Used Car Review: VW Polo

Volkswagen Polo Mark III – 1994 – 2002

Continuing our series of Used Car Reviews by we focus on this popular model.

Overview: Regarded as the quality choice in the segment, the Volkswagen Polo Mark III carried on this tradition. While not the company’s most exciting work, the Polo does however make a great used buy, even if prices remain quite high.

Tell me all about it: The third-generation of the Polo might seem light and a little flimsy by today’s standards but back when it was launched in 1994 it had a solidity that few of its rivals could hope to match. At launch the engine line-up consisted of a 45hp 1.0-litre and a 55hp 1.3-litre, although the overwhelming majority sold here in Ireland had the 1.0-litre engine. It was also the first time that the Polo became available with five doors and – in small numbers in Ireland – with a diesel engine. The 64hp 1.9-litre diesel wasn’t particularly powerful or refined. There was also the option of an automatic transmission for the first time and in terms of safety a driver’s airbag was introduced.

Anything I should look out for? With older cars it is always advisable to get a Cartell Car Check. It is also good to bear in mind that power steering isn’t something that came standard in the Polo until much later in the life of the Mark III (circa 2001). If you are taking a test drive, make sure to check if the gear change is smooth, as some of these cars have had pretty tough lives with less than mechanically sympathetic drivers. Spanish-built models weren’t always up to the quality you would expect from Volkswagen. Check for patches of rust low down and also make sure to check front brake discs and front pads. The front discs tend to need replacing every 50,000 kilometres or so.

What are my options? The options here in Ireland are reasonably limited – most early examples are going to be the 1.0-litre models and while these are tough little cars, do expect them to feel a little tired at this stage. If you find a saloon in good condition, these are a lot of car for very little money. Most of these will be powered by a 1.4-litre petrol engine, but there are some 1.9-litre diesels around too, though they aren’t turbocharged and can be sluggish and pretty noisy.

How much will it cost me? The early examples, from the mid-1990s are now very cheap and start from as little as €700, but you get what you pay for in this instance. Face-lifted 2001 models will have an asking price of around €1,800 and the most you should be asked to pay for this generation of Polo would be €3,000 for a very clean, low-mileage 2002 example with the round headlamps.

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