Gearchange quality varies.
Despite VW's best efforts, Spanish build quality in general can vary.
PAS not available even as an option on early 1.0 versions.
1.4 automatic not really powerful enough and can develop upshift problems from 1st to 2nd which can sometimes be successfully cured by changing a solenoid (see SEAT Arosa which has the same engine and gearbox).
Surprisingly old-fashioned dashboard. 1.9 diesel not very economical when pushed. Ugly Cordoba-based saloon versions not as comfortable as hatchbacks, but have big, deep boots. 1.9SDi diesel frugal but noisy. Dashboard shows its age compared to much more cheerful Lupo.
Has appetite for front tyres, front brake discs and front pads.
Did quite badly in 'R' reg J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction Survey. Was 115th in 'S' and 'T' reg survey, behind the Rover 600 and way behind the Ford Fiesta.
1998-1999 petrol and diesel models average for problems and faults but poor for breakdowns in 2003 Which survey.
What to Watch Out For
Paying too much; particularly paying too much for a used Polo saloon, which is really nothing more than a Seat Cordoba.
Very variable gearshift quality. Faulty self-adjusting clutch cables may cause premature clutch failure. Transmission failures common.
Electric window failures may also be due to winding cable cutting free from its guides and jamming; not always a motor failure.
Check front discs and pads as tend to need replacing every 30,000 miles. If buying a 1994 - 1999 Polo, check the doors and door frames carefully for rust, especially under the window rubber and at the bottoms of the doors. Also look for rust spots on the front valence where they could have been caused by stone chips. Pedal box prone to failure.
Below minus 8 degrees centigrade, condensation in sumps of 1.0 and 1.4 engines emulsifies and blocks crankcase breather pipe leading to lack of engine lubrication and engine failure.
1996 (to June 1996 build): faults in steel wheels may lead to loss of tyre pressure.
June 2002: 120,000 Polos and Lupos built during 1998 and 1999 recalled because cracks in the brake vacuum pipe could lead to loss of servo assistance to the brakes.
Recall hotline: 0800 711811. (Official 6-7-2002: 121,281 Polos and Lupos recalled because tension cracks in vacuum pipe to brake servo may occur. Pipes to be checked and replaced if necessary.)