Volkswagen Polo review
The VW Polo is a fantastic supermini, with smart styling, an impressive interior and great engines
The recently-updated Volkswagen Polo is still one of the most desirable superminis money can buy, thanks to a strong combination of running costs, build quality and practicality. It's still not quite as stylish as the new Renault Clio, and the Ford Fiesta is more fun to drive, but as an overall package the Volkswagen Polo is one of the best small cars on the market.
The economical and powerful engine range is a big selling point for the Polo, with the 1.4 TDI diesel capable of over 80mpg. The Polo received a thorough overhaul in 2014, including a revised specification range, new engines from the up! city car and Golf-sourced in-car tech.
A BlueMotion TSI engine - the first of its kind in the VW line-up - will become available later in the year, alongside a replacement fro the current Polo GTI. Offering in three- or five-door body styles, the trim levels currently on offer are S, S A/C, SE, SE Design, SEL and BlueGT. At the moment, power comes from a choice of three petrol engines and one diesel unit, with all bar the BlueGT's 148bhp 1.4-litre TSI sold in two stages of tune.
Our choice: Polo 1.4 85 Match Edition
Whichever model you decide to go for, the Volkswagen Polo is a stylish little car. It lacks the imaginative styling of the Renault Clio, but it looks smart and understated. The interior quality is up there with bigger cars like the VW Golf, and puts it ahead of rivals like the Ford Fiesta and Peugeot 208 when it comes to sitting inside the car.
The 2014 model was by no means radical in terms of design, the exterior gaining sharper bumpers, a chrome strip for the grille and redesigned LED headlights on top spec models. Inside though, there's a new three-spoke steering wheel and the same infotainment system as found in the MkVII Golf. A five-inch touchscreen is standard on entry-level models, with all variants getting Bluetooth connectivity, DAB digital radio and a USB port. Opting for higher spec models adds a 6.5-inch display that is better suited to the smartphone-style swiping movements used to navigate through the different menus.
Kicking things off once again is S trim, which is now slightly better equipped but still doesn't even get air-con. For that, you'll need to go for the S A/C model, although we'd recommend mid-range SE, which comes with 15-inch alloy wheels, a chrome-trimmed front air intake, leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel, glovebox-mounted CD player and electrically adjustable door mirros.
Go for new SE Design for a more stylish look, including 16-inch alloys, black gloss exterior detailing, front fog lights, tinted rear lights and windows, plus front sports seats and revised interior upholstery. SEL cars builds on SE spec with a number of these styling changes, but also features standard-fit parking sensors. BlueGT tops the range at launch, a unique body kit, lower sports suspension and even bigger rims signalling the presence of a 148bhp 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine.
The VW Polo has slightly lifeless steering and poor body control, which means it's not a patch on the Ford Fiesta, but most will be pleased with the stable and predictable driving experience. The real strength of the Polo is that it's very comfortable to drive - it's quiet inside the car, and the smooth ride means it's comfortable both in town and on the motorway.
We'd choose the 1.2-litre turbocharged TSI petrol engine, as it's quiet and provides plenty of power for most driving. You can also get it with an excellent DSG automatic gearbox, which shifts smoothly. It's also pretty much identical to the new entry-level 1.0-litre engine in terms of fuel efficiency, which itself is a bit too keen to rev and feels underpowered in its basic 59bhp guise.
The Volkswagen Polo BlueGT is powered by a revised 1.4 TSI engine with 148bhp and 250Nm of torque, which means it goes from 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds - impressive for a car like this. The new Polo GTI will get a choice of six-speed manual and hi-tech seven-speed twin-clutch transmission when it arrives later this year, along with retuned suspension and a lower ride height.
With a five star Euro NCAP crash safety rating, the Volkswagen Polo should be very safe - especially with a 90 per cent rating for adult occupant protection. You get electronic stability control and anti-whiplash headrests as standard in the Polo, along with a full set of airbags, Hill Hold assist and Automatic Post-Collision Braking System which brakes the vehicle after a collision to reduce kinetic energy significantly.
The Polo has not had any major recalls, and VW's reputation for reliability means it should be pretty dependable - though the Honda Jazz will be your best best if reliability is your biggest priority. Although the current Polo only managed a finishing place of 102 in the 2013 Driver Power survey, it should stand up pretty well, thanks to a range of tried-and-tested parts. In the 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's 280-litre boot is not bad for its class, but it's nowhere near as spacious as the Honda Jazz and it's not great for trips to the dump. Split-folding rear seats are standard across the range, which boosts the capacity to 952 litres. The Peugeot 208’s 1,152 litres means the Polo falls behind for boot space in its class, but it does get a false floor for hiding valuables.
Even entry-level Polos come with a full size spare wheel, which is rare in this class - so you've got peace of mind in case of a puncture while on the road. There's decent head and legroom in the rear, and if you go for the five-door model it's easy enough to get in and out as well. Avoid the very cheapest models and there's a good level of standard equipment, and the interior is very well built and should stand up to family life very well.
Go for the Volkswagen Polo 1.4-litre TDI diesel, which emits 88g/km of CO2 and returns over 80mpg, if you're after the most efficient Polo you can get. Although the price tag is very high, if you're driving a lot of miles and want low petrol costs it's a solid choice. The entry-level 1.0-litre petrol gets at least 58.9mpg and at worst is claimed to emit an impressive 108g/km, but be aware - it feels very underpowered.
Even the performance version, the BlueGT, gets up to 60.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 107g/km with the automatic gearbox. Insurance premiums will be higher for this and the GTI when it arrives though, but certain models in the Polo range will suit young drivers' requirement for low insurance groups. There’s a fixed servicing plan for three years, too, which means you won’t get stung for costly maintenance. Optional extras are expensive, however, and the cheapest models don't get too much equipment.