Road Test: Volkswagen Polo
The Polo does so much, so well, that it could tempt buyers out of the Golf, reckons Alex Grant.
SECTOR Supermini PRICE £TBC FUEL 58.9-64.2mpg* CO2 101-110g/km*
Volkswagen was an early contender in the supermini class with the first Polo. Launched in 1975, as Volkswagen was moving from the Beetle-derived era to a range of modern, water-cooled engines and technology from Audi subsidiary NSU, it’s now a segment stalwart. More than 14 million have sold worldwide, with roughly one in ten coming to the UK.
The Tiguan and Passat are bigger players in fleet, but the Polo is Volkswagen’s second biggest-selling car overall, despite being part of what’s become broad product range. Its sixth generation arrives in the UK next January, only a few months after an all-new version of its long-running rival, the Ford Fiesta.
For the first time, the Polo is on the same platform as the Golf, albeit a downsized version. It’s just over the segment norm of four metres from bumper to bumper, but with a wheelbase that’s only 20mm shorter than the last-generation Golf, discontinued just five years ago. So it’s more ‘super’ than ‘mini’ this time.
There’s no UK pricing yet, but, with no three-door version, the entry point will shift upwards a little, likely to range from just above the Ibiza’s £13,000 start price. Expect trim levels to follow the old model, with the mid-spec SE as the most popular model in the UK. Range-toppers comprise the sporty-looking R-Line, with a selection of engines, the Beats edition with its high-powered audio system, and the 197bhp GTI hot hatch.
Perhaps a sign of the times, the Polo launches with a choice of three 1.0-litre three-cylinder engines, producing 65bhp, 75bhp and 94bhp, the most powerful of them is likely to be the best-seller in the UK and offered with a DSG transmission. It’s a responsive and remarkably quiet engine with barely any vibration through the cabin, even under load and while idling, and on paper it’s the most efficient of the three, when fitted with a five-speed manual.
Diesel versions account for just 5% of Polo sales; Volkswagen will offer two 1.6-litre TDIs in the new car, with 79bhp or 94bhp. It’s an engine that’s prone to emitting a dull mechanical drone, and doesn’t suit this car as well as the livelier, better isolated and significantly quieter petrols. For those who want diesel, it’s due shortly after launch, alongside the GTI, a 148bhp 1.5-litre TSI petrol and a 113bhp 1.0-litre TSI which, if the Ibiza is anything to go by, will be a fantastic fit in the Polo.
Expanding dimensions aside, it’s become every bit the downsized Golf. Head, leg and shoulder room are impressive, particularly in the back, and the boot capacity matches the Mk6 Golf, with a long, wide floor that drops into a hidden compartment or extends over flat-folding rear seats. Low-speed ride quality and high-speed refinement are on par with cars in the class above, but without numbing that supermini agility while darting through traffic.
But it’s cabin quality that really sets this car apart from the competition. Precise lines, consistent use of materials, and the contrasting panel that runs across the dashboard all offer a feeling of premium-class attention to detail, without needing top opt into top trim levels. That’s also true of the infotainment; a 6.5-inch touchscreen is standard, while glass-fronted 8.0-inch versions (with or without navigation) come in on higher trims, and the digital instrument cluster – as offered on the Golf – is a segment first.
So, just as Volkswagen makes noises about growing its SUV line-up and moving into electric mobility, it’s a well-established name that’s become a star of the range. The new Polo is easily good enough to question choosing anything bigger.
The first five-door Polo launched in 1995; it’s now the only bodystyle.
Big-selling 94bhp 1.0 TSI offers CO2 emissions from 101g/km.
Generous occupant and cargo capacity.
R-Line and Beats versions for user-choosers.
What we think
The Polo feels grown up enough to dissuade some drivers to move up to a Golf, though high-mileage drivers will find a better selection of efficient diesels in the Polo’s larger sibling.