Fleet News

Volkswagen Bora 1.9 TDI PD 130 Sport

Volkswagen

Review

TWINS in the family can be a funny thing. Take my family, the Kirk clan - my father has a twin brother but apart from sharing the same birth date, they are as similar as chalk and cheese.

And the same can be said of the Volkswagen family, and in particular the Golf and Bora. While Golf is the glamorous model that enjoys a tremendous following among the trendy set, Bora is the less pretty sibling, the one that never gets to go to the ball.

Which is a shame, because the Bora is actually quite nice, once you get to know her (beauty being more than skin deep, etc ...). So why does Volkswagen continue to make what is, in effect, a booted Golf, even if it insists the Bora stands as a model in its own right, with a different front end, rear and handling characteristics to the Golf?

I put this question to another manufacturer which produces a hugely successful lower-medium hatchback and a - shall we say - ugly saloon version. The official line was that in some countries, saloon models have more prestige than hatchbacks. Hmmmm ... I'll take his word for it, but in the UK the Bora has always beeen easily outsold by the Golf. But essentially the two cars are the same - same chassis, gearbox, interior and engines.

And while finding rivals for the Golf is easy, searching the database for rivals to the subject of this test, the Bora 1.9 TDI PD 130 Sport, is rather difficult outside the VW Group, where the SEAT Toledo and Skoda Octavia are challengers but both fall well short of the Bora on test in terms of price. The Focus and Astra saloon equivalents cost much less so we have included two models as rivals which match the Bora on price, but not necessarily in size.

At roughly £17,500, our triumvirate of the Bora, Alfa Romeo 156 and Volvo S40 are all equally matched. All have a refined diesel engine under the bonnet and all have a badge that elevates them from the run-of-the-mill.

But in terms of running costs there is plenty of difference. The Bora, fitted with the excellent pumpe duse diesel in 130bhp trim, takes a convicing running costs victory here, costing 27.02 pence per mile to run over a three-year/60,000-mile operating cycle. Second place goes to the Volvo on 29.71ppm and in third spot is the Alfa on 30.05ppm.

So what clinches the Bora's win? Well, it has the best residual value prediction of the three with CAP predicting it to retain 37% of its cost new after the aforementioned period. Allied to the lowest SMR costs and the second lowest fuel costs, the Bora makes a convincing case for itself.

It also has the second most powerful engine here, its 130bhp unit only eclipsed by the Alfa's 2.4-litre JTD powerplant which offers 140bhp. And it is this bigger engine that stymies the Alfa's challenge. In terms of front-end price, residual value prediction and SMR costs, the Alfa is pretty competitve, but that big engine (which still returns an average of 42.2mpg) hits its fuel costs. Which leaves the Volvo S40. It offers the lowest CO2 emissions of our trio along with the highest combined fuel economy figure, but with 115bhp it is outpaced by the other two.

Fleet verdict

AS the figures show, the Bora will be the first choice for any fleet manager thanks to its low running costs.

Allied to a desirable badge and with a lengthy list of standard equipment, the Bora should be added to your choice list if drivers don't want the traditional Golf hatchback.

The Volvo also puts up a strong case for itself, but it is a bland car which lacks the desirability of its larger S60 and V70 stablemates. The Alfa may be last here, but its desirable badge and driving qualities may tempt some.

Behind the wheel

IF you are familiar with the Volkswagen Golf's interior, then you will feel right at home behind the wheel of the Bora. The whole interior is exactly as found in the Golf, which means a clean, logically-designed facia which has a quality feel thanks to the high-grade materials used.

Everything from the stubby, short-thrown gearlever to the chunky three-spoke steering wheel trimmed in leather feels right, and the excellent sports seats hold you in all the right places.

However, that common Volkswagen Group bugbear of vague pedal feeling blights the Bora Sport and allied to the steering which also hovers on the vague side, it doesn't exactly encourage committed driving. Ride and handling are both good, with noise well suppressed at motorway speeds.

But committed driving wouldn't result in the claimed combined average fuel economy of an impressive 51.4mpg - even more impressive when you consider the Bora's TDI engine pumps out 130bhp and has enough in-gear clout to shame many more powerful petrol-engined cars.

There is a 150bhp Bora TDI model available but I can't imagine you would really need it as there is more than enough oomph from the 130 model.

But if power is your drug of choice, then ask your dealer for a dose of the Alfa Romeo 156 JTD. With a smooth five-cylinder 2.4-litre turbodiesel unit under the bonnet, the Alfa offers 140bhp and more than enough power to exploit the 156's fine chassis.

Alfas are renowned for being drivers' cars and the 156 JTD doesn't disappoint with ample torque to have some serious fun, while still returning 42.2mpg - the JTD is not in the same league as the other two thanks to its larger engine, but for many the Alfa badge and styling and the lovely engine will be enough of a draw to convince many drivers to stump up the extra tax it will cost them over the Bora or Volvo.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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