We use cookies on whatcar.com to improve your browsing experience and to provide you with relevant content and advertising, by continuing to use our site you agree to this. Please see our privacy policy for more details. Continue

What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For You get a classy image, reasonable running costs and good residuals

Against There's little standard kit, and others are more enjoyable to drive

Verdict A little car with a strong, big image

Go for… The 1.4 16v

Avoid… Early 1.0 cars (before 1996)

Volkswagen Polo Hatchback
  • 1. Check for signs of impending head gasket failure, such as gunk under the oil filler cap
  • 2. The suspension and axles are common causes of warranty claims
  • 3. Choose the more practical five-door model over the three-door - the premium's worth it
advertisement

Volkswagen Polo Hatchback full review with expert trade views

With a Polo, it's more about comfort than joy. The soft suspension rides the bumps well, although not always quietly, while the main controls are light and easy to use – power steering was standard on all Polos from the outset – and it goes round corners in a safe, predictable, if unremarkable, manner.

As a result, this car will never get your pulse racing, but for some buyers that’s exactly what they want from. So yes, it’s pretty soul-less, but as a four-wheeled domestic appliance you can rely on, it does an excellent job. It also has a posher image than most superminis.

Downsides? You won’t get much kit, rear three-quarter visibility isn’t great and other superminis are more spacious. You need to be careful over your choice of engine, too, because some struggle and others are unrefined. Avoid those and you’ll have an easy-going, capable car for urban or countryside motoring.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Good reliability, low repair costs and failure rates

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

We reckon the small premium for five doors over three is worth it; getting at the back seats in the three-door Polo is awkward, especially if you’re trying to strap the kids in.

If you want an automatic gearbox, you’ll have to go for the 1.6-litre petrol engine, but that's no great hardship - it’s one of our favourites.

Diesel fans should ignore the unrefined 1.9 diesel (launched in 1996) and pick the much better 1.9 turbodiesel (1998 on) or 1.4 TDI (from 2000). However, the Polo with the most all-round ability is the 1.4-litre 16v petrol (introduced in 1995), and there are plenty for sale wherever you look.

When you are looking, try to find as new a Polo as possible. Early models have only a basic roster of kit, but later cars are better, especially on the top trims, GLX (earlier cars) and SE (later models).

On a similar note, twin airbags became standard on all Polos in October 1998 and anti-lock brakes from January 2000. So, bear that in mind when you're shopping around.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Specification is poor, sells on badge. 1.4 Match and 1.9 TDi SE best bets

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The Polo is a posher-than-average supermini that can be run for common-or-garden money. The only hurdle to ‘posh on the cheap’ is the initial purchase price.

For the same money, you can buy newer, faster and better-equipped superminis than a Polo. However, that swish VW image means your cash won’t disappear in a puff of depreciation before your eyes, as it will on some of those newer rivals.

Once you’re in the Polo club, staying a member is cheap. Value loss – typically the biggest motoring expense – is comparatively small and fuel costs are low. The 1.4 petrols give 40-45mpg, the 1.6 just under 40mpg, and the diesels can deliver high 50s.

Insurance, meanwhile, is average (group 2 for the 1.0, rising to the 1.6’s group 12), and although servicing will be slightly dearer than on a Fiesta, you can cut labour rates by going to an independent specialist.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Good reliability, low repair costs and failure rates

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

Provided the car has been serviced on time and to VW’s standards, there should be little to worry about. The Polo is well screwed together and its mechanicals are pretty robust – a point reinforced by the Polo’s very good showing in our Reliability Surveys. In fact, many reckon this Polo model is more dependable than the one that succeeded it. Even so, the smart money goes on cars that have a complete service history. They’ll also be quicker to resell later.

Major faults are rare, but check for signs of impending head gasket failure - white sludge under the oil filler cap is a common sign. Also, a thirsty engine can indicate that there’s a problem with the engine management system, which could cost big bucks to fix.

Other than that, inspect the suspension, axles and electrical systems – the three most common areas for claims to Warranty Direct by Polo owners. Air-con, where fitted, should be fully checked, too.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Specification is poor, sells on badge. 1.4 Match and 1.9 TDi SE best bets

James Ruppert
Used car guru
Haymarket Logo What Car? is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media
What Car? is part of Haymarket Motoring
© Haymarket Media Group 2014