First service & 1.6 FSI SE review

17,900 miles, 15th January 2005

Well today my car had it's first interval service and I had my first new car servicing experience. So far, the experience was quite nice.

The Service Indicator on the dash of my car had been indicating that a service would be required at 18,800 miles for many months now. As more miles were piled on, the Miles Remaining started appearing on the dash every time you turned on the ignition so I booked the car into my local dealer, VW Layerthorpe of York for today with a courtesy car.

I turned up early and the service assistant was very pleasant and informed me that my car would also be having it's Tandem pump (whatever that is) replaced today under warranty. "If you say so" I thought. I asked if they could enable the automatic lowering of the door mirrors when reverse gear is selected as I would really appreciate this feature. I was told this would be done if it was indeed possible. Paperwork out of the way, we headed for the courtesy car.

I had not requested a specific courtesy car and was happy to see I had been allocated an almost brand new Mk 5 Golf, 1.6 FSI SE 3-door in Coastal Blue metallic paint. I was pleased to hear that the car had almost a full tank of fuel and I was asked to replace any fuel I used. I was quite happy to do this as I appreciated not having to head straight for a filling station as had usually been the case when picking up courtesy cars from Peugeot main dealers in the past.

Sitting in the courtesy car I felt like I was sitting in my own car. It was pretty much the same spec and had all the features and controls I use frequently when driving: auto lights, auto wipers, cruise control, etc. I wasn't disappointed I'd bought a 5 door model though because I missed the smaller front doors and not having to reach back quite so far in order to grab my seat belt.

On the road I was keen to compare my car's 1.9 TDI engine against it's petrol equivalent, this 1.6 FSI. Almost straight away when pulling away from a roundabout I was disappointed by the engine's lack of oomph! There was no period of strong acceleration which always seems to be on tap in my car. But maybe a different, higher-revving driving style was required. I'd experiment with that later.

A quick pit stop at home allowed me to check the courtesy car's manual and paperwork to see if there were any difference to mine. I discovered that the courtesy car was only about 2 weeks old (the 200 miles on the clock had already suggested as much). This meant the engine was still being run in and so maybe I should make allowances when comparing it's performance against my TDI which has nearly 18,000 miles on the clock. My check of the manual was also worthwhile because I discovered a paper supplement had been added titled, "Controls and Equipment - Golf, edition 05.2004. Technical data - Golf, edition 04.2004". This mentioned a couple of errors and omissions from the manual, most of which I had already spotted for myself. An interesting section however read, "For technical reasons, the lowering of the [door mirrors] when reversing cannot be selected in the convenience menu". This was the function I wanted the dealer doing my car's service to enable. I new they would not be able to do it via the menus because these are not accessible in my car but I still hoped they would be able to enable this feature by some other means. More on this later.

Paperwork checked, I had a 35 mile, cross-country drive ahead of me. Time to really compare the FSI and TDI engines. Driving through country roads at up to 60mph the FSI began to grow on me. I still didn't think it had quite the same acceleration oomph of my TDI but you do have a longer rev range which I guess compensates. I guess which you prefer is down to whether you prefer low down torque and effortless driving of a TDI against the quieter but higher revving FSI. It was about at this point I suddenly realised the FSI comes with a 6 speed gear box! I'd been doing 60mph in fifth with another gear to spare. That's a measure of how little engine noise gets into the cabin. Changing up to sixth whilst doing 60mph didn't seem to achieve very much. I'm guessing that it wouldn't really increase the MPG either because the engine felt less able to cope with changes in gradients. I am a heavy user of the cruise control in my TDI at all speeds and the TDI seems much happier maintaining speeds of 30mph in third, 40mph in fourth and 50mph+ in fifth. I think in the FSI I'd pretty much save sixth gear for 70mph motorway cruises. Handling of the FSI seemed identical to my TDI and I felt very secure and stable whilst cornering.

One thing I really liked about the FSI was the lack of engine noise in the cabin whilst stopped and running at idle. The only sound I heard was the heater fan running at speed 1. That is a concession I make for the other benefits of the TDI. On the open road however, I guess I was slightly more aware of engine noise from the FSI than in my TDI because of it's higher revving engine. But that I think would be something you'd quickly get used to and filter out.

As I neared the end of the first leg of the day's travels in the courtesy car I began to notice how much smoother the handbrake was in the courtesy car compared to that in my own. My car's handbrake had always seemed a bit jerky but I just thought it was due to it being new and would improve with time. However applying the handbrake in the brand new courtesy car felt smooth and much nicer. I decided to ring the dealer and ask them to see if they could do anything with my car's handbrake. They said they would take a look.

At 2 o'clock, the service assistant rung me and said that the interval service had been completed and my car was ready to be picked up when I was ready. I asked about the other jobs. I was told they had not been able to enable the auto-lowering of the door mirrors because "that is not a standard feature of the model". I felt like saying, "Well of course! If it had have been I wouldn't be asking you to enable it would I?". I said I was surprised they couldn't do this but would discuss it with them on my return. They also mentioned that they had not been able to fix the jerky handbrake. To do so would require not just a bit of lubrication as I had thought, but two new handbrake cables! They were happy to do this under warranty but could not do so today as they needed to order the parts in. I was ok with this and agreed to book the car in for a later date..

It wasn't long before I began my return trip back to York but this time via the motorways because I'd said I'd have the courtesy car back for 4pm. Cruise control set at 70mph, in sixth gear, the drive back was effortless (as they are in my TDI).

Just before I returned to the dealers, I stopped to replace the petrol I had used. Covering about 80 miles I would have expected to achieve about 40 miles to the gallon and indeed 9 litres of unleaded appeared to return the fuel gauge back to the morning's position. Back at the dealers, I parked the courtesy car beside my own which now, thanks to a free service wash and vacuum, looked much cleaner than it had when I'd left it.

Once inside, the service assistant explained the work which had been carried out. The tandem pump had been replaced and the interval service carried out. The service cost £133 with £54.66 for Parts. Add VAT and the total was £220.50! Ouch! Good job it should go another 20,000 miles before it needs another service.

I did say I was surprised to hear that they'd been unable to activate the auto-lowering of the door mirrors because I was sure I'd heard this was possible. After speaking with the service manager, he agreed to contact VW's Technical people to see if a code was available.

Overall, my first new car servicing experience with the VW dealership at Layerthorpe, York has been quite positive. Of course, we will have to wait until the 29th January to see how the handbrake and auto-lowering mirror issues are resolved.

Addition: 18,809 miles, 29th January 2005
My car returned to the dealers and had the two new handbrake cables fitted. The handbrake now feels much better. There was no mention of the auto-lowering door mirrors though by the dealer and so I gave up on my quest. I may have been mistaken that I had heard of other Mk 5 owners having this feature enabled.

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