In September 2001, Volkswagen presented the Polo Mk4 (codenamed Typ 9N) which went on sale one year later, in 2002. Just like the Golf, VW's supermini grew to become a very popular choice. The forth-gen VW Polo shares the same architecture with the Seat Ibiza Mk3 and the Skoda Fabia Mk1 and Mk2. Lupo-like headlights became its distinctive exterior design cue until 2006 when a comprehensive facelift changed them with a set inspired by the Volkswagen Passat.
PROS & CONS
- High Build Quality
- Extensive Safety Kit
- Frugal Bluemotion Version
- Look For The 1.2-Liter Five-Door S Or Match Models
- Bluemotion Variants Are Both Frugal And Road Tax-Exempt
- Bluemotion Variants Are Both Frugal And Road Tax-Exempt
- Dull Design
- Uninspiring Interior
- Expensive To Buy
- Poor Equipment Levels
Stay Away From
- Surprisingly, It's Best If You Avoid The 1.4-Liter And The 1.9-Liter Tdi Versions
Known Problems & Recalls
- – Watch Out For Suspension And Axle Failures, As These Issues Are Common
- – Also, Some Gearboxes Are Known For Malfunctioning
- – The Dashboard Can Rattle On Older Versions, Especially In The Center Console Area
- – A Recall Triggered In 2005 Involved Tension Cracks That Might Appear On The Vacuum Pipe To The Brake Servo
- – In 2007, A Batch Of Cars Was Called In Due To A Potential Fire Hazard: The Cloth On The Heated Seats Could Catch Fire
- – Isolated Cases Involved Ecu Failure And Water Leaks Into The Cabin
Besides being reasonably generous, the engine lineup available for the Polo Mk4 is also frugal. The entry-level unit is a 1.2-liter petrol unit available with either 55 or 65 HP, but our advice is to look for post-2005 variants as the power output went up to 60 and 70 HP, respectively. The 1.2-liter feels crisp and performs well around town.
Above the 1.2-liter unit sits a slightly larger 1.4-liter mill also available in two versions: with 75 and 100 HP. Surprisingly, you'll need to push it hard to squeeze some proper performances, but there's also a 1.6-liter topping the petrol range with 105 HP. In post-2006 models, the 1.4-liter was tweaked to offer 80 HP.
The diesel camp is home to a 1.4-liter TDI with 75 HP joined by the noisy and unrefined 1.9-liter SDI choice and the benchmark 1.9-liter TDI – the latter is a better alternative in terms of performance but still unpolished.
However, the 2006 facelift brought the BlueMotion technology in the VW Polo courtesy of a 1.4-liter diesel unit with 79 HP.
Like the Golf, the Polo focuses more on comfort and forgets about the fun-to-drive experience. That's not necessarily a wrong thing because the soft suspension setup will help with the overall comfort feel. This also means body roll is highly pronounced in tighter corners, and while the light steering makes the Polo one of the best urban strollers, it will not offer enough feel on roads outside the city.
For a car this size, the VW Polo is pretty safe. Euro NCAP awarded the supermini with four out of five safety stars. Such a favorable rating was possible thanks to standard features like front dual airbags and ABS.
There's enough space for those sitting in the back but make sure to opt for the five-door version because things get a little cramped in the three-door and access is also a bit problematic. However, there's plenty of legroom, shoulder room, and headroom as long as the backseat is occupied by only two adults – three grown-ups are too much for the supermini.
Noise isolation is good, but the diesels are noisy enough to flood the cabin with their unmistakable soundtrack. The drivers get good visibility all around the car, and the seats are supportive enough to keep your back relaxed and fatigue-free during trips around the city.
If you can get over the dull interior, the almost perfect build quality displayed by the VW Polo Mk4 will raise your spirit. The car feels robust, but if we look at what the reliability studies have to say, Polo's rivals – Toyota Yaris included – are more appreciated by buyers.
Despite gaining a few extra inches in length and width over the years, the VW Polo Mk4 has the smallest trunk in its segment, which offers 270 liters of cargo space. Just above the Polo sits Toyota's Yaris supermini (272 liters), the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa (285 liters) and the Renault Clio (288 liters). Also, the rear seats can't be folded, so your options are limited.
Things look better inside the cabin practicality-wise due to plenty of cubby holes coming to supplement the generous glovebox. Also, on some models, an under-seat storage area is available.
A CD stereo system on every Polo plus a multifunction computer and air-con on higher-spec models is all VW had in store for its supermini.
When Polo received the BlueMotion badge in 2006, the 1.4-liter diesel brought by this introduction returned 74 mpg, by far the most economical choice in the Polo Mk4 engine lineup. Otherwise, the 1.2-liter petrol returns 47.1 mpg while the 1.4-liter unit is good for 43.5 mpg and the 1.6-liter mill drinks on an average 40.9 mpg.
As far as the diesel department is concerned, the 1.9-liter TDI engine returns 56.5 mpg, around the same figure offered by the 1.4-liter TDI: 57.6 mpg.
The basic VW Polo Mk4 comes fitted with ABS and electronic brakeforce distribution, height and depth adjustable steering wheel, power steering and a CD stereo unit. Go one step higher and the S trim level tops that with 14-inch alloys, semi-auto air-con, side airbags and front fog lights as well as power windows (front only) plus heated power mirrors.
SE models and above should be first on your shopping list. For example, SE brings height adjustment for the driver and front passenger seats and a three-spoke steering wheel, but the top-of-the-range Sport equipment level supplements the offer with 15-inch alloy wheels, exterior chrome inserts, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and handbrake plus a sportier suspension setup.
The BlueMotion range tops everything off with a trip computer and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
The VW Polo fall on the expensive side when buying used because the model holds excellent residual value. Moreover, we advise you to skip past the entry-level versions and look for Match or S trim levels. Also, you'll want to buy a facelifted Polo Mk4 – so be on the lookout for models built after 2005. Nonetheless, the BlueMotion variant will save you from paying road tax money, besides offering top-shelf frugality.