22 January 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Our cars: 2001 Polo GTI – report eleven

Rich Gooding updates the story of his 2001 Polo GTI, which, used almost daily, has seen a fair of share activity since the last report almost eighteen months ago…

Hot Hatch Sunday at Goodwood meant an early start

This report almost got broken down in several updates, it’s been so long since I reported on Y464 GHJ, my 2001 Volkswagen Polo GTI that I’ve owned since September 2011. The last report highlighted how fun the car was at the Guild of Motoring Writers’ Big Day Out at Rockingham Motor Speedway in the summer of 2013. So just what has happened in the intervening 18 months?

The car’s annual service was due last March and, at 99,963 miles, it was taken into the ever-dependable Sani’s Motors (01245 460040) in Chelmsford. Y464 only needed an interim tune-up, so all the usual procedures were carried out, with the addition of a new pollen filter and new front brake discs and pads. The only minor problem reported was a leaking offside headlight washer pipe.

Losing power
Nothing major then, and I thought the car left the garage fully fit and feeling better after its fettling. That was a mistake. That very same month, on the way to work, warning lights started appearing on the dash, and the car showed signs of losing power. The battery had been replaced a few months earlier, so my thoughts turned to the alternator. Or lack of it, as the car slowed to a halt a few moments later and resolutely refused to start.

Thankfully, I had decided to take a non-busy backroad route in case the inevitable happened, and so found myself just outside a waste management site with an hour’s wait for the RAC. The technician’s battery check proved that it was indeed OK, and that the alternator was the cause of the problem.

A quick call to work, and I was then on my way back to Sani’s with the RAC van following behind, in case the ‘borrowed’ charge petered out. With just two weeks separating its visits, Y464 was back at the Essex VW specialists having a new alternator, auxiliary belt and oil filter fitted. Another £218.51. In-between its visits, the car’s mileage had just toppled over 100,000.

Early summer saw me fit a genuine set of 6N2 Polo GTI front mudflaps. I’d managed to track down a pair on eBay, and although used, they were in good condition even if they didn’t come with new self-tapping screws. 6N2 GTI front mudflaps have mouldings which take into account the model’s deeper sills, and wraparound them snugly.

Perfect fit
The old, standard 6N2 front mudflaps which I’d previously fitted had never been ultimately happy on the base of the front wings, clinging on for dear life by their clips and screws around the metal of the front wing seam. The ‘proper’ GTI items have holes which align with corresponding holes in the front wheel arch liners, making for a perfect fit.

Surprisingly easy to fit after a good clean (actually, make that several good cleans), I removed all the dry mud and dirt from the sill end before aligning and affixing the mudflaps. I hadn’t bargained on there being that much, but as the pictures show, it always pays to get all the road debris out when you’re able to. New screws had been sourced – again from eBay – and the finished results looked great. The GTI’s paintwork was again protected from the elements.

In July, after a period of inactivity, the battery ran flat. It’s not the first time it’s happened after two weeks of not being driven, but the fact it occurred on a day I needed it didn’t help. I’d been scheduled to attend the Twiiter-organised AutoTweetup at Historit at Bicester Heritage that night and really didn’t want to miss it. Thankfully a jump start from my other half’s ever-reliable 1996 Ford Fiesta did the trick and I made it to work and onto the magical evening.

Dual personality
Y464 was fine from then on in, whisking me home from Oxfordshire on a late summer’s evening swiftly, quietly and in comfort. The GTI’s refinement on that type of journey is something which constantly amazes me. The fact that it can regularly show a dual personality is to be applauded – the fun, country road buzzbox can also be a real motorway express when the need is there.

The next bill came in August. A failed air-conditioning pump meant a replacement, and a small puddle of dampness by one of the car’s rear corners signalled replacement shock absorbers. The one that was leaking was apparently snapped and was ‘pissing out fluid’ everywhere, according to Sani’s. I’m not entirely sure how I missed it – there was no discernible difference in noise or ride quality… The end result? A hefty £550 invoice.

The car also ferried me to Volkswagen UK’s National Learning Centre in Milton Keynes the same month to meet up with the company’s electric-powered e-Golf and enjoyed a very early morning trip to Goodwood Racing Circuit in October for the Hot Hatch Sunday event.

That almost brings the reports up-to-date. A nasty missing chunk out of one of the GTI’s BBS ‘Split Rim’ (inventive name, Volkswagen) alloy wheels in December meant a repair (again – but I have finally stopped kerbing them!). I’m still not sure how the rim got that damaged. There was no evidence of rim kerbing, just a missing piece of paint, exposing a deep ‘wound’.

The two front tyres needed replacing, so it made common and financial sense to get them changed while the car was in having the wheel painted. This was duly done with Falken rubber replacing mismatched tyres that had previously been fitted. However, when swapping one of the tyres, more paint came off another rim. This meant that wheel needed painting, too, which thankfully the garage never charged me for.

Bent wheel rim
But, Sani’s did inform me that the paint on some of the wheels is now is so thick on the part of the outer rim which is usually polished, that they ideally need stripping back and repainting properly. Also, one of the rims was slightly bent from an earlier incident and needed replacing in the long-term. So, I’m on the look-out for a 6N2 Polo GTI BBS ‘Split Rim’ alloy wheel, if anyone should know of one…

The change of tyres was at 108,555 miles, and GHJ has covered 2,000 more miles since then. Another (annual) service is impending, with a constant ‘OIL’ flashing in the service indicator display. It’s not due by time until another six weeks or so, so I may wait until then. I’m lucky that by testing cars as part of my job, there are frequent occasions when a vehicle from a manufacturer’s press fleet is parked outside the house, meaning that less miles are piled onto the Polo.

Overall, though, the GTI is still proving fun yet grown up four almost four years since I took ownership. There are times when it does start to feel its age, but most of the time, compared to my old 1994 Polo Coupé GT which preceded it, it feels modern enough for daily life. It still returns around its claimed 40mpg with alarming regularity (I even saw almost 45mpg a few months back) and remains a well-loved and respected companion. And even though I’ve shelled out at least half its worth in maintenance costs over the past 18 months, it’s nothing less than it deserves.

2001 Volkswagen Polo GTI – Rich Gooding

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