Volkswagen Polo review
The VW Polo is a fantastic supermini, with smart styling, an impressive interior and great engines
The latest Volkswagen Polo is one of the best all-round superminis you can buy. It might not be as fun to drive as a Ford Fiesta, or as interesting to look at as a Renault Clio, but its blend of talents is hard to resist. It combines smart styling with a well-built interior and some really great engines. Highlights include a BlueMotion diesel that can return average fuel economy of more than 80mpg, plus a BlueGT model that uses a new 138bhp 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine, which the firm claims offers the performance of a petrol engine with the economy of a diesel. It’s available as a three or five-door hatchback, as well as a performance GTI model. The latter is powered by a 178bhp 1.4-litre super and turbocharged engine, which is matched to a twin-clutch paddleshift DSG gearbox. A limited-edition Polo WRC model will join the line-up in September 2013 and offers 217bhp, 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds and a top speed of 151mph, which makes it the most powerful Volkswagen Polo ever – at least, until the Polo R arrives in the next couple of years.
Our choice: Polo 1.2 TSI Match Edition
Whether you go for the entry-level Polo or the flagship GTI, there’s no doubting that the Polo is a stylish car. It's not particularly exciting or quirky, but there’s very little to criticise either and the Polo still looks as fresh it did when it was introduced back in 2009. The interior is beautifully crafted with high quality materials that put it ahead of rivals like the Ford Fiesta and Peugeot 208. The range was revised in April 2013, with extra kit and the addition of a new mid-range model that’s aimed at younger drivers, with sporty styling but a more accessible price tag and insurance premiums. Specifications kick off with entry-level S trim, which comes with electric front windows but have to make do with 14-inch steel wheels. As you’d expect, S A/C cars add air-conditioning, while Match Edition cars get 15-inch alloys, front fog lamps, all round electric windows, Volkswagen’s multi-device interface and Bluetooth, as well as body coloured mirrors and door handles. R-Line cars get flashier wheel designs and sporty interior tweaks, while R-Line Style combines the sportier design of its namesake with the equipment and engines of the Polo S trim level upon which it is based. SEL cars come with 16-inch alloys, cruise control and rear parking sensors as standard. The BlueMotion is only available with 15-inch alloys, while BlueGT models get 17-inch alloys, the same rear spoiler and front bumper as the Polo GTI and the side sills from the Polo BlueMotion. The Polo GTI comes with 17-inch alloys, red trim around its grille and chunky sports seats.
The Polo might not be able to provide the driving thrills of rivals like the nimble Fiesta, thanks to slightly lifeless steering and poor body control, but it does handle safely and predictably. It also offers excellent refinement, a great driving position and a supple ride, which makes it relaxing to drive both in town or on the open road. Our pick of the range is the excellent 1.2-litre turbocharged TSI engine, which is smooth and provides plenty of performance around town. What's more, it's available with the smooth-shifting DSG automatic. The entry level 1.2-litre petrol engine can feel a bit rough and underpowered, while the diesels are rougher still. That said, there’s no doubting the impressively low running costs of the 1.2-litre TDI BlueMotion model. The punchy yet frugal Polo BlueGT is powered by a new 1.4 TSI unit that develops 138bhp and 250Nm of torque, and powers it from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 130mph. The Polo GTI gets retuned suspension and a lower ride height, while the 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine combines a supercharger and turbo to deliver 178bhp and 250Nm of torque. It’s also mated to a hi-tech twin-clutch transmission and an electronic limited-slip differential.
The Polo received a full five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating when it was tested back in 2009, with a score of 90 per cent for adult occupant protection. Standard safety kit includes electronic stability control and anti-whiplash headrests, as well as driver, passenger, side and thorax airbags. There have been no major faults reported since the car was introduced in 2009. In fact, the Polo hasn’t been the subject of a single recall since 2007 – and only eight since the first-generation model arrived back in 1975. It generally has a very good reputation for reliability, however, the current model managed a disappointing 74th position in the 2012 Driver Power survey. Two areas were marked out as problems for owners - performance and technology – which let the German supermini down, according to your responses.
The Polo has a 280-litre boot, which isn’t exactly cavernous but is pretty good for a car of its size. It also benefits from a false floor for hiding valuables, while even entry-level Polos come with a full size spare wheel. Match cars and above come with 60:40 split-folding rear seats as standard, which increases the maximum load capacity to a total of 952 litres. This is just less than the Fiesta’s 979 litres, but till a long way off the Peugeot 208’s total of 1,152 litres. The five-door version is the more practical choice, as it makes accessing the back seats so much easier. It’s more spacious than a Fiesta, with enough room for four adults and decent head and legroom, too. Interior quality is incredible for the price. Plus, there’s a good amount of standard equipment on most models - although it might be worth avoiding the rather spartan entry-level S models.
The Polo BlueMotion is one of the most frugal cars on sale. It emits 91g/km of CO2 and has an official fuel consumption figure of 80.7mpg, which might not be as impressive as some rivals – like the most efficient Kia Rio or upcoming Ford Fiesta Econetic – but it is a genuinely achievable if you drive carefully. It does come with a hefty price tag, though. So if you don’t need your Polo to be exempt from the Congestion Charge, for example, you might be better off going for the 1.2 TDI diesel, as it can return 72.0mpg and emits only 102g/km of CO2, meaning it will cost very little to tax. The entry-level 1.2 TSI will also be cheap to run, as it can return average mpg of 53.0 and emits 124g/km. Even the Polo GTI manages to return 47.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 139g/km, though, which is impressive given the level of performance on offer. But as it falls into insurance group 30, premiums will be high. There’s a fixed servicing plan for three years, too, which means you won’t get stung for costly maintenance. However, as with many VWs, optional extras don't come cheap - and entry-level cars miss out on even basic kit like air conditioning.