Volkswagen Polo review
The Volkswagen Polo might be one of the classier, comfier and more refined small family cars around, but it’s far from being the most fun to drive
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Think of the Volkswagen Polo like you would your favourite pair of black jeans. It’s an affordable small car that looks smart and is comfortable in everyday use, and because it’s got a Volkswagen badge on its nose it also comes with an added bit of posh desirability. But just like that trusty pair of Levis, it’s hardly the most exciting thing you could be seen in.
Not that you should let that put you off considering a new Polo over a Peugeot 208, a Renault Clio or a Seat Ibiza. We think it’s one of the best small cars you can currently buy, and its sensibleness is a key part of its appeal.
Open the door and you’ll find the little Volkswagen offers the feel of a bigger hatchback. For a car of its size, the Polo is not only surprisingly spacious, it’s comfortable and decently plush too. Soft-touch plastics are the order of the day here, and there are a couple of colourful trim finishers available optionally to help liven the place up too. Sure there are a few hard, scratchy surfaces in the lower reaches, but that’s to be expected at this price point.
Getting settled in behind the wheel is a doddle thanks to great adjustability in both the seat base and the steering column. Any back seat passengers you might want to bring along with you won’t come up short on space either, as both head- and legroom are generous enough for two adults to get comfy. And because it’s only available as a five-door, getting in and out of those rear seats is very easy.
Luggage space is very competitive too. At 351 litres, the Polo’s boot is larger than the one you’ll get in a Ford Fiesta, a Mini 5-Door Hatch and a Peugeot 208.
As far as gadgets are concerned, the Volkswagen Polo has your bases covered. Even the entry-level Match model gets an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system right out of the box. It uses a slightly older operating system than what you get in the latest Volkswagens, but it’s still sharp, responsive and easy to use. In fact, we think it’s a bit more intuitive than the newer system you’ll find in the Golf.
You won’t get satellite navigation in that base Match trim, but wireless Apple CarPlay and plug-in Android Auto are both thrown in. A wireless charge pad is optional, as is a 10.3-inch digital instrument display that replaces the base car’s analogue dials.
The Volkswagen Polo might not be the most exciting small car around, but it’d certainly be the easiest to live with - particularly with the 95hp engine.
Although you used to be able to get the Polo with a range of petrol and diesel engines, the diesels have now been dropped. So you’ve a choice of 1.0-litre three-cylinder motors, of which our pick is the mid-level, turbocharged 95hp unit. It’s punchier than the lethargic, non-turbo 80hp engine, but is still reasonably economical. We’d go for the six-speed manual gearbox over the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, too.
There aren’t many small cars out there that are comfier on the road than the Polo. It won’t jostle you over lumps and bumps and it’s quiet and surprisingly relaxing on the motorway. It’s accurate, lightweight steering makes it easy to drive around town too – but don’t expect it to feel as fun-loving as a Ford Fiesta on a twisty road.
It’s also backed up by a full five-star Euro NCAP rating, thanks to features such as automatic emergency braking being included as standard.
So the Volkswagen Polo might not be the most exciting small car around, but it’s certainly comfortable, well-built, economical and impressively spacious. Just like your favourite pair of black jeans, then, it’s very unlikely you’ll regret buying one.
A facelifted model is due to arrive later in 2021 too, and we fully expect it to be just as good – if not better than – the current car.
You can see how we think the Volkswagen Polo stacks up against the current Ford Fiesta by clicking on the video below. After you’ve given it a watch, take a look at the latest Volkswagen Polo deals or see how much you could save.
It might look small on the outside, but the Volkswagen Polo is impressively roomy on the inside. The boot’s very spacious too, but you’ll still have to remove a bike’s front wheel before it’ll fit
The latest Polo is so roomy it'll make you wonder if you'd ever need the larger (but not much more practical) Golf…
The latest Volkswagen Polo is much more spacious inside than the old model. It’s so spacious in fact that it runs the larger VW Golf very close in terms of outright roominess.
There’s loads of space in the front and plenty of adjustment to help you get comfy, even if you’re tall. All the controls are within easy reach and it’s dead easy to tweak the steering wheel position to give you a good view of the digital instrument display.
Things are just as roomy in the back seats. There’s almost as much leg and headroom as in a Golf and far more space than you’ll find in a Vauxhall Corsa or even the Skoda Fabia. Your taller passengers will have no trouble getting comfy and there’s enough space under the seats in front for them to tuck their feet under, too.
The Volkswagen Polo is one of the best small family cars for carrying three abreast. It’s still a little cosy with three adults on board but the central seat’s reasonably wide and there’s only a small lump in the floor to get in the way of your middle passenger’s feet.
The Volkswagen Polo comes with five doors as standard so you won’t have to jump out to let your friends climb in the back and it’s a breeze to fit a child seat using the standard Isofix anchor points. These anchors are clearly marked but you’ll have to be careful not to lose their removable plastic covers.
The Volkswagen Polo’s large front door pockets have no trouble holding a large and a small bottle each and the glovebox is reasonably roomy, too. The cupholders beside the handbrake are fair if not particularly generous and there’s a sliver of extra storage under the centre console for your phone.
The rear door bins are big enough to carry a large bottle and the front seats come with some fabric seat-back pockets too, but there’s no folding rear armrest.
The Volkswagen Polo’s 351-litre boot is a massive 71 litres larger than the old car’s and has 21 litres more space than the practical Skoda Fabia. The Polo has a slight boot lip which can get in the way when you’re loading heavy items but its square shape makes it easy to pack full of large boxes.
With the rear seats up there’s enough room to carry a baby buggy or two suitcases and there’s a selection of handy tether points and hooks to keep smaller items secure.
You can flip the back seats down using the latches beside the headrests without having to worry about lifting the seat bases up first – unlike in the old Volkswagen Polo. Entry-level cars come with a single folding bench seat while Highline versions get a two-way (60:40) split seat instead. This’ll let you carry as many as two passengers and some long luggage in the boot at once.
With the rear seats folded, the Volkswagen Polo has an almost flat load bay – there’s no annoying step in the floor like in a Corsa. This makes it easy to slide heavy boxes right up behind the front seats. There’s enough space to carry a bike too, but you’ll have to remove one of its wheels first.
The Volkswagen Polo is a breeze to drive around town and reasonably quiet on the motorway but you couldn’t call it exciting and its entry-level petrol engine is weedy
It might not be as sporty as a SEAT Ibiza but the Polo feels a bit more grown up – like a Golf that’s been zapped by a shrink ray
You can get the Volkswagen Polo with a range of petrol engines and with either a manual or an automatic gearbox.
The entry-level non-turbocharged 80hp 1.0-litre petrol engine is best avoided – it feels sluggish around town and will struggle to keep up with fast-moving traffic.
The 95hp turbocharged 1.0-litre model is a much better bet. It’s fairly quiet around town (although it does grumble slightly when you accelerate hard) and feels much less strained at motorway speeds. In fact, it’s so good that the range-topping 110hp petrol seems unnecessary.
The Volkswagen Polo is available with a seven-speed automatic gearbox, which will give your left leg a rest in heavy traffic but can be a little jerky at slow speeds – particularly when you’re trying to park.
The Volkswagen Polo is easy to drive around town thanks to its light steering and good visibility. The relatively slim pillars (where the front doors meet the windscreen) don’t block your view out at junctions and its large rear windscreen helps make parking a doddle, too.
To really show off to your passengers (or if the thought of parallel parking fills you with dread) you can get a system that’ll steer the car into tight spaces all on its own – all you have to do is operate the pedals.
The same system can also steer you out of spaces and as you head out of the city you’ll find the Volkswagen Polo is impressively comfortable for such a small car. Even in models with larger alloy wheels you won’t be shaken too much by monster potholes and it doesn’t lean excessively in tight corners either.
It isn’t as fun to drive as a Ford Fiesta but the Volkswagen Polo is more grown up at motorway speeds. It does a good job of muting both wind and tyre noise and it feels impressively stable for a small car.
Euro NCAP crash-tested the new Polo in 2017 where it scored the maximum five stars. Part of the reason for that was that even entry-level Match models come with automatic emergency braking that’ll stop (or try its best to stop) the car for you if it detects an impending collision.
Adaptive cruise control (that can adjust the Polo’s speed to match the car in front and then return to a preset speed once the road’s clear) is available as an option, too.
The Volkswagen Polo has a smart, upmarket cabin and feels impressively well built for such a small car. Unfortunately, plenty of desirable features aren’t standard
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