The VW Polo is a small car that’s comfortable to drive and has a spacious, plush cabin, but it’s far from exciting to drive
For a small car, the Volkswagen Polo is very comfortable and practical, with a distinctly upmarket feel to it. Inside, there are swathes of soft, squidgy plastics, as well as a range of colourful dashboard trims to brighten up its cabin even further.
There’s been a Polo in the Volkswagen range for well over 40 years, and this version – the sixth generation – went on sale in 2017. It’s an alternative to models like the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Renault Clio, but unlike some of the previous Polos, this generation is available only as a five-door hatchback.
It’s easy to get comfortable inside, as there’s plenty of seat adjustment in the front of the Polo’s high-tech cabin and more headroom than you’ll find in a Vauxhall Corsa. Things are equally comfy in the back, and as all Polos have rear doors, climbing into the back seats is a breeze.
Last, but not least, the boot is impressively spacious, too. Even with all five seats upright, it’ll hold 351 litres of luggage – more than the Corsa and Skoda Fabia – and once the rear seats are folded down, you can fit in a bike, as long as you remove a wheel.
For more versatility, make sure you buy a car in at least mid-range SEL trim, as these models have rear seats that fold in a handy two-way (60:40) split. That means that you can carry a couple of passengers in the back and some bulky items in the boot at the same time.
From the driver’s seat, you’ll be impressed by all the technology you can see. Every version of the Polo comes with a slick eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with crisp graphics and responsive, intuitive menus. And, as long as you avoid the most basic S trim, this system also comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, so you can use your favourite smartphone media and navigation apps through the Polo’s screen.
That’s all very impressive, but the Polo’s party piece is its 11.7-inch Active Info display – an optional digital screen that replaces the conventional dials. It looks fantastic and allows you to customise the information you see – just like the Virtual Cockpit you get in some Audis.
The Polo proves being a jack of all trades is no bad thing – it’s so good you have to wonder why anyone would buy a VW Golf
You can get the Polo with a range of petrol and diesel engines and most come with a manual gearbox. However, if you go for a 1.0 TSI petrol engine, you also have the option of a seven-speed automatic gearbox.
It’s best to ignore the sluggish 65 and 75hp 1.0-litre models and go for the turbocharged 95hp 1.0-litre TSI. Not only does this engine have some useful extra power, it’s also more economical than the basic engine. Admittedly, it’s a little noisy when you accelerate hard, but it’s fast enough to keep up with motorway traffic.
If you do lots of driving on the motorway, it’s worth considering one of the 1.6-litre diesels. Although the 95hp model isn’t as smooth as the similarly powerful petrol engine, it’ll be more economical at motorway speeds. There’s also the Polo GTI hot hatchback at the top of the range, but that’s covered in a separate review.
For such a small car, the Polo is impressively relaxing to drive. It’s comfortable around town and tackles twisty country lanes with confidence; and, although it’s not quite as much fun to drive as the SEAT Ibiza, the Polo is slightly quieter on the motorway and less bouncy on bumpy roads.
Every model comes with a wide range of high-tech safety features as standard, and even the most basic S models come with automatic emergency braking that’ll apply the brakes if it senses an obstacle on the road. And, the result of all those features? A full five stars when Euro NCAP crash-tested the Polo.
What all this means is that, if you’re looking for a small car that’s safe, spacious, well built, comfortable and available with bundles of cutting-edge tech, the Polo should be right at the top of your shortlist.
If you think it’s so good that there’s no point buying anything bigger, see how it compares to the larger Golf hatchback; and, if your heart is set on a small car, have a look at the Top 10 best small cars on sale.