1996 Volkswagen Polo SE 1.4 from UK and Ireland


Expected far better


Interior light has never worked, and dealer unwilling to repair.

Drivers door hinge fell off after 2 months.

Electric Mirror failed and was replaced under warranty.

Gearbox failed 1 month after warranty expired! Had to replace with original VW part at V.W. dealer who were not able to do repair for 3 weeks and no courtesy car available. After several letters to V.W. they agreed to pay half of the bill. (The car had only done 10,000 miles!)

Having spoken to several other Polo owner this is fairly common on 1.4 Polos made in 1995/6.

Water gets in from both passenger and driver doors and despite the car being taken to dealer to have new door rubbers etc, every time it rains there are puddles in the foot wells. Again a very common fault and one which the dealer has apparently 'never come across'.

General Comments:

Good reliability. Always starts first time.

Car is now 7 years old and still looks good.

Standard alloy wheels are too small and high profile tires look a bit silly.

These Polo's are rated as the top Super-mini. In my opinion they are vastly overrated. The car is slow, expensive to buy and run and has very average build quality.

The gearbox is very poor and difficult to put into reverse.

The standard stereo and speakers are terrible.

No electric windows, central locking or sunroof. (Poor spec.)

Rear visibility is a joke. Move if you see one reversing toward you!!

Boot is far too small. Smaller than a Metro! It is quite deep though.

60bhp from a 1.4 engine is not very good and as the car is fairly heavy this makes progress very slow.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 1st July, 2003

21st Jul 2005, 10:37

Weak points:

Rust on passenger side door.

Passenger side glove box handle broke.

Bit of a disappointing gear box.

Suspension is way too high as standard compared with other vehicles.

Strong points:

Very reliable, being a VW.

Very strongly built.

Whack it on some coil overs and it looks amazing.

1996 Volkswagen Polo CL 1.4L petrol from UK and Ireland


A small car with a big feel and a lot of


The seals are in perfect condition yet some how water still manages to get into certain places in the cabin (this is possibly due to some areas of the body trapping water). This results in a very wet floor after heavy rain.

The rear wash facility on the rear wiper does not function. The liquid from the washer fluid container comes out, but does not come out of the rear washer. Instead the liquid is probably dispensed some where inside the car.

The airbag light is constantly on; this has been checked by Volkswagen. They insist that this is a minor electric fault and that the airbag does operate correctly. This is not totally re-assuring.

General Comments:

+ The car is generally very reliable so running costs are low.

+ The torque on the 1.4L engine is quite impressive.

+ The car is quite happy with over steer.

+ The power assisted steering on the Polo is a joy to use, very direct and not too light.

+ Decent depreciation due to the desirability of the Polo.

+ Build quality is generally excellent (no car is perfect).

+ Road holding is very good for a small car (it is nothing compared to the 1.8T Passat).

+ The seats are very comfortable and hold you reasonably well. The whole interior shows its quality against the interiors of cars such as the 106, Fiesta and Saxo.

+ The boot is deceptively large; it is very deep which means you can fit pretty much everything in there without any trouble.

The engine efficiency is reasonable (it is claimed to be in the region of 42mpg, but you have to drive very carefully to get above 40mpg)

The insurance is reasonable for a 1.4L (probably because it is only 60bhp as standard. If you place a decent ECU and an Ecotek valve on the Polo then this can be boosted to about 82bhp. The insurance is only a little bit extra). This is also because the CL has an immobilizer and central locking.

The car is build like a tank (this can be good if you are in an accident, but it can also make it a little cumbersome off the lights).

The suspension is adequate, maybe a little soft. As a result body roll can occur, but this is only an annoyance when you are feeling a little ‘thrashy’.

As with most super-minis, the rear passenger space is not necessarily ideal. Whilst it is still comfortable, it is not ideal for long journeys. The only super-minis to have more space for the backseat passengers would be the Corsa and the Punto.

- Gear ratios are not necessarily perfect as standard.

- The turning circle feels quite poor for such a small car.

- The brakes don’t have an overly reassuring feel to them.

- Visibility is good; although due to the shape of the car parking can sometimes be awkward (the bonnet has a very deceptive length to it).

- The design of the engine sometimes makes maintenance difficult (i.e. accessibility to some parts of the engine leaves something to be desired).

- Some areas are prone to trapping water and hence can rust. However, on the whole the body is very rust resistant.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 4th January, 2003

6th Oct 2008, 14:38

I also have a 96 1.4CL Polo and agree with what you have to say about it.

7th Jan 2009, 07:38

Brilliant cars. My first car was a 1.4 CL, 1995, which I bought for £600 and had a year of trouble free motoring from. Wish I'd held onto it.

20th Feb 2009, 04:28

I had the similar problem with the rear window washer. The problem may be the 2 tubes that run from the pump at the base of the washer fluid bottle in the engine bay. It took me quite a while to fix by: removing the battery, taking the fluid bottle out by removing its three screws, re attaching the loose tube and gluing it/taping it, and putting it all back together.

Now it works as good as new.