I bought the Polo as my first car in 2007 for £750. This in my opinion was an excellent deal as the car was low mileage (65k) and came with a full service history.
The build quality of these cars is fantastic. Interior is solidly put together, and the whole car in general feels built like a tank. My car (the CL model) also came with electric windows, central locking and power steering, which made life a whole lot easier. There is reasonable space for 4 people, although the boot is a bit small.
Performance wise, this is a very nippy little car. Faster than the book figures suggest. I managed to squeeze 112mph out of her, although the poor thing objected to this a bit! The engine sounds great and emits a really throaty growl when pushed hard, although it sounds a bit whiny at low revs. The power delivery is also a bit uneven, 0-50 in 2nd and third is great, but 50-70 has a big flat spot, and then it suddenly picks up again at 70.
Fuel economy is reasonable when driven carefully, about 350 miles from a full tank of unleaded, and around 35mpg. This improves on longer trips. Fuel economy is awful however, if this car is driven with a heavy right foot.
Maintenance and reliability wise, this car was excellent. Only one breakdown in 16000 miles of regular use, and this was due to a crack in the distributor cap, causing the engine to keep cutting out whenever I touched the accelerator. This was an easy and cheap fix by my dad's mechanic friend (around 20 quid). Other than this incident, the Polo was 100% reliable, started first time every day regardless of the weather, and always delivered what I wanted of it, from blasting round the Norfolk countryside, to carting 5 lads and our luggage up to the Reading Festival. Insurance costs were reasonable, even with a previous claim.
Sadly, I had to let the Polo go to raise some money to come to uni. I miss her a lot, but would not hesitate to get another one, perhaps a 1.9 diesel next time, as my mate owns one and it does 60mpg. All in all, in my opinion, anyone wanting cheap, reliable and fun first time motoring should seriously consider a Polo. Brilliant little cars.