The word Volkswagen must mean different things to different people. To me it means solid, well built, dependable cars. I suppose that’s why, over the years, I’ve bought three Golfs, a Passat and an Audi 80. Not that I’ve avoided other makes – Ford, Fiat and Peugeot have also carried me, and my family, from A to B. But I keep coming back to Volkswagens – they’ve always been a safe bet. Our Bora 2.0 SE, owned from new and now with forty thousand miles on the clock, continues the tradition. It’s a good car, although there are a couple of things that could put me off buying another Bora, unless Volkswagen fixes them… but that wouldn't include putting in a diesel engine! Let’s start off outside. It’s a tidy shape, simple and solid looking, an impression produced by the smooth curves over the wings, bonnet and roof and the lovely big alloy wheels. Remember all those nooks and crannies on a Cortina? You’re probably not old enough. Anyway, there’s none of these, this car is quick and easy to wash. The paint is thick (ours is black) and there’s galvanising underneath, so it won’t rot like a Cortina either. The plastic headlamps are a bit of a surprise, but they don’t seem to scratch. If there’s any drawback to the look of the car, it’s that it can be confused with a Polo from the front and a Passat from other angles. Jump in the driver’s seat and you’re immediately impressed by the high, narrow feel of the car. All the controls are neat and tidy, well made and logically placed. Nice big dials, huge VW badge on the leather-trimmed steering wheel but - what’s this – rough edges on the stalk controls and the gear knob. How did that happen? It’s just a little thing, but not what you expect in a VW. I keep meaning to go and get a new gear knob trim from the dealer, as you notice it every time you change
gear. Look around and the rest of the cabin is fine. Lovely materials (eat your heart out, old 405), although the seats seem to attract fluff. Ours is black throughout – I don’t much fancy the cream interior found on other models. Adjust the seat – height, distance, lumbar – and the steering wheel – distance, rake – start it up and pull away. Still feels tall and narrow – very modern – but good torque low down, virtually impossible to stall. Work up through the gears (clunky gearchange) and you’re in a car which is smooth, quiet and well suited to general motoring. The 115bhp engine has been tuned for midrange, so it doesn’t need to be revved hard for good progress. But you can if you want, and if you do, three figure speeds will come up quickly enough. Better though to adjust the seat again, put your left foot on the footrest, switch on the stereo and air-con and settle down to 60-70-80mph cruising. After a while, adjust the seat a bit more (why can’t I get comfortable?) and you’ve discovered one of the flaws that could deter me from buying another Bora. I cannot get settled, no matter how I adjust the seat. Drive this car for at least 20 minutes before you buy it. All is forgiven, old 405, you may have slowly disintegrated around me but at least I was perfectly comfy! Swoop through a few corners and the Bora is light but not hugely accurate, you can’t play those games where you aim a wheel at a mark on the road and feel it under the tyre. The suspension is excellent though, no crashes and bangs, and it doesn’t tie itself in knots if you have to make a sudden change of direction. At this point you’ll be getting noises from the back seat passengers. This is flaw number two – there’s not enough room in the back for anyone other than kids. The space has been allocated to the (traditionally) huge VW boot.
But by this time, you’ve probably got to where you’re going, at around 35mpg - 40 on a long trip. You’ve mastered the electric windows, played with the trip computer and set off the alarm by using the key in the door lock. You’ve hopefully not had to use the ABS (forget that cadence braking you taught yourself!) or the traction control, which seems to make funny "urrr-urrr" noises but not do an awful lot. And it’s unlikely you’ve had any real problems with the car. All in all, I like the Bora, it’s been a good buy. I read lots about the turbodiesel versions, but since I don’t like turbochargers and don’t like diesels, I won’t be having one. The Bora also seems to get compared with the Ford Focus; but I’m not a fan of ghetto-blaster dashboards or bread van styling so a Focus is not for me. I would have another petrol Bora though, if they fix the seats, and if I don’t need adult-sized space in the back. If I get richer maybe the V5…? Recommended - four stars!