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1997 Volkswagen Golf 2.0 GTi 5dr £1,295

Spend enough time browsing the classified ads and a gem emerges. And so it is here: a Mk3 Golf GTi that looks straight as they come – and at a highly affordable price. It’s advertised in Autoweb.co.uk’s classifieds courtesy of our friends at Parkview Autos, south London.

What makes this attractive is not so much the way it looks in the picture – which is way better than expected, frankly, for a 17yo car that’s covered 120,000 miles. No, it’s the thick book of garage receipts that comes with the sale; proof indeed that this is a vehicle that’s had considerable (and costly) past care. For a seasoned car buyer, the sight of such a tome brings joy. While nothing’s certain in the world of older, cheaper motors, ‘history’ is everything. Add in the vendor’s promise of a newly replaced cambelt and water pump, plus a year’s MoT ticket and it adds up to an enticing buy.

As for the motor itself? Die-hard VW fans will have it that the Mk3 GTi was but a pale shadow of the previous cars. They’ll say it is heavy, (relatively) underpowered and lacking the fizz that made the Mk1 and Mk2 so special. That may be so. But a healthy Mk3 such as this will still make a more engaging daily driver than many another car buyable for such little cash. Meanwhile, a Mk1 or 2 will be dearer to buy, need more garage visits to keep it going and also lack some of the more up to date comforts that this example boasts, such as air conditioning and remote central locking. A Mk3 such as this will have a driver’s airbag and anti-lock brakes, too.

That engine should be good for 200,000 miles if serviced, although the gearbox and clutch won’t last that long. The Mk3 was also the first Golf to have a galvanised body from new. It will resist rust providing it is kept clean and chips are touched up, although accident repairs mayn’t last as well as original panels. Known weak spots are around the windscreen rubbers and the jacking points. If you love cars, you should own a GTi at some point. And when there’s one this cheap, could this be the moment? We think so…

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