Both are excellent cars in their own right, but which suits you better? This guide breaks down the key differences between each car, and why you might favour one over the other.
Petrol: 1.0-litre 110hp; 1.5-litre 130hp; 1.5-lite 150hp; 2.0-litre 245hp (GTI); 2.0-litre 320hp (Golf R)
Diesel: 2.0-litre 115hp, 2.0-litre 150hp, 2.0-litre diesel 200hp (GTD)
Plug-in hybrid: 1.4-litre 204hp, 1.4-litre 245hp (GTE)
Petrol: 1.0-litre 80hp; 1.0-litre 95hp; 1.0-litre turbocharged 110hp; 2.0-litre 207hp (GTI)
Golf: six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG auto
Polo: five-speed manual or seven-speed DSG auto
Dimensions and boot space
Golf: boot space: 351 litres; length:4,053mm; width:1,751mm; height:1,461mm
Polo: boot space: 381 litres; length: 4,284mm; width:1,789mm; height:1,491mm
Trims and equipment highlights
Life: Automatic LED headlights, 15-inch alloy wheels, 8-inch digital driver’s display, 6.5-inch infotainment system, electric-folding mirrors
Style: as above, plus Matrix LED headlights, illuminated front grille, LED rear lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, sports seats, 8-inch infotainment system
R-Line: as above, plus 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic high beams, automatic cruise control, 10.25-inch digital driver’s display
The Polo GTI has its own trim level, with sporty tweaks such as red brake callipers, stiffened sports suspension and adaptive dampers.
Life: 16-inch alloy wheels, 10-colour interior ambient lighting, adaptive cruise control, automatic wipers, 10-inch digital driver’s display, 10-inch infotainment system
Active: as above, plus tri-zone climate control, heated front seats and heated steering wheels, 30-colour ambient lighting, rear privacy glass
Style: as above, plus 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic high beams, upgraded LED headlights, three-zone climate control, 30-colour ambient lighting, tri-zone climate control
R-Line: as above, plus 17-inch alloy wheels, R-Line bumpers, sports seats, selectable driving modes, rear privacy glass, 30-colour ambient lighting
The GTI, GTE, GTD and Golf R models have their own individual sporty trim levels.
Driving and performance
With a lot of mechanical parts shared across the two, it may not surprise you that both the Volkswagen Polo and Golf offer similar driving experiences relative to other cars within their classes.
Both are designed to work in a broad range of driving situations — meaning they don’t particularly set a new bar in one particular area, but both do the basics impressively.
The difference between the Polo and Golf will depend mostly on how you want to use them.
If you need something for running around town in, the Polo will be more suited — its smaller size makes it easier to manoeuvre than a Golf and it has its turning circle beat too at 10.6m and 10.9m respectively
The larger size of the Golf works in its favour if you’re covering motorway miles though. It feels a little more stable and more comfortable as a result.
Plus you can have a diesel in the Golf, which will prove more economical if you’re covering long distances regularly.
That said, neither car is exactly bad at either of those things, so it comes down to your personal preference for which you favour.
Engines and performance
Both the Polo and Golf are available with a wide range of engines that prioritise economy, performance, or a combination of the two. It’s worth highlighting that the Golf has more engine options (the Polo isn’t available as a diesel or plug-in hybrid, for example).
1.0-litre 80hp 0-62mph: 15.5 seconds
1.0-litre 95hp 0-62mph: 10.8 seconds
1.0-litre turbocharged 110hp 0-62mph: 10.4 seconds
2.0-litre 207hp (GTI) 0-62mph: 6.5 seconds
As you can see from the above, the 80hp model is really slow (though brings with it low insurance – potentially handy for new drivers), while the GTI model is really quick. For most people, most of the time, the 95 or 110hp engines should do the job nicely. There’s a slight variation in performance figures between the manual and automatic models (with the DSG autos being fractionally quicker).
1.0-litre 110hp 0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
1.5-litre 130hp 0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
1.5-lite 150hp 0-62mph: 8.5 seconds
2.0-litre 245hp (GTI) 0-62mph: 6.2 seconds
2.0-litre 320hp (Golf R) 0-62mph: 4.7 seconds
2.0-litre 115hp 0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
2.0-litre 150hp 0-62mph: 8.4 seconds
2.0-litre diesel 200hp (GTD) 0-62mph: 7.1 seconds
1.4-litre eHybrid 204hp 0-62mph: 7.4 seconds, electric range 43 miles (official)
1.4-litre 245hp (GTE) 0-62mph: 6.7 seconds, electric range 38 miles (official)
Style and size
With the latest Volkswagen Golf introduced in 2019 and the Polo receiving a refresh in 2021, both cars look pretty sharp and up to date.
It’s fair to say neither car is the most wildly styled or exactly exciting compared with some cars on the market, but then they’re not polarising in the way something such as a Honda Civic may be.
Regardless which is your winner of the Volkswagen Polo vs Golf, R-Line trim on either is your best bet.
This brings inspiration from Volkswagen’s R range of performance cars with a racier-looking body kit and aggressive alloy wheels.
Both cars can be had in a range of subdued colours, or some more vibrant options if you do want them to pop a little more.
The pick of the Golf’s colours has to be Lime Yellow Metallic, which really adds some character to the hatchback. This is a cost-option though at £665.
Vibrant Violet Metallic makes the most of the updated Polo’s sharp features. Again, this is a cost option of £610.
Interior and tech
In typical Volkswagen fashion, both the Polo and Golf are well-built and feature high-quality materials. Neither are all that exciting in design terms, but both are sensibly laid out.
That said, the latest Volkswagen Golf takes on an almost buttonless approach. Most functions are now used through the infotainment system which can be fiddly to get to grips with on the move.
Though the Polo is a few years older at heart, its most recent update brings the interior a little more in line with the Golf including touch-sensitive sliders for the climate control system.
The physical option on the entry-level Polo is much easier to use on the go and is a sorely missed feature on the Golf — as sleek as a near-buttonless dash looks.
Both cars now have digital driver’s displays as standard. While the Volkswagen Polo’s version is an 8-inch unit as standard, you’ve got a 10-inch one in the Golf out of the box. You can upgrade to this in the Polo if you want, though.
All versions of the Polo have an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, but again this comes in at 10-inches on the Golf across the range.
Boot space and practicality
The larger size of the Golf naturally means it’ll be more practical to use than the Polo, but whether or not you actually need the space will depend on how you plan to use the car.
Boot space for the Polo comes in at 351, which isn’t all too far behind the Golf’s 381 litres. If you need even more space, you can go for the Golf Estate with its 605 litres — but the focus of this comparison is the hatchback.
Headroom in the Polo for those in front comes in a 1,019mm (dipping to 981mm with the optional sunroof), while rear passengers have 965mm.
Despite its larger size, the Golf pretty much matches the Polo for headroom — at 1,018mm and 968mm respectively. You will have more legroom and space to stretch out a bit, though.
Safety and reliability
Both the Volkswagen Polo and Golf scored the maximum of five-star Euro NCAP ratings when each was last tested (2017 and 2019 respectively).
Every Volkswagen is covered by a three-year warranty. The first two of those years sees you covered with no mileage cap, though in your third year your vehicle will only be covered up to 60,000 miles.
Price and running costs
It’ll come as no surprise that the Volkswagen Polo comes in at a lower price than the Golf as a result of it being a smaller car.
Its RRP starts at £19,030, though (at the time of writing) you can get savings of up to £1,689 through carwow.
Pricing for the Golf kicks off at £25,610, with (at the time of writing) you can get savings of up to £2,872 through carwow.
Insurance groups for the Polo range from the very lowest at 1 up to 12, making it an ideal option for low-cost insurance. The Golf ranges from 14-24, so will cost more to insure. Note the Polo GTI, and the Golf GTE, GTD, GTI and (especially) the Golf R models will be expensive to insure.
After the first year (which is based on CO2 emissions and bundled into a car’s on-the-road price), road tax will be a flat £165 annually for all examples of the Golf and Polo, save those that cost £40,000 or more from new (including options), which attract a £355 annual supplement from years two to six.
Both the Polo and Golf are pretty frugal machines, whichever engine you choose. Even the potent Golf R officially returns 36.2mpg, while the 150hp 2.0-litre diesel manages 62.8mpg. It’s the plug-in hybrids that are the real efficiency stars though, with the eHybrid model managing 313.9mpg – though this assumes you will be plugging in to charge on a regular basis.
As for the Polo, there’s no diesel pr plug-in hybrid model, but the 95hp 1.0-litre model returns 54.3mpg, which is perfectly respectable.
Should I buy a Volkswagen Polo or Golf?
The Volkswagen Polo and Golf both aim for different segments, so choosing between the two will largely come down to your use case — it’s more one compliments the other rather than a sheer showdown of Volkswagen Polo vs Golf.
If you’re looking for something as a lower-cost city runaround and can sacrifice a little space, the Volkswagen Polo may be the better option for you.
As a family car or something to regularly cover long distances in, the Volkswagen Golf is more likely to be suitable for you.
Change cars online with carwow
Looking for an easy way to change your car? Then carwow is the place to go. You can sell your old car for a great price, and get the best deals on a new one. All through our network of trusted dealers and all from the comfort of your home. Tap the button below to get started today.