Volkswagen Polo

A quality supermini with engines to suit all needs

7.8
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 12 reviews
  • Smooth ride
  • Smart interior
  • Classy badge
  • Conservative styling
  • Rivals are more fun
  • It isn’t cheap
 

£11,635 - £20,250 Price range

 

5 Seats

 

58 - 74 MPG

Review

The VW Polo has long been one of the most popular choices in the supermini class, and deservedly so. It’s practical, sensible and refined, but it is the reassurance of that VW badge that draws people away from rivals such as the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, and Renault Clio.

Viewed as the posh one in its field, the Polo has smart styling, and a sturdy, clearly laid out dashboard. Buttons operate with the sort of oily goodness that would feel at home in something much more expensive. The range of adjustment for both the seat and the steering wheel means that it’s easy to get comfy. Cabin space is okay for the class, and thanks to a false floor, the boot is versatile.

Much like the interior, the driving experience aims to relax its occupants rather than excite them, and to many buyers that’s what matters most. The ride is smooth, road and wind noise are low – even at motorway speeds – and all of the controls feel precise, light and easy to use.

The engine selection is wide-ranging. Best bets are the small, turbocharged petrols – they’re smooth, powerful and don’t cost the earth to run. If higher mileages are on the cards, the 1.4-litre diesels are worth a look thanks to their plus-80mpg fuel economy.

Trim levels are just as comprehensive as the engine line-up– there’s a total of eight to choose from (nine, if you include the GTI hot hatch). Match spec is the one to go for – it comes with useful kit such as air conditioning, all-round parking sensors, cruise control and a 6.5-inch touchscreen.

The Polo’s cabin is hardly the most thrilling to look at, but from a usability point of view it’s very tricky to knock. The dash design is clearly laid out, and there are high quality touches dotted about everywhere – the buttons feel chunky, the dash is topped with squidgy plastics – and even the glovebox action is damped. The steering wheel – leather trimmed in Match trim upwards – looks great and feels expensive to hold.

It’s not all good news, though – while some plastics feel great, others let the side down. The door tops feel hard and scratchy, while the central section surrounding the handbrake is rather flimsy, although neither is too bad for this price bracket.

Volkswagen Polo infotainment

Aside from the most basic S models, the Polo is equipped with a 6.5-inch infotainment system. The graphics are crisp, the touchscreen responsive, and the menus easy to navigate thanks to physical buttons surrounding the screen. Some models lack Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, but it’s only a £125 option so it’s well worth investing in.

Volkswagen Polo passenger space

It isn’t much of a struggle to make yourself at home up front in the Polo. The seats are comfortable and supportive, and there’s plenty of adjustment for them and the steering wheel. All but the base model offer height adjustment on the passenger seat, too.

Accommodation in the back is okay, but not class leading. Four-up there’s enough space for adults, but if you’ll regularly be transporting five the Vauxhall Corsa offers a little more head and shoulder room.

Storage space up front is great – the door bins are enormous and the glovebox is deep. The rear door pockets in five-door models are tiny, though.

Volkswagen Polo boot space and storage

The Polo’s 280-litre boot isn’t the largest in the class – the Fiesta is marginally larger, and the Honda Jazz is huge in comparison – but the space is among the most versatile. A false boot floor – standard on Match models upwards – almost completely takes away the load lip, and the seat backs fold away neatly, although to achieve a completely flat load bay, the seat bases need to be lifted first, which is a bit of a faff.

The Polo isn’t the most fun car to drive in its class, but that’s far from the crisis that some reviewers might have you believe. Instead of razor-sharp handling, VW boffins have focused on engineering the Polo to be both comfortable and easy to drive.

Through corners the Polo feels stable rather than edgy, and there’s very little body lean when you zip around a tight bend. The chassis offers up plenty of grip and the electronic stability systems work well, so there aren’t any nasty surprises on the limit.

The trade-off for the slightly bland driving experience is that the Polo is a comfortable car – the ride feels smoother than in its closest rivals, and wind noise is kept to a minimum on the move. By small-car standards it’s an accomplished motorway car.

Thanks to light, precise steering, it’s great around town, too. Low-speed manoeuvres are a cinch – especially as all but entry-level Polos have parking sensors all round. The manual gearboxes feel slick and precise to use, and the twin-clutch automatics are smooth shifting.

There’s an engine to suit almost any buyer in the Polo line-up, with eight power outputs from four petrols and one diesel. Clear picks are the turbocharged 1.0-litre or 1.2 petrols thanks to their impressive combination of cheap running costs and strong performance.

Volkswagen Polo petrol engines

A 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine kicks off the Polo range. Available in a pair of power outputs, we’d suggest avoiding the less powerful version – it barely has enough grunt to keep up with traffic, at least without thrashing it. The next model up should be fine for town driving – it’s quiet and impressively reluctant to use petrol – but it’s still a little wheezy if you’ve got more than one person in the car.

Further up the range, turbocharged versions of the same 1.0-litre make much more sense. With either 95hp or 110hp depending on which you choose, it’s more than enough for the Polo. The more powerful version is pricey though, because it’s only available with the fancy SEL or sporty R-Line trim. A 1.2-litre non-turbo four-cylinder unit is a little cheaper to buy, and should also do the job nicely for most people.

At the top of the range sits the 1.4-litre turbo used by the Blue GT. A 150hp output means that performance isn’t quite in hot hatch territory, but a 7.9-second 0-62mph time isn’t to be sniffed at. Thanks to a fuel-saving system that shuts down part of the engine during a cruise, it’s impressively frugal, too.

Volkswagen Polo diesel engines

There’s two diesel choices in the Polo range – a 1.4-litre offered in one of two power outputs. The 90hp model is the better bet – there’s plenty of torque so even fully loaded it rarely feels strained in the way the 75hp version can. Thanks to a claimed fuel consumption of 80.7mpg, the pair should be very cheap to run.

The 1.0 petrol unit is the basic engine in the Polo range, and the cheapest way into Polo ownership. It comes in two power outputs, 60 and 75 PS, and while neither is especially rapid (the 75 PS car still takes 14.3 seconds to reach 60 mph) both are usefully frugal.

The 60 PS car manages up to 60.1 mpg, and corresponding low CO2 emissions of 106 g/km means a measly VED bill of £20 a year (and free in year one). If you can stump the extra cash for the 75 PS car though you'll barely lose out - it's in the same tax band, and only drops a few MPG along the way.

Neither car has been reviewed by the experts just yet, but keep your eyes peeled as we'll have more details when the Polo hits the streets.

Volkswagen's 1.2-litre, turbocharged TSI petrol engine is an absolute gem, and could prove to be one of the stars of the updated Polo range.

There are no press reviews just yet, but in other VW products the engine is smooth, sounds good and returns decent economy. Officially it'll do 60.1 mpg, the same as the basic 1.0 - but also hits 60 mph in under 11 seconds and tops 114 mph. A dual-clutch auto is optional, but does at £1,375 to the Polo's purchase price.

Stay tuned for more information on the 1.2 TSI when the first testers get behind the wheel.

Volkswagen's three-cylinder, 1.4-litre TDI diesel has always been a popular choice, returning excellent economy without too much of a performance compromise.

That continues here - officially, the latest Polo TDI will do 83.1 mpg and not cost a penny in VED. At 12.9 seconds to 60 mph it's not overly fast, but these engines tend to work their best in the low- to mid-range, just where you need the power.

Keep checking back, as we'll have more details on the updated, cleaner TDI as soon as testers get behind the wheel.

VW's clever 1.4 TSI ACT engine appeared in the pre-revision Polo, and it's back again in the new car.

ACT is VW-speak for cylinder deactivation, meaning the four-pot unit can shut off a couple of cylinders when it's not under heavy load. As you'd imagine, this reduces fuel use, and while VW is yet to confirm official MPG, the quoted 109 g/km CO2 figure equates to 60.1 mpg - the same as the 1.2 TSI and 1.0 60 PS engines.

That's despite the 150 PS output, which should offer brisk performance - we'll find out more when reviewers finally get hold of the updated Polo.

These are general, non engine-specific reviews of the Volkswagen Polo. They give you a good idea of what the car is like without going into detail on one particular engine or trim level.

When crash tested by Euro NCAP back in 2009, the Polo scored the maximum five stars. It’s worth noting that every year the safety criteria gets more stringent so take those five stars with a pinch of salt – newer cars are probably safer.

During that time, however, VW has added lots of safety features to the standard equipment of the Polo making it much safer than the 2009 car. Among them is Hill Hold Assist, which stops the car rolling back during a hill start and an Automatic Post-Collision braking system that stops the car rolling across the road after a collision.

VW has certainly loaded the Polo with kit. All models get a USB port, DAB digital radio, a height-adjustable driver’s seat and – from S A/C trim and above – air-conditioning. Like most VWs, there’s a wide choice of optional add-ons, too. Our VW Polo options guide explains which are worth the cost and which aren’t.

Volkswagen Polo Match

Sitting above the basic S model, the Polo Match gains cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, and driving lights with a cornering function to highlight potential hazards through turns. Its 15-inch alloy wheels bring a touch of style, while a 6.5-inch infotainment system adds plenty of convenience. Spend an extra £125 for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, and you can also use your phone’s sat-nav and stream music. It’s an impressive list of kit for a car like this.

Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion

The BlueMotion trim has one objective: providing you with the most fuel efficient version of the Polo. It does that by adding an aerodynamic bodykit, fuel-saving tyres, battery regeneration via the brakes and a Think Blue Trainer – a function of the infotainment system that provides economical driving tips and can analyse your journey. In terms of kit, the BlueMotion gets everything from the S model and adds extras such as a multifunction computer and a Start/Stop function.

Volkswagen Polo R-Line

The Polo R-Line gets sporty looks without the running costs of the GTI. You get a more aggressive body kit, bigger alloy wheels, a chrome exhaust pipe and tinted rear windows. Inside, the R-Line has a flat-bottomed steering wheel and more supportive seats with the R-Line logo embossed on the backrests.

Volkswagen Polo SEL

The SEL can be considered the luxury trim and adds things like LED headlights, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a front centre armrest, 16-inch alloy wheels and all-round parking sensors.

Volkswagen Polo BlueGT

Only available with the state-of-the-art 1.4-litre petrol, the BlueGT looks like a toned-down Golf GTI. For style, you get a chrome exhaust, 17-inch alloy wheels and a different bodykit. In terms of safety, it has an electronically controlled front differential for extra grip out of corners, side airbags and a driver alert system, which senses fatigue and tells you when you need to take a break.

Volkswagen Polo Beats Edition

The Polo Beats Edition is aimed at Polo buyers who want a banging stereo for their tunes. It comes with a seven-speaker, 300W sound system supplied by Beats Audio. To mark it out on the outside, the Polo Beats Edition gets silver mirror caps, 16-inch alloy wheels and decals in the signature red and grey Beats colours.

Volkswagen offers a three-year/60,000 mile warranty for the Polo. That’s pretty standard for the class, though the Kia Rio offers a class-leading seven-year/100,000-mile warranty.

Conclusion

The VW Polo is a very hard car to fault. It’s comfortable, well built, practical for its size, and there’s a great choice of engines. The infotainment system is slick and all but the base models are generously equipped. If you need a small car in which to shuffle around in comfort and safety – and with the added appeal of a classy badge – it’s definitely worth considering.

As difficult as it is to fault, the Polo is a hard car to get excited about. Inside and out, the looks are a little bit plain, and rivals like the Ford FIesta is more fun to drive. The Corsa is significantly cheaper, too, and matches the Polo in many areas. But if you want a small car that has a big-car feel and superb build quality, the Polo should be top of your list.

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