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 engines are weedy
You can get the Volkswagen Polo with a range of petrol and diesel engines and with either a manual or an automatic gearbox.
The entry-level non-turbocharged 65hp and 80hp 1.0-litre petrol engines are best avoided – they feel 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 115hp petrol seems unnecessary.
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
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 top-of-the-range 95hp diesel is available with the same automatic gearbox. It (or the lesser 80hp diesel) makes sense if you’re a high-mileage driver. They’re noticeably louder than the petrol Polos around town but they have more effortless grunt that makes them feel better suited to motorway driving.
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. For a little extra peace of mind, pick a Highline car – they come with parking sensors as standard.
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 top-spec models (with larger 17-inch alloy wheels) you won’t be shaken too much by monster potholes and it doesn’t lean excessively in tight corners either.
You can pay extra to get adaptive suspension but the standard Polo’s more than comfortable enough, and the addition of a Sport setting in a supermini feels a bit superfluous.
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 S 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 cars in front then return to a preset speed once the road’s clear) is available across the range as an option, too.