The Volkswagen Bora is a good-looking car with all the pedigree of a European brand. It was originally born as the more sporty-named Jetta back in 1999. It was designed as a grown-up Golf and is in many ways simply a Golf saloon but therein sits the anomaly. The Golf is a sporty sub-compact car with plenty of va-va-voom, whereas the Bora is up there with the larger family and fleet cars fulfilling an altogether different role.
Despite its slightly conservative styling, the Bora is easy enough on the eye cleanly shaped on the outside and attractively laid out inside. The finish is excellent, as you would expect from the Volkswagen brand, and the eye-catching dash and controls are thoughtfully laid out with everything you need right at your fingertips.
Headroom and legroom are not overly plentiful but fine for what the Bora is looking to achieve. Unless they are significantly larger than the average adult, rear passengers are certainly not short on space. Add to this the fact that the Bora offers a decent-size boot instead of the standard Golf hatchback, and there are certainly some benefits to choosing it over its younger sibling.
The 1999 launch Bora came with a choice of a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine that delivered 85kW at 5200 rpm and 170Nm of torque at 2400 rpm or a 2.3L V5 giving 110kW at 6000 rpm and 205Nm at 3200 rising to 125kW and 220Nm after its 2001 upgrade. Both came with a choice of 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission.
The 2001 update heralded the arrival of a 2.9L V7 4Motion four-wheel drive model, giving 150kW at 6200 rpm and 270Nm at 3200 rpm. The chassis is solid, stable, and responsive, as you would expect from the Volkswagen stable, delivering a smooth ride both around town and on the open road. For more rugged terrain, the 4Motion is the ideal choice for handling the bumps and offering some extra safety with features such as its independent front and back suspension with coil springs and anti-roll bars.
The base Bora offers plenty of power, with enough poke at low revs to make it a decent choice for town driving. Give it too much boot and the fuel consumption can get on the high side, but treat it gently and it will quite happily deliver around 9.1 L/100km or even less, especially out on the open road.
If you spend a lot of time in your car, the Bora could be a fair choice one of its biggest selling points is its quiet and comfortable ride, though the ride comfort is possibly of more interest to the passenger than to the driver, given that it comes at something of a trade-off for cornering ability and greater road holding. Braking, however, is responsive and sharp and comes with the backup of quality ABS (antilock braking system) for added performance.
The Bora came with plenty of standard features, whatever the model, and with a fair-size range of optional extras, there are plenty of used Boras on the market with enough kit to please the discerning driver.
Some drivers have described the Bora as being like the arguably more prestigious BMW3-series but without the expensive badge, and to be fair, they have a point. The body is similar in size, the Bora finish is suitably upmarket inside, and the extras are plentiful.
All Boras come with disc brakes with ABS anti-skid protection as standard, along with power steering, cruise control, power windows and mirrors, and alloy wheels. Air-conditioning and a decent quality sound system also came as standard, and all Boras were fitted with an immobiliser, remote central locking, and alarm to enhance their security features. On the safety front, expect dual airbags for decent crash protection.
Moving up to the 4Motion, expect to find climate control, alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, and alloy wheels thrown into the mix.
The Bora competes within the VW stable with the smaller Golf at one end of the scale, the larger Passat at the other, and its almost twin rival, the Jetta, in between. It also stands up against the BMW 3-series, Volvo S40, Lexus IS200, Peugeot 406 sedan, Mazda6 sedan, SAAB9-3 sedan, and ALFA 156 in terms of size and engine capacity, with a lower price tag to boot.