Has VW's reliability improved?

I will be buying a new car this summer in the US. I like VW styling, but I remember they were having serious issues with their reliability. I had two different office mates who had trouble with their VWs, and spent a lot of time on the phone with dealers who were not getting the problems fixed, for both of them it was something to do with oil sludge; but I’ve also heard VWs have trouble with electronics. Has VW made improvements on this?

In my experience, your VW’s reliability depends A LOT on where it was manufactured. When I was car buying a couple of years ago, the Passats and Cabrios, both made in Germany, were very reliable. The models made in SC (Jettas and Golfs, IIRC) were a little less so, and the models made in Mexico (Beetle) were absolute shite.

Of course, that was five years ago, and all the body styles have changes. I’m sure some one else with more recent information will be along shortly.

Had a 2002 VW Passat and spent $2000 or so on the oil sludge issue. VW made a decision to screw over owners by making them produce receipts for every single oil change to get coverage under their so-called extended warranty. This problem was limited to their 1.8 turbo engine which I don’t believe they use any longer.

However, I came to the opinion that every single car manufacturer would have done the exact same thing. Those repairs were expensive and as they tended to show up late, the correct ‘business’ decision was to force the owners to pay for the repairs. I was stupid in not trading the car in earlier as I knew the oil sludge issue would eventually show up.

I traded the car in for a 2008 Jetta. It has been fine and I’ve not read anything about problems with these cars.

Okay, these are two separate issues.
You’ve got sludging, which stems from a design decision of questionable wisdom.
Separately, you’ve got issues with manufacturing quality, poor choice of plastics on some interior elements and quirky electricals.

I talked my ex into buying a 2003 Passat based on “improved reliability” So far it has been a huge mistake, tons and tons of expensive repair bills for stupid crap that you would never have to worry about with a Honda or Toyota.

The oil sludge problem was limited to the Audi-sourced 1.8T(urbo) engine available in the Passat and Jetta from 1998 to 2004, and in the Audi A4 from 1997 to 2004.

From 2005 on, they fitted a larger oil filter and recommended synthetic oil only, which seems to have solved the issue.

According to Consumer Reports, VW seems to be getting better. But the quality was so bad for so long, it would be hard for me to trust them until they get back on track for 5 years at least.

What VW do you like? Perhaps we could suggest an alternative? For example, the Volvo C30.

I love my 2003 Passat, but it really hasn’t been the most reliable car. Quite a few smaller problems, nothing big. I don’t have the sludge issue, and I did get the fuel pump recall done on my car.

Another friend with a 2003 (maybe 2002) had the sludge problem, but VW ponied up for the repair costs.

A friend has a 2002, and it’s been more troublesome, though I don’t know if they do the regular maintenance as diligently.

That’s the thing - the owner’s manual specifically said to use Synthetic oil. I’ve never had a problem with sludge.

Well in the past 5 years I have had 3 jettas, a 1996 [mrAru rolled it literally 2 months after I had it paid off] a 1995 that replaced the 1996 jetta, mrAru drives that one. I have a 2002 jetta that is my car.

Hm, cant really call rolling a car at 70 miles per hour a maintenance issue, but when it was in service the only issue we had with it was the trim strip adhesive kept failing on random bit of door trim. I understand that was actually fairly common. On the 1995 replacement jetta, we have had the passenger rear door trim strip start peeling, so it got epoxied back on. We have a small issue with the knob to adjust the passenger seat back - but I honestly think that was god-daughter abuse caused. They used to play with the seat back adjustment. We had an oil leak that turns out to have been an issue with Jiffy-Lube stripping out the drain pan plug, which was an easy fix. We had an issue with the drivers side visor clip snapping. May have been a goddaughter abuse victim.
My 2002 jetta, other than the nose piece getting pulled away from the rest of the car by a dipshit in the parking lot [she backed her car out, and caught the corner on her car somehow and yanked it loose.] and the solenoid for the gas tank hatch door dying and needing replacement, mine has been pretty much trouble free.

We put about 75000 miles on the 96 jetta, about 120000 miles on each of the other 2 jettas. They all started with around 40000-50000 miles. We dont tend to buy new cars.

Thanks to everyone who replied. I was looking at the new Golf Mk. VI which got car of the year by J.D. Powers and launches in the US in September. I like the styling, but I just don’t feel comfortable enough with VW’s reliability and customer service. I think I’m going to get the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 instead.

Great choice. Look at the Volvo C30 too, however.

Yeah, I had a Mazda Protege5 that I loved. I want the same type of car, but with a little more luxury. I’ll look at the Volvo, which is a pretty good looking car, but then I saw pictures of the 2010 Mazdaspeed this weekend and it pretty much made up my mind.

Here’s J. D. Powers ratings for 2006 Volkswagen, the latest year for which there are dependability ratings.


Not very impressive.

My experience with VW owners is that they are in denial about the (lack of) quality and reliability of their vehicles.

Be advised that if it matters to you, Mazdaspeed vehicles have historically had phenomenally bad gas mileage.

That’s solely because mazdaspeed cars are sports cars, and most folks drive them as such. Get the 'speed 3, it’s fast and from what I can tell, reliable. The major rags like Motor Trend and Road and Track absolutely gush over this car.


I have had several cars that were lemons, that everybody else seemed to love … and I have had cars that had chronic issues, that everybody seemed to love …

And I have my VWs, that I have not had anywhere near the same issues as any other car I have owned. Although I do admit to a very unholy love for my international harvester scout, which is definitely not a sexy car by any possible consideration for very similar reasons to my jettas … minimal trouble, reasonable maintenance costs, durable.

It’s not much of an issue because we live in the city, would metro to work and pretty much use the car to get speeding tickets on the weekend.

This makes you a perfect candidate for a Mazdaspeed product then.
Knock yourself out, then. The 3 is a great car by itself, and a race-tuned 3 would be a hell of a ride.

Before you pull the trigger you owe it to yourself to investigate the Genesis Coupe. I sat in it at the Chicago Autoshow and was wowed. I’m hoping to get into the car market soon (once I get a new job, damn it) and this puppy is at the top of my list…this said as someone with a soft-spot for American and German cars and a distaste for Asians.