Used Volkswagen Polo Hatchback 2002 - 2005 review

Category: Small car

Pricey, but it deserves its classy reputation

Volkswagen Polo Hatchback (02 - 05)
  • Volkswagen Polo Hatchback (02 - 05)
  • Volkswagen Polo Hatchback (02 - 05)
Used Volkswagen Polo Hatchback 2002 - 2005 review
Star rating

What's the used Volkswagen Polo hatchback like?

The Polo feels very grown-up for a little car, but it's more about comfort than fun. Road and wind noise are largely shut out and the ride is cushy, for example, but it lurches through quick corners.

Inside, there's enough space for four adults, but the accommodation isn't class-leading. At least the boot is sizeable, although it has a high lip, which is a pain to lift heavy loads over.


Pricey, but it deserves its classy reputation

  • Quality build
  • Dood safety kit
  • Spacious
  • Strong resale values
  • Expensive to buy
  • Dull cabins
  • Questionable reliability

While we're talking about pain, in the cheapest models the seat height is fixed (it's too high for some) and the seats are generally soft but fail to give all-round support. At least the steering adjusts for reach and height.

Twin airbags are standard and the Polo gained four stars out of five from Euro NCAP for protecting its occupants in a crash. However, its one star of a possible four for pedestrian protection is poor.

Ownership cost

What used Volkswagen Polo hatchback will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a Volkswagen Polo hatchback?

At more than 10 years old, this shape Polo is cheap to buy now and shouldn't cost much to run.

Spares are reasonably priced and servicing will be, too, provided you steer away from main dealers and their sky-high labour bills. All models need servicing annually or every 12,000 miles, which is par for the course, and the What Car? Reliability Index, compiled by Warranty Direct, says repairs on Polos are reasonably priced.

Insurance and fuel economy are fine, too. The 55bhp 1.2 slips into insurance group 5 and everything else is group 13 or less, except for the 128bhp 1.9 turbodiesel, which is group 17.

All manage 40mpg with ease and the diesels promise 50mpg on a long, gentle run. Bear in mind, though, that the 1.4 FSI petrol needs to be filled with super unleaded to run smoothly.

Our recommendations

Which used Volkswagen Polo hatchback should I buy?

Our choice is the mid-trim S model with the 65bhp 1.2 engine, but don't bother with the 55bhp 1.2 because that's a bit slow. The more powerful model is most commonly teamed with the entry E trim, which has only central locking and a CD player.

Instead, track down a car with S trim, which adds air-con, electric windows and door mirrors. Or, for more go, move up to the 1.4 petrols (standard and FSI, bearing in mind the latter engine's appetite for super-unleaded).

Alternatively, there are four diesels: two versions of a 1.4 giving 70bhp and 80bhp, and two 1.9s offering 100bhp or 128bhp. Of these, the 80bhp 1.4 and the 100bhp 1.9 are strong and frugal, but the entry 1.4 is weak and the more powerful 1.9 is totally unsuited to the Polo's 'don't rush me' road manners.

The top-end trim levels are SE and Sport. The first adds remote central locking, alloy wheels and an alarm, while the Sport also has stiffer suspension, but you can get everything that's great about the Polo in one of the cheaper trims, so there's little point in spending any extra.

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What alternatives should I consider to a used Volkswagen Polo hatchback?