Road test: Volkswagen Polo
Quite pricey for its dimensions but well-built and good to drive.
What is it?
The sixth generation of the Volkswagen Polo, a small car that has been popular in the UK for more than 40 years, totting up some 1.6 million owners since 1976.
How green is it?
Quite good, with a CO2 output of 109g/km from its 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, and with a combined fuel figure of almost 59mpg.
Who should buy one?
Bright young things who want a quality first car, couples who relish its small car solidity, and families whose kids are not yet gangly teenagers.
Road test by Sue Baker, June 2018
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
On the road the Polo feels a very grown-up small car. That is mostly in its favour, but with a reservation. If what you want calm behaviour, mannerly handling, and the reassurance of a small hatchback with a composure and civility that would sit well in a bigger and dearer model, then the Polo will undoubtedly impress. What’s lacking is the verve and character that some other superminis exude: the tactile personality and seat-of-the-pants engagement that puts a smile on your face as you drive. The Polo is admirable in its driving prowess, just not as instinctively enjoyable as some others.
That reservation apart, it does everything really well. The car handles with a reassuring predictability, but it isn’t at the expense of ride calibre. The suspension is engineered to be firm but comfortable, and it manages to ride all but the most jarring surface crevices with commendable control. There is very little body lean on the bends, and ample grip to make you feel secure.
The steering is pleasantly weighted with a reasonable degree of feel, and braking response is quick and progressive. There’s not much excitement for a really keen driver, but lots about it to make you feel relaxed and unstressed behind the wheel.
Modern three-cylinder turbo engines are a revelation for their robust performance, and the 113bhp 1.0 TSI in the Polo is certainly no slouch with gutsy acceleration and decent pull through the rev range. It cruises very happily at motorway pace and has a long-legged feel for a haul across country, with a pretty fair level of refinement.
Other engine variants include 64bhp, 74bhp and 94bhp 1.0-litre petrols, 79bhp and 94bhp 1.6-litre diesels, and a 197bhp 2.0-litre petrol for the GTI version.
It’s an attraction for some that this is a supermini with a good automatic option. The seven-speed twin-clutch DSG (direct shift gearbox) suits the car well and makes stop-start urban driving much more agreeable without a clutch pedal to worry about.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
The Polo is considered to be a small hatchback, although it has grown in size over the years, and at over four metres in length is now bigger than the original Volkswagen Golf.
Its dimensions are 4,053mm long, 1,946mm wide to the tips of the mirrors, and it stands 1,461mm high.
It’s a five-seater, and a practical one for five adults on shorter trips, although space is rather snug for three large people in the back over any distance. Even so, six-footers can fit in without being crushed, which isn’t true of all ‘supermini’ models. Good size rear doors mean that access into the back can be achieved with reasonable ease.
For its overall size, the Polo has a decent boot at 355 litres, making it one of the best-endowed in its category. With the split-fold rear seat-backs flopped forward, this extends to a pretty useful 1,125 litres, making the Polo a practical option as a compact family car.
There is no shortage of techy safety kit on the Polo. Electronic safety aids fitted to the car include hydraulic braking assistance, automatic post-collision braking, a front assist system to help avoid front-end impacts, blind spot detection, and stability control with anti-slip regulation. There is also standard radar controlled distance monitoring, city emergency braking, and a driver alert system. The Polo earned a five-star rating from Euro NCAP when tested in 2017.
The Polo comes with an eight-inch colour touchscreen, a single CD player and Bluetooth connectivity. There are two front cupholders, and a pair of bag hooks in the boot for hanging up your haul of supermarket shopping. Electric front windows and air conditioning are standard across the range, and electric rear windows feature from S spec upwards. SEL trim adds satnav, climate control, rain sensitive wipers and an automatic dimming rear-view mirror.
On-the-road prices start from £11,970, which buys a 64bhp 1.0-litre base level three-door Polo. Five-door models kick off at £13,660, and climb sharply to £22,385 at the top end. Popular SE versions are from £14,435, and SEL from £18,185. The most frugal Polo is the 79bhp 1.6 litre diesel with an official combined figure of 76.3mpg and a CO2 output of 97g/km. The most economical petrol models achieve 64.2mpg on the combined cycle.
WE SAY Quite pricey for its dimensions but well-built and good to drive.
AT A GLANCE:
Performance: 0-62 in 9.5 secs
Figures for the Polo SEL 1.0 TSI DSG