This is the latest iteration of Volkswagen’s Polo – a car with lots of rivals occupying Britain’s most popular market sector. Going up against newly revamped models, such as the Kia Rio and Citroen C3, as well as the massively popular market leader, the Ford Fiesta, means the Polo has some tough competition.
It’s longer, lower and wider than the outgoing model, though under the skin it retains many of the same components including the engines. It continues Volkswagens reputation for solidity and interior build quality, but with a fresher design and vibrant colour scheme it aims to appeal to a younger, funkier crowd.
The Polo is characterised by horizontal lines that make it appear wider than it is – it looks planted on the road, but is still unmistakably a VW. Up front it features the company’s corporate grille, while simple character lines down the side continue the horizontal theme.
The rear is very simple, with the boot release cleverly hidden within the VW badge – a premium touch.
How your Polo looks depends very much how you configure it. Opt for a base-spec S on steel wheels – ideal if you prefer to glide under the radar. But buyers who want something more eye-catching can opt for a range of bright colours, including the ‘Energetic Orange’ metallic hue of our test car. You can even spec racing stripes.
The Polo’s performance remit covers the whole market – from the powerful 197bhp GTI to a rather more pedestrian 64bhp in the basic 1.0-litre MPI engine. Our car was fitted with the latter, and though it provides a very refined and smooth engine.
We think the sweet spot is the 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 95bhp. However, if you do a lot of motorway miles, you may be more comfortable with the 113bhp option – it gains a six- rather than five-speed gearbox making for more relaxed cruising.
Mega-mile-munchers can also opt for a choice of diesel engines, which promise rock-bottom running costs.
Ride and handling
The Polo has carved out a name for itself as the safe and predictable option in the supermini sector, and nothing has changed on that front. It’s a very solid-feeling car, and all the controls are pleasantly weighted making smooth progress easy.
It’s not as fun in the corners as a Ford Fiesta, though it’s more comfortable – especially on the small wheels and squidgy tyres of our SE model. Opting for larger alloys sees the car’s looks improve but the ride may suffer slightly.
Head onto the motorway and the Polo is a stable and comfortable cruiser that feels confident in a crosswind. It’s one of the larger cars in its segment and that’s reassuring when you’re mixing it with large trucks and lorries on a busy motorway.
Interior and equipment
The Polo’s interior is a paragon of build quality. It feels more solid in here than many cars from the class above, and every switch operates with a reassuring click.
Material quality is understandably not as plush as in VW’s more premium cars, but it’s still very good for a supermini. The top of the dash is swathed in soft-touch plastic, while the steering wheel and gear lever feel great in the hand.
It’s also reasonably roomy, offering more legroom in the rear and luggage room in the boot than the Ford Fiesta. It can’t compete with the capacious Skoda Fabia on this front, though.
Standard equipment on the Polo includes an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, engine stop/start, automatic headlights, 15-inch alloy wheels and safety technology such as Front Assist, emergency braking and pedestrian detection.
You pay for quality, and the same is true of the Polo. Though our mid-spec SE comes in at a reasonable £14,630, head into the options list and that can quickly mount up. In fact, our car came in at over £17,000 – an incredible sum for a vehicle with a less powerful engine than most city cars.
The Polo should be relatively cheap to run, though. We recorded excellent fuel economy from our 1.0-litre test car, and choosing a diesel engine could see your mpg rise to well over 60. Service plans are available for a reasonable sum, too, and Volkswagen’s strong residual values should ensure a good offer if you wanted to buy on finance.
The supermini sector is full of choice, and no one car can appeal to everybody. The Polo doesn’t have the driver appeal of the Ford Fiesta, but if you’re happy to pay for top quality, comfort, and reassurance, it’s an excellent choice and far superior to the old model.
Model: Volkswagen Polo SE 1.0
Power (bhp): 64
Torque (Nm): 95
Top speed (mph): 102
0-60mph: 15.3 seconds
MPG (combined): 60.1
Emissions (g/km): 108