This Golf GTi is a Keeper – 1995 VW Golf GTi Mk3 8v Review

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When it comes to cars, there’s always one that we petrolheads have dreamed of owning. I actually have quite a substantial list of dreams cars I would love to own one day. But every so often I remind myself that I actually already own one of my dream cars. And that is a Volkswagen Golf GTi Mk3 8V.

My love affair with the iconic VW Golf GTi started when I was a kid. My parents have owned three Golf’s over the years, starting with a dark blue 1986 MK2 Golf 1.6D. Then they got a 1993 MK3 Golf 1.9D before replacing it with a 1999 MK4 Golf 1.9TDi. Plus when I was at college my landlady’s son had a 1981 Mk1 GTi in gunmetal grey (more details on the iconic Mk1 GTi can be found here). I loved that car and it started my obsession with all things GTi. So you can see where the influence came from.

Take to the Road Video Feature VW Golf GTi Mk3 8v
The last photo of my Golf 1.9D on the day I traded it in, in 2004. It lived on until 2012 and 177,171 miles, when it failed its last MOT.

My very first car was actually my parents old Mk3 Golf. At the time I had finished university and had just gotten my first job, when my parents decided to give me their Mk3 diesel. It was an amazing gesture and I can still remember that bitterly cold and icy morning when I drove it to Rosslare Harbour and brought it over on the ferry to England.

The Golf’s old Irish registration was 93 CW 1062 (I still have the plates somewhere) and after six months it passed the ridiculous SWVA test, which made it “safe” to drive on UK roads. So after enduring one of the most bureaucratic processes of all time, my trusty MK3 Golf was given a UK registration… L314 WOW. And with that, freedom beckoned!

My old MK3 diesel was a good car. It was practical and reliable and was very economical as well. It was everything I needed in a first car. And as you do when you get a car for the very first time, I drove it everywhere. Any excuse to use the car, it was there. After two years and just over 120,000 miles the Golf’s gearbox started to make a bad crunching sound. I took it to various garages and they all quoted big money for the repair, more than the car was worth. Sadly it was time to start looking at selling it. And it was then that I realised I had an opportunity to get a Golf GTi MK3!

Take to the Road Video Feature VW Golf GTi Mk3 8v
My new VW Golf GTi Mk3 on the day I bought it back in 2004.

After months of searching and looking at lots of very rough GTi’s, I stumbled across one for sale that looked too good to be true. It was a 1995 Mk3 Golf GTi in storm grey with just one owner, 64000 miles on the clock and full service history. It was priced at £4,000 which was roughly ball park for a decent MK3 GTi back in 2004. So I took it out for a test drive and straight away I knew I had found the right car. It was that gut feeling you get when a car is just right. It was very clean, drove superbly and had a good spec, as one would expect for a GTi. Compared to my MK3 diesel, it was a rocket ship. And so I did the deal and traded in my old Golf against the GTi. The garage gave me £1,000 for the diesel, which wasn’t bad for a car with a dodgy gearbox. And with that I said goodbye to my trusty diesel and hello to my brand new Golf GTi Mk3 (it was brand new to me!). The moment had finally arrived!

Take to the Road Video Feature VW Golf GTi Mk3 8v
Me and my GTi went on many long trips over the years.

You know I can still remember the day I picked up my Golf GTi Mk3. It is hard to believe that it was thirteen years ago. Time sure does fly. And over that time frame my Golf has been a trusty and very reliable friend. Overall it hasn’t required much apart from general servicing. Around 2008 the original exhaust and rear shocks had to be replaced. And this year I replaced the factory rear brakes… they sure lasted a long time! But for the most part it’s been rock solid. So in many ways my Golf GTi owes me nothing really. But age has now started to catch up on my Golf. I won’t list all the niggles here, you are better off watching the film to see them in detail. But they are mainly the usual issues that crop up on a twenty two year old Golf. All jobs that now need to be sorted.



Take to the Road Video Feature VW Golf GTi Mk3 8v
I just love the look of the Mk3 GTi. Especially in 3 door guise.

Despite loving my Golf and looking after it all these years, it has suffered badly at the hands of others. Again I’m not going to go into detail, the film shows all the harm that’s been done. Yes it is all cosmetic and can be fixed. But it is so frustrating when others disrespect your property. Especially when you are emotionally attached to a car. It hurts a lot more than people realise. And what is even more frustrating is it has all happened in the past few years. But I have decided that enough is enough and my MK3 Golf GTi will now be staring alongside my Alfa Romeo Spider in Take to the Road’s Garage! I have a lot of work ahead of me but it is time to get my Golf back to its best.

Take to the Road Video Feature VW Golf GTi Mk3 8v
It is all about that badge!

I know there are a lot of haters out there for the MK3 GTi 2.0 8v. Yes it only has 115BHP which is not a lot when you factor in the weight of the MK3 and all it’s extra spec items. There are times it would be nice to have an extra 40BHP or more (which is what the MK3 GTi 16v has give or take). But I have owned my GTi long enough now to know exactly how to get the most out of it. I know this car inside out which means I know exactly how to drive it. If you don’t get it right, the 8v does feel sluggish. And sure, if you do push it too hard into a corner you’ll start to lose the front end. Plus the body roll unsettles it if you go too quick.

Take to the Road Video Feature VW Golf GTi Mk3 8v
The MK3 GTi suspension is better than a standard Golf’s, but it could do with being a bit stiffer.

But what I love about the Golf’s heavy power steering is the fact I can tell what the front wheels are doing. I can feel the rubber gripping the road so I know when it is on the edge. If you balance it just right, you can minimise that soft suspension and really have a lot of fun. Get it onto a nice twisty road, into third gear and hit three thousand RPM and the engine comes to life! And while the 2.0ltr 8v may lack BHP, it does have a lot of torque, so it pulls strongly through all the gears. Which comes in handy, especially on the motorway where the top end acceleration is very good.

Take to the Road Video Feature VW Golf GTi Mk3 8v
Another detail I love is the stance from behind. Those wide 15″ Long Beach alloys really suit the MK3.

Every time I take my Golf GTi Mk3 out for a run, it puts a smile on my face. And that’s because I am still driving the first car I ever bought. The fact that it is a GTi makes it all the more sweet. It is a badge that is iconic, a badge that many other manufacturers have tried to copy and live up to.

Take to the Road Video Feature VW Golf GTi Mk3 8v
I’ve covered just 32,000 miles in 13 years. Not bad going.

The MK3 8v might not get much attention these days with everyone clambering after the VR6, especially low mile Highline models. So the 2.0 8v does feel a bit neglected these days. But I am happy with my Golf. Every time I look at it (and ignore all the dings etc) and that gorgeous Storm Grey metallic paint… it just makes me smile. My GTi has been my friend for all these years and it is a car I will never, ever sell. And that is why my VW Golf GTi Mk3 is a keeper.

Additional photos of my VW Golf GTi Mk3 8v

Take to the Road Video Feature VW Golf GTi Mk3 8v

Take to the Road Video Feature VW Golf GTi Mk3 8v

Take to the Road Video Feature VW Golf GTi Mk3 8v

Take to the Road Video Feature VW Golf GTi Mk3 8v

If you like classic German cars then check out our feature with a 1963 NSU Prinz

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17 Comments

  1. Scott 23rd December 2017 at 4:50 am

    Beautiful car Niall! You can really tell you’ve given some serious TLC to that GTI.

    Reply
    1. Niall Julian 23rd December 2017 at 11:17 am

      Thanks a lot Scott! I do love my GTi and have given it plenty of tlc over the years. Just needs more now with age catching up on it!

      Reply
  2. Zik sawaya 8th January 2018 at 8:11 pm

    Hi Niall I live in Lebanon and we are Golf GTI crazy over there. Just last week I bought an mk3 8v 1993 in black after searching for a decent one for long time. The body hasn’t had any accidents and the engine has been remade (original engine) so I guess you could say the engine will serve me for a long time, the car is 30 years old so theres a bit of work to be done, it has a new paint job which is really excellent I have to say (2 door/sunroof), the front seats are a bit of a mess so im going to have to redo those the rear seats are in excellent condition(black leather), Glove box handle is not working, the reading lights and sunroof switch dont work, some cosmetic work to be done on it. But the most important thing is that its had no accidents which is rare. Lovely car to drive and I plan on keeping it, for me this is the car I’ve always wanted as well. Maybe you can tell me where I can find interior parts for it, I have a friend in Ireland I can send them to to save on the shipping. My car is L/H drive

    Nice article, I share your feelings as well

    Best Regards

    Zik

    Reply
    1. Niall Julian 8th January 2018 at 10:02 pm

      Hi Zik thanks a lot for stopping by and sharing your GTi story. Great to hear it! Being a 1993 your 8v will be an early one which is cool. Sounds like age has caught up with yours too but all stuff that can be sorted. I hope the sunroof switch is an easy fix as sunroof issues on these era VWs can lead to the headliner card having to come out to get to the sunroof motor. Actually if you visit the article sponsor VW Heritage they sell interior bits for the Mk3. Have a look on their website. If you can’t find something drop them an email. And mention that I recommended them.

      All the best Zik with your GTi. Keep me posted with how you get on with it. Cheers, Niall.

      Reply
  3. Ziad 9th January 2018 at 7:08 am

    Hi Niall yes I had a look at vwheritage and have a long wish list of bits and pieces, excellent site for restoration purposes. In lebanon you can find a lot of mechanical parts used and new for the MK3 because people love them, so hopefully I’ll be fine. Regarding the sunroof it opens perfectly manually using a tool but the ceiling control for the lights and sunroof is not working, I will re do the ceiling interior and work on that issue at the same time. Send me your e mail if you like and I’ll post some pics for you

    Cheers

    Reply
    1. Niall Julian 17th January 2018 at 10:32 am

      If you can get parts locally for a decent price then you should be ok. Not like my Viceroy which needs an elusive part from Germany! Ok good luck on the sunroof. Yup I’d do it all at the same time if you are going to redo the ceiling. Sure, feel free to drop me some photos of your MK3: hello@taketotheroad.co.uk

      Reply
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  5. Harry R. 21st March 2018 at 4:54 am

    Wow! That brings back memories of my friend’s ’85 VW Golf. It had the 1.3L(?) Diesel engine. The thing ran forever on a tank of gas (diesel was also much easier and cheaper to find back then!), but it tended to have trouble with the timing belt. Thank you very much for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Niall Julian 21st March 2018 at 9:30 am

      Thanks a lot! Yeah my 1.9 diesel was great on fuel too. I think I got over 350 miles on a full tank once. Yours might have been a 1.6 diesel. My parents old ’88 had that engine.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
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  8. Kris 18th July 2018 at 4:39 pm

    Hi,

    I have an off the road N Reg VW golf GTI – Its a non stater but haven’t got the time or money to fix this.
    Do you have any idea of the value of this now?

    Reply
    1. Niall Julian 19th July 2018 at 8:37 am

      It depends on the overall condition really and whether it is an 8v or 16v. If the body is clean, has service history and low owners it would be around £1,000. Since it is a non runner that would make a bit of a dent in the value though. Tidy Mk3 GTi’s are starting to creep up though. Whats wrong with your GTi?

      Reply
      1. kris 19th July 2018 at 8:50 am

        Thanks for your response. No spark from the ignition coil. The garage seems to think it may be the ECU. i have purchased a new GTI MK4. with very low milage and now need to reluctantly sell this one. Its a colour concept and has very good condition interior leather seats (Red and Black). I gutted to be honest as I loved driving it. Felt like a real car. Body work and underside is in very good condition too (when clean) : )

        Reply
      2. kris 19th July 2018 at 9:51 am

        Hi Thanks for your response.

        Its an 8V and has good body work and underside. It is a colour concept and has full red and black leather seats and door panels also in good condition. Drivers side is a worn.
        I have recently brought a new MK4 GTI which has low milage. The reason I reluctantly brought a new one is that I haven’t got the time or money to be messing around with the MK3. The garage reckons it a problem with the ECU but couldn’t be 100% certain and I have already spent time and money changing dizzy cap rotor arm leads and ignition coil.
        Its a great car and would just love someone who would appreciate it as the car that it is or even possible for the parts that it has.

        Reply
        1. Niall Julian 19th July 2018 at 12:11 pm

          No worries Kris. Ah ok that is an interesting one then! The colour concept is a rare model alright. Haven’t seen one for quite a while. I can see where you are coming from. I guess as a last resort you could try getting another ECU from a breakers yard? It could be worth a try. But I understand when you put money into a car and it still doesn’t work it is frustrating. Been there myself many times. I would be tempted myself with yours but I need to sort my own GTi out first. I’m sure someone will take it though. There is a nice one on eBay for £2995 which is very strong for an 8v Mk3. Shows that prices are on the rise for good ones. Best of luck with yours! I hope you get it sorted.

          Reply
          1. kris 20th July 2018 at 4:33 pm

            Thanks very much for your help and advice. I shall keep you updated.

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