldn't believe how much room there was in the driver seat on the GTI. It felt way more open over the Mazda3. For some reason that car felt cramped even though it was in fact a 4 door vehicle.
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