i used to have one before the golf, really nice car! it was great to throw about around the bends (it was on hr coilovers). it is pretty quick to, i dont think its quite as quick as the golf (1.8T) plus you have to work the engine a lot more to get it goin!
much better spec in std form than the golf to! if you get an earlier one you wont get climate just ac, also the later ones had a cd changer as std to and a few other little bits!
Great car and fairly quick if you keep the revs up.
The Gearbox/clutch thing you refer to is commonly known as the pedal box problem. This was subject to a factory recall so check that this has been done. They are full of good equipment as standard (although, strangly no MFA). Not quite as solid as the Golf and feels a little scatty at higher speed as the power steering becomes quite light.
Overall I'd say it's a very good car but I'd never swap my Golf for one 
A forum community dedicated to Volkswagen Mark 4 owners and enthusiasts in the UK. Come join the discussion about performance, modifications, classifieds, troubleshooting, maintenance, and more for the Golf, Bora, Jetta, Touran, and Scirocco!