1996 Volkswagen GTI

The third generation Volkswagen GTI 2.0 might just go down in history as the least appealing of the brand name. Starting with the move to 16 valves in the second generation, the 8 valve models would play second fiddle as mostly an appearance package slapped onto an economy car. But while the second generation had the benefit of butch good looks, flared arches and the signature quad-round headlight arrangement to make you feel that you had gone upscale, when it came to the third generation’s base GTI it was a bit of a head-scatcher. It wasn’t that you didn’t get equipment; your $16,000 got you lots of standard items such as air conditioning, an upgraded stereo, power sunroof and door locks, and a few other premium-feel items (An alarm! Specially colored seat fabric!). The meat of the GTI was the appearance changes, though – from the 14″ alloy wheels to the dual-chamber headlights and projector fog lights, along with smoked tail lenses and a roof-mounted antenna, the special grill held the all-important letters “GTI”. But the performance of the ABA 2.0 inline-4 was standard Golf fair and the suspension wasn’t upgraded – this was, after all, just a Golf. That meant 0-60 in a lethargic 10 seconds unless you fried the front tires and knocked .2 seconds off – the result of all those “luxury” item additions. The 2.0 was a poser, then, and lived fully in the shadow of the high-output VR6 model which packed a full 50% more power in the same package but with upgraded brakes, suspension and wheels. The premium to jump to the VR6 was about $3,500 – a lot of money. But the leap in performance well paid off for your additional indebtedness, and consequently the 2.0 seemed to be popular only with college-bound Jersey girls who were convinced their compact economy hatch was actually a bumper-car ride at an amusement park. Few survive in the condition of this one today:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen GTI on eBay


Year: 1996
Model: GTI
Engine: 2.0 liter inline-4
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 88,376 mi
Price: $6,950 Buy It Now

Interior

60/40 split folding rear seat
Anti-theft vehicle alarm system
Black roof-mounted whip antenna
CFC-free air conditioning
Center console w/rear lockable compartment w/padded lid, 2 front/1 rear beverage holders
Central pwr locking system
Digital clock
Driver & front passenger seat height adjustment
Electric rear window defroster
Flat woven cloth seat fabric
Front door storage pockets
Front/rear passenger assist handles
Fully carpeted luggage compartment w/cover
Fully reclining front sport seats w/2-way adjustable headrests
Instrumentation-inc: speedometer, tachometer, trip odometer, temp/fuel gauges
Integrated armrests in door panels
Interior dome light
Leather covered 4-spoke padded steering wheel
Molded door trim w/cloth & leatherette inserts
Premium AM/FM cassette stereo w/8-speaker system, anti-theft coding
Pwr remote trunk release

Exterior

2-speed intermittent wipers w/variable intermittent wipe feature
Black rear spoiler w/integrated stoplamp
Black rocker panel covering
Body-color 2-bar grille
Body-color front/rear bumpers w/black lower section
Body-color side molding
Daytime running lights
Dual pwr remote mirrors
Euro-style halogen headlamps w/dual reflectors
Front fog lights
Pwr tilt/slide glass sunroof w/sunshade
Rear wiper/washer system w/intermittent wipe feature
Tinted glass

Safety Features

3-Point front/rear outboard safety belts
Driver & front passenger airbag supplemental restraint system

Mechanical

14″ X 6″ 5-spoke alloy wheels w/anti-theft wheel locks
2.0L SOHC SMPI 4 cyl engine
5-speed manual transmission
63 amp battery
90 amp alternator
Anti-lock brake system
Digital electronic ignition w/dual knock sensor
Front wheel drive
Front/rear coil springs/telescopic gas shock absorbers/stabilizer bars
P185/60R14 all-season tires
Pwr-assist rack & pinion steering
Pwr-assisted 4-wheel disc brakes (vented front)
Sport tuned independent MacPherson strut front suspension
Sport tuned independent torsion beam axle rear suspension

Wheels

Aluminum wheels

It’s a bit laughable to look at the photos of the dealer’s inventory towards the end of the listing – Ferraris, Lamborghinis, even a Roller. Then, a 2.0 GTi. Sitting on the “Flyer” alloy wheels, many of the items of the GTI 2.0 were available on other models. Select a Golf K2, for example, and you got the fog lights and special interior along with heated seats and special gauges. Was the GTI just a gimmick money grab, then? Yeah, I think so. I can’t blame them because obviously there was a market, but at the end of the day this is really just a Golf with some fiddly bits tacked on. Still, it’s pretty hard to find them in this condition and while you won’t win any drag light competitions, the ABA is actually a pretty fun motor to toss around and is very simple to keep running. Regardless of throttle position or duration, it’ll return around 30 m.p.g. and with the seats folded down, the A3 is pretty cavernous in the back. As a commuter with a splash of style, this car makes a fair amount of sense then. But at $7,000? No, for that amount you can find a newer, much better quality and significantly faster fifth generation model like this 2007 with only 97,000 miles for $7,450. You’d have to want a Mk.3 a whole lot and be willing to forgo the sonorous VR6 just to have the look of a GTI, which again is something the second generation pulled off but the third didn’t. Drop the price by 50% and this becomes a compelling and fun little run-about. But collectable? Nope.

-Carter

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2 Comments

  1. Excellent summary in your first paragraph. Sometimes you just NAIL IT, Carter. Well said! Never liked the Mk3 8 valvers. Slow, slow slow! I thought 8 valve Mk2’s were still relatively peppy and the gap wasn’t as huge between those and the 16V.

  2. Thanks, Cole!

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