Tuning the Golf.

"The original hot hatch gets even hotter!"

The Volkswagen Golf has been one of the most successful cars from Volkswagen.

The Golf is loved as a project car by many of our members and there is a large array of parts and tuning options for them.

Lets get a quick overview of the many revisions over the years to this popular car.

Then we shall look at the tuning options and best performance parts for your project and direct you to our detailed engine tuning guides.

  • The original mk1 Golf was very responsive and still has a dedicated following today despite it's age. (Many owners say these cars improve with age as the 8v engines bed in and loosen up.)
  • Then came the mk2 Golf  which was where the tuning scene started taking off and now we see 1.8T mk2 engine conversions and also the VR6 going in as well as owners capture the original essence of a mk1 GTi.
  • mk3 Golfs were not fantastic cars, the GTi had lost it's magic so thankfully to address this there were plenty of aftermarket Golf tuning parts created allowing you to achieve the "GTi ideal" on your mk3 model.
  • The MK4 (mkIV) and mk5 (mkV) Golfs shows VW dedication to the platform and a lot of criticisms leveled at the previous models were addressed.
  • The mk6 & mk7 Golfs onwards are a major leap forward and VW have once again come up with a stunningly fun car to drive and modify.

Tuning tips and articles

Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums

We now have many different revisions to the platform and the Golf remains a superb base for a tuning project thanks to all of the aftermarket tuning suppliers.

The engines pull well and the small relatively light body make it a fun car to drive. VW have continued to improve on the winning formula over the years with some fantastic engine and chassis set ups.

The early eighties 8 and 16 valve GTI engines were excellent and many remark that 8 valve engine actually improves with age. (A fact the Dyno seems to bear out!)

The mk1 Golf Gti defined the hot hatch but with our tips any Golf can be turned into a scorching hatch!

We have plenty of members in our forum with Golf tuning projects underway from engine swaps to the VR6 to 8 and 16 valve head conversions.

By the time the mk3 and mk4 were released there was something magical missing from the GTI. The handling was no longer as sharp and responsive as the early models.

It had become a run of the mill family car as VW looked to their profit margins rather than creating great cars. It was more of a lukewarm hatch than a hot hatch. This didn't stop many of our members from improving it though. With an anti roll bar, a set of adjustable coil overs and low profile tyres along with a few other suspension tweaks you get a mk III/IV Golf every bit as much fun as the original.

Dropping in more powerful engines seemed the logical next step and we have seen successful conversions to the 1.8T and VR6 blocks. We have even heard of some Japanese engines being fitted with great success (much to the chagrin of Golf tuning enthusiasts).

The first Golf modification to perform is generally to sort the suspension. Lowering the car 30-40 millimetres and fitting stiffer springs will sharpen up the ride and your driver enjoyment of the car.

Later revisions just go on to improve the Golf range, with a great choice of engines, the TFSi engines are so rev happy and feel more powerful than they should due in part to their light weight.

Engine modifications

On the larger engines (1.8 and above) and those with turbos we recommend a full induction kit with a cold air feed.

For smaller engines and the Diesel variants we would recommend a panel air filter made from a high flow material such as cotton gauze.

A fast road cam would raise the peak power band in most engines and after a remap on a turbo model is one of the best tuning options out there for you.

The 2000 VAG 1.8T engine is one of the most tunable engines around and can be fairly easily tweaked to push out in excess of 300 BHP with no need for internal strengthening (but a larger turbo/injector upgrade and remap would be essential to achieve this).

The later TFSi engines just build on this, and are a great platform to work with.

Many of our members have got power figures in excess of 200bhp with a straightforward ECU remap and turbo modifications with no detrimental effects.

Golf Tuning

Other particularly notable engines in the golf range was the the earlier V6 4motion and the V6 R32 which produced 204 and 240 BHP respectively.

The later 2.0TFsi is a worthy successor to the 1.8T and has a wide range of options for it so we suggest you read our 2.0Tfsi tuning guide for more information on this.

The Golf has a reputation for being a reliable car, and certainly holds its resale value well.

Check for a full service history when buying one though as the oil changes must be adhered to, especially on the turbo models.

There are many reports of sludge problems in the 1.8 models if oil changes are not carried out or the wrong grade is used see our 1.8T article for a comprehensive guide to this engine.

The TDI engines have improved considerably over the years, and the Golf TDI engines represent one of the best economy to power ratios for an engine in current production.

Many consider the 1.9 TDi as the best diesel engine VW produced but the later 2.0TDi engines and modern fuel injection technology have raised the bar (sorry for that terrible pun!) and make superb projects to work on. With a remap, power can reach 220 BHP (depending on the base spec), and you can still expect 50 plus MPG. Throw in a turbo upgrade and you can reach power figures of around 300bhp but you'll find traction an issue at these levels.

The mk5 Golf actually looks smaller than the previous model, but in actual fact has a slightly larger wheelbase. The wider hips seem to make the car seem smaller but dramatically improve the handling. Much of the handling criticisms leveled at its predecessor, the mk IV, have been redressed and the golf GTI is once again regarded as a driver's car.

Keep wheel rims sizes to 18 inches or less for optimum handling on all Golf's - 17's seem to offer the best compromise of handling weight and looks in our opinion.

The body panels in the Golf are very substantial and solid so if you were going to perform weight reduction you could make a substantial saving with a carbon fibre bonnet and front wings.

The front wheel drive versions will perform better if you fit a limited slip differential, or a semi locking diff as found on the A3 T Sport. Lower gear ratios will also improve acceleration.

Engine swaps are very popular with our members and we have seen everything from the recent 2.0Tfsi and the older 1.8T engines going into early golfs to VR6 engine conversions. You'll certainly get plenty of helpful advice and pointers on modified golfs in our forum.

Join our friendly chat forum to meet our resident VAG enthusiasts, where you will have access to 1000's of car specific articles and will be able to get your tuning questions answered.

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