Used Volkswagen Bora Saloon 1999 - 2005 review

Category: Family car

Cheaper than more practical Golf, but the Bora is just as well built

Volkswagen Bora Saloon (99 - 05)
  • Volkswagen Bora Saloon (99 - 05)
  • Volkswagen Bora Saloon (99 - 05)
Used Volkswagen Bora Saloon 1999 - 2005 review
Star rating

What's the used Volkswagen Bora saloon like?

When Volkswagen introduced the Bora in 1999, it was attempting to create a small sporting saloon in the BMW 3-Series mould. It never quite achieved those dizzy heights, but the Bora is a good and smart-looking car all the same, even if its saloon body restricts its practicality.

Where it does score over the Golf is that, thanks to stiffer suspension and superior body control, it's a better driver's car than the car it's based on. True, really rough or tortuously twisty roads can get the better of Bora's chassis, but most of the time it's fine.


Cheaper than more practical Golf, but the Bora is just as well built

  • It drives well and there's a wide range of engines
  • Saloon body lacks practicality of the Golf it's based on

There is a huge variety of engines and the majority are very refined, although the diesels can be boomy and the V5 isn't as smooth as it should be.

Inside, there's precious little to complain about and attention to detail in the cabin is second to none. The seats are comfortable and supportive, the boot is roomy and rear passenger space is acceptable.

Ownership cost

What used Volkswagen Bora saloon will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a Volkswagen Bora saloon?

Because the Bora, as a saloon, is less popular than the five-door Golf hatch, the good news is that prices are lower.

Service intervals are set at 10,000 miles or 12 months, which is par for the course. And, although Volkswagen dealers charge more for their labour, Warranty Direct's figures show that the average repair cost works out cheaper than for most rivals.

Running costs are only a pain with the larger-engined models. If you choose the V6 4Motion, for example, be prepared to dip into your wallet regularly, because it has a 25mpg thirst. And, that's the official figure - the real-world one will be a lot lower, while insurance is high with a group 17 rating. The V5 fares a little better with 29mpg, but its group 16 rating is still steep.

With our recommended 1.9 TDI diesel, you'll encounter a lot less financial pain, thanks to 54mpg fuel economy and a group 6 insurance rating. The 1.6-litre, 16-valve, petrol unit is fairly economical with 39mpg and the same group 6 insurance.

Our recommendations

Which used Volkswagen Bora saloon should I buy?

The core engine is the 1.9 TDI turbodiesel, and models with this engine are the ones to go for. The 90bhp version, which ran until May 2002, is okay, but the PD high-pressure injection versions are better. The 110bhp and 115bhp models do a solid job, while the 130bhp version, which arrived in June 2001, gives hotter performance.

The 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol engines are fine, while the 1.8-litre Turbo gives a nice drive in both 147bhp and 177bhp tune, but suffers from reliability problems. Refinement is poor in the 2.3-litre V5, but that's not something you could say of the silky-smooth 201bhp V6 4Motion.

Even entry-level S cars are well equipped, with air-con, central-locking, electric windows and fully adjustable steering. SE trim adds a trip computer, alloys and alarm, while the Sport gets lower suspension and a CD player.

Safety across the range is good, too, with a four-star Euro NCAP rating, front and side airbags and anti-lock brakes. But, go for a post-June 2002 model, if you can, as they also get electronic skid prevention as standard.


What alternatives should I consider to a used Volkswagen Bora saloon?