What should I look for in a used Volkswagen Polo hatchback?
With so many used Polos around, you can afford to be picky. Avoid anything with signs of crash damage or an incomplete service history, and ensure that all of the warning lights on the dash turn off within a few seconds of the engine being started.
Brake discs and front tyres can wear surprisingly quickly, so check the condition of these (any juddering when you brake suggests worn discs). If you’re considering a 1.2 petrol model, make sure its timing chain isn’t rattling. All of the other engines use a timing belt that needs changing every four years; so ensure this work has been carried out to schedule.
Check that the air conditioning system blows cold air because if it doesn’t, your potential purchase may have a leak that will requires inspection.
What are the most common problems with a used Volkswagen Polo hatchback?
If you tend to do lots of short journeys from cold, opt for a petrol model rather than a diesel one, because the diesel particulate filters can clog up if they don't get regular motorway exercise. Speaking of diesel engines, the Polo used the EA189 unit that was implicated in the Dieselgate emissions scandal and was subject to a recall to update its software.
The 1.2 diesel engines built between 1 April 2010 and 1 April 2014 were subject to a recall for cracked fuel filters. If the filter develops a crack, fuel will leak out, with the smell entering the interior. Most should have been fixed by now but it’s worth contacting your local VW retailer to check if the work has been completed.
Although not an official recall, some 1.4 petrol models also required a software update earlier in the Polo’s life, so inquire with a VW workshop as to whether this was carried out.
The manual gearbox has a better reputation for reliability than the seven-speed DSG automatic. The latter was recalled in some markets, but this didn’t include the UK, despite a notable number of owners reporting problems.
In addition, enough cases of high oil consumption in the 1.4 TSI GTI model have been reported in order for it to be worth avoiding.
Is a used Volkswagen Polo hatchback reliable?
Unfortunately, the Polo isn’t the most reliable of cars according to our latest What Car? reliability survey. Out of 21 small cars, the Polo came in 19th place, with owners citing problems with the air conditioning, engine start/stop system and infotainment screen. Rivals such as the Ford Fiesta, Skoda Fabia and Honda Jazz all did much better.
Volkswagen as a brand finished in 22nd place out of 32 manufacturers – this isn’t a fantastic result.
If you would like to see the full reliability list for small cars, head to the What Car? reliability survey pages for more information.