Used Volkswagen Polo Hatchback 1994 - 2002 review

Category: Small car

The Volkswagen Polo is a little car with a strong, big image

Volkswagen Polo Hatchback (94 - 02)
  • Volkswagen Polo Hatchback (94 - 02)
  • Volkswagen Polo Hatchback (94 - 02)
Used Volkswagen Polo Hatchback 1994 - 2002 review
Star rating

What's the used Volkswagen Polo hatchback like?

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.


The Volkswagen Polo is a little car with a strong, big image

  • Classy image
  • Reasonable running costs
  • Very cheap to buy
  • There's little standard kit
  • Rivals are more enjoyable to drive

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.

Ownership cost

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

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

This shape Polo is cheap as chips to buy these days, and many have seen better days so try to find one with as much service history as possible.

Once you're in the Polo club, staying a member is cheap. The worst of the depreciation is in the past 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 7 for the 1.0, rising to the 1.4 16v's group 20), and although servicing will be slightly dearer than on a Ford Fiesta, you can cut labour rates by going to an independent specialist.

Our recommendations

Which used Volkswagen Polo hatchback should I buy?

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.

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.

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