VW has an uncanny knack of making excellent, well built, affordable small family cars. Both the Polo and Up are great cars – they both drive brilliantly, are comfortable, refined, safe and the kudos of the VW badge will never wear out.
But which will suit you best? We at carwow like a good challenge, and the Up vs Polo debate is one that requires a great deal of thought. Let’s find a winner…
The Up is not only smaller than the Polo but has a much boxier shape as well. The boxier shape is usually detrimental to how it looks – that’s certainly the case with other cars – but VW has done such wonders with the front- and rear-end the bulky shape doesn’t matter.
The smiling front end and very small but cute rear light clusters make it look youthful and endearing. In many ways it resembles the creatures you (or your children) used to look after on those Tamagotchi devices many years ago.
The Polo definitely doesn’t have the cute factor of the Up – mostly down to the more conventional, curvier body and its almost Golf-like appearance. It’s definitely a smart looking car, but the quirky Up just has the edge here.
Like the outside, the interiors are, again, different to what you might expect. The Polo’s is conventional and easy to use with clear dials and built from good quality soft-touch materials. There are no surprises basically. It’s very grown-up and conservative. You could easily say inoffensive.
The interior in the VW Up is comparatively more outlandish. It’s not in your face, but it’s definitely more interesting. Instead of the bland, grey dashboard you get with the Polo, the Up gets a plastic gloss finished strip stretching right across the dashboard. It might not feel as good as the Polo’s, but it certainly looks the part and it brings with it a better sense of occasion. It doesn’t take itself too seriously.
As well as the longer centre console in the VW Polo, it has a larger infotainment touch screen than the one in the Up. The Polo’s sits in the dashboard but the Up’s sits on top of the dashboard and can actually be removed, much like the portable sat-nav you stick to the windscreen.
As you’d expect, the Polo is the bigger car so it’s the most practical choice. There’s more space inside, too, with the Polo able to carry five people while the Up is strictly a four-seater. Despite this, there’s still plenty of room for people to get comfortable and there’s hardly any difference in boot space either – the Polo can carry 280 litres against the Up’s 251 litres.
This is understandable because the Up is a city car while the Polo is a supermini, but what boggles the mind is what happens with the rear seats folded down. The Polo manages 952-litres which is only one litre more than the Up manages – testament to how cleverly packaged the Up is.
The Polo arguably has the superior engine line-up. It comes with many engines ranging from a 1.0-litre unit (found in the Up) to a 1.8-litre turbocharged unit which can make the Polo sprint from 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds.
The Up only comes in 59hp and 74hp 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol guises. Inevitably, these engines don’t make the Up any faster than the Polo, but it does make it more economical. On the combined cycle, you can achieve between 60 and 67mpg while the same engine in the Polo can only achieve around 60mpg. All the other petrol engines in the Polo’s line-up aren’t as economical either, although they’re mostly more powerful and more refined.
You can improve the economy in the Polo by opting for the 1.4-litre diesel which can return up to 83mpg. It’s worth remembering, the Polo doesn’t have an electric only option like the e-Up so exclusively city-based commuters might want to bear this in mind.
The Polo is fantastic on the road. It’s extremely comfortable, refined and grippy in the corners. The gear change action is not only smooth but is snappy as well. The chassis may not be as playful as the Ford Fiesta’s and so, ultimately, it isn’t as much fun but, in most normal driving situations, you can’t really tell the difference.
The Up is similar to the Polo with a slick, smooth gearbox and is extremely comfortable. However, in the corners, there’s more body roll which makes the Up feel less planted than the Polo. You can thank the boxy shape for that. There’s more road and wind noise, too, so, on balance, it isn’t quite as refined. It’s still a nice place to sit in though. You could easily spend many hours sat in the Up and you wouldn’t feel overly tired at the end of it.
Which one should I buy?
Although dissimilar to one another, they both have the same typical VW feel – they’re refined, easy to use, comfortable and desirable. If you’re looking for the one which drives the best, is the most practical and feels the plushest, then the Polo is the one to have. No questions about it.
The Up is something special, however. It may not be the best looking, driving or have the best personality, but thanks to its broad mixture of talents, you just don’t care about all of that. It makes you feel happy in a way few other cars do.
The Up has a handful of foibles compared to the Polo, but the Polo cannot make you smile the same way the Up does. The Up is a special car and, as a result, it takes home the top honours of being our overall winner in this test.
If you like the look of either of these contenders, check out the VW Up or the Polo in our car configurator to see how much carwow could help you save. For more options, head over to our deals page to see our latest discounts.