11 Jan 2013

Living with - Volkswagen Bora 2.0 Sport

The car - 2000 Volkswagen Bora 2.0 Sport
Owner - Alex Ellis

A bit of history….

The Bora I drive is only the third car I’ve ever owned and driven, and therefore the third Volkswagen I’ve owned. I’ll briefly mention the cars I drove before I tell you about the Bora I’ve grown to love.

My first car was a Mk2 Golf, but unfortunately not of the GTi variety. It had a 1.3 engine which was mostly rust and I’m guessing was putting out about 40bhp (at best).  I loved my little Golf and it was a project car.  My brother and I made it look like a GTi. I had some fun times in that little Golf and I still miss it! It was a determined little car. When I sold it the gearbox was dead, the thrust bearing had gone, a window leaked, the exhaust blew…

Then I had a Polo 6N2 (on a W reg), which was a 1.4. That was much punchier and nippier than the Golf but I never really liked it that much. It wasn’t as comfortable anyway, but particularly because to go anywhere “fast” I found myself constantly revving it to within an inch of its life. In addition, the boot was small and useless, and it wasn’t as reliable as I’d expected it to be. It didn’t look great either, even a GTi honeycomb grille couldn’t help it there.

Motorway driving (although I didn’t do much) was a miserable existence and as soon as my No Claims Bonus went up and insurance quotes down, I wanted something a bit more “grown up”.  I started comparing no less than 45 cars - everything from a 90bhp Corsa SRI to the 197 BHP Mazda RX-8 (which I was shocked was insurable….)  Although really, I knew my next car would be another Volkswagen.

STOP – Bora time!

Performance and Handling

Power first……

My older brother had a 2.0 Sport when I still went to school – and I remember his being much quicker! The first thing I noticed about mine when I drove it first was that it wasn’t as quick as I thought it would be  Going from a 1.4 to a 2.0 I expected a bigger change – foolishly given the Bora had only 40bhp more than the Polo, and is much heavier.  The Bora 2.0 Sport is just 115bhp though, so I can’t complain. The other thing that did disappoint initially though was the handling. It felt heavy, cumbersome and I had no confidence in its ability to go round corners at speed. 6 months later though, with Avon ZV5 tyres there isn’t much else I’d rather drive that I could have picked up for less than a grand. I should mention I paid a smidgen over £900 for the Bora, with 114k on the clock and a comprehensive service history.

The initial disappointment with performance was only really quashed when I learnt how the power was delivered. After all, I’d been driving a 1.4 which I really had to rev wildly to go anywhere, even mildly quickly. I spoke to my older brother who said the car doesn’t need to be revved, because the power is much lower in the rev range. I find now that about 4,000rpm is all you really need in a gear before you’re revving for the noise and not much else. The Bora really only comes in to its own on the motorway - when the power, being accessible much lower down in the rev range, really tells. It’s another animal on the motorways and A-roads, overtaking isn’t a chore, it’s quiet and refined. On normal roads, it’s got enough poke to be entertaining but it’s by no means quick.

Now the handling…..

Since fitting Avon ZV5’s it’s been a completely different car to drive. It’s planted and a pleasure to drive “enthusiastically”.  I’ve never enjoyed driving for the sake of it anything like I do now, and that’s a good thing, because it’s quickly dying as a means for people to pass half an hour or so.

Despite the Avons making a massive difference to how the car grips, the suspension seems good for an under £1,000 car. It’s stable and poised on the bendy bits - but still soft and forgiving enough to be comfortable on the rougher roads.

Running Costs/Reliability

It costs around £70 to fill up from almost empty, and with the type of driving I do (stop start) it only does about 23mpg. Don’t be alarmed, I didn’t do much better economy in the 1.4 Polo! On a motorway run it’ll do almost 40mpg at an 80mph constant which I don’t think is too bad – again I can’t complain.  It’s a 2 litre so I’d be foolish to expect it to be frugal.

Tax is another story though, and an area where I think complaints are fully justified. 6 months tax is £121, and 12 months a hefty £220. I’ve got a real dislike for the way the government tries to bully people in to buying newer, smaller engined cars. If I want a 12 year old 2 litre car, then I’ll have one, but I do begrudge paying that sort of premium to be allowed to drive it. 

On the plus side, the engine is absolutely fantastic. Considering it’s over 10 years old and has done over 100k, you can barely hear it from the inside sitting at the traffic lights. It really is a well refined engine and I love it as much as it is reliable. The car needed a new starter motor when I got it, and the air conditioning leaked.  But I’ve had those issues seen to and it’s been driving pleasure ever since.

I’ve had it for 6 months and the engine has never missed a beat or even for a minute thought about it. With a full service history and fairly sensible mileage, the 2.0, 115bhp engine is a fairly safe bet where reliability is concerned.


Equipment in the Bora is good, as is comfort (which I’ve just realised, embarrassingly, that I haven’t mentioned yet). There was one simple reason why I point-blank refused to settle for a Bora SE – the interior. The seats are horrible to look at and lumbar support is almost non-existent. The sports seats in my Bora however, look fantastic and they’re as comfy as they look good – even on long journeys.

Anyway, equipment levels are about what you’d expect in a 2000 reg car.  A CD player (and oddly a cassette player too), a decent radio, trip computer, air con and the usuals - such as power steering and height adjustable seats. Mine also has rain sensitive wipers which were a very expensive optional extra (and as a result fairly rare). There’s also a front arm rest which I’d hate to be without.

The standard stereo and speakers in the Bora are excellent. I like music with a proper beat and a low frequency kick and the speakers deliver fantastically well. Simply put, I’ve been in a lot of cars of a similar age, and much newer, and I’ve never heard better standard speakers than the ones in the Bora. On sensible bass/treble settings you can have the music as loud as you like and lose hardly any sound quality.

Security is another good thing too, with an alarm that is loud and proud when necessary - I’m confident if anyone did break in to the Bora, they wouldn’t be hanging around for long.

Final Thoughts

I’ve always used car forums, Golf Owners forums, Polo Owners forums…and I was shocked to find that when I bought the Bora there wasn’t a dedicated forum for Bora Owners. My first priority in 2013 has been addressing that by establishing the Bora Owners Club. www.boraownersclub.co.uk

That’s how much I like the Bora, and how confident I am that I’ll have one for some time to come. If not the 2 litre, a diesel engine variant!

Which leads me nicely on to my conclusion, the part where I’d normally scream and shout about how brilliant the Bora is – I’m not just writing about a Bora though, I’m writing about a Bora 2.0 Sport. It’s an excellent car, it’s comfortable and well built, adequately equipped and the engine (all things considered) is a well refined and bullet-proof lump…..

BUT - My brother had a 2.3 V5 Bora, the 170bhp version, and what a car. All the previously mentioned bonuses plus a bucket load of power to boot. Sure fuel consumption was as you’d expect and I dread to think what sized hole road tax burnt in his pocket, but it was a brilliant car. They’re probably cheaper than the 2.0 Sport to buy, being more expensive to run. So, why would you buy a 2.0?  I bought one because I had to be mindful of insurance, otherwise I would have had a 2.3 V5 or 4Motion in a heartbeat.

My next car will almost certainly be a slightly newer Bora diesel. With a remap a 150bhp diesel will be twice the car of a 170bhp V5 (with the torque figures and fuel economy they are capable off).

So, in a word, if you’re considering buying a Bora then just do it – but don’t buy a 2 litre if you can afford to insure something quicker. Get a V5 or 4Motion if you must have a petrol car, or 130/150 diesel booked in for a re-map instead.