Volkswagen Polo review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The VW Polo is a fantastic supermini, with smart styling, an impressive interior and great engines

For: 
Sharp styling, spacious cabin, fantastic interior quality
Against: 
Expensive, rivals are more fun, entry-level engines unrefined

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The Volkswagen Polo is one of the most desirable superminis on the market, thanks to a strong combination of running costs, build quality and practicality. It's not quite as stylish as the new Renault Clio, and the Ford Fiesta is more fun to drive, but as an overall car 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, and the Bluemotion unit is capable of 80mpg. There were a few updates to the Polo range in 2013, with a new midrange specification added. The Polo R-Line Style is based on the R-Line model, but can be fitted with a 1.2-litre engine instead, which means it fits into the lower insurance categories, 5E and 8E, respectively. There's also a VW Polo GTI model with a 178bhp 1.4-litre super and turbocharged engine for performance fans, and you can buy the car in either three-door or five-door body shapes. The full list of specifications is huge: S, S A/C, R-Line Style, Match Edition, R-Line Style A/C, R-Line, BlueMotion, SEL, BlueGT, and GTI.

Our choice: Polo 1.4 85 Match Edition

Styling

3.8

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 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. The entry-level S trim is not very well equipped - it only has 14-inch steel wheels and it doesn't even get air-con. For that, you'll need to go for the S A/C model, but we'd recommend the Match Edition, which includes 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps, electric windows for the front and rear, Bluetooth and other device integration, plus door mirror and handles in the same colour as the body. Go for the R-Line models for a sportier interior look, or opt for the R-Line Style model if you need a smaller engine for cheaper insurance. SEL cars come with 16-inch alloys, cruise control and rear parking sensors as standard. The Volkswagen Polo GTI, aside from the powerful petrol engine, gets larger 17-inch alloy wheels, sports seats and a red stripe on the grille - so everyone knows it's a GTI.

Driving

3.8

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. Don't confuse it with the entry-level 1.2-litre engine, however, which feels underpowered and rough. The new Volkswagen Polo BlueGT is powered by a new 1.4 TSI engine with 138bhp and 250Nm of torque, which means it goes from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds - impressive for a car like this. The Polo GTI gets a hi-tech twin-clutch transmission and an electronic limited-slip differential, along with retuned suspension and a lower ride height. It's better to drive than the normal Polo but doesn't match the Ford Fiesta ST for driving thrills. Its 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine combines a supercharger and turbo to deliver 178bhp and 250Nm of torque. 

Reliability

4

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. 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.

Practicality

3.6

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. If you buy a Match model or above, you get 60:40 split-folding rear seats, 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.

Running Costs

4.6

Go for the Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion, which emits 91g/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. We think it's better for most buyers to go for the 1.2 TDI diesel, however, as it can return 72mpg and emits only 102g/km of CO2. The entry-level 1.20litre petrol gets 53.5mpg and emits 124g/km, but be aware - it feels very underpowered. Even the performance version, the GTI, gets 47.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 139g/km. Insurance premiums will be high for the GTI, 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 much equipment at all.

Disqus - noscript

My new VW Polo 1.2 60 Match has been SHOCKINGLY UNRELIABLE! First was an engine management fault on delivery, second was an intermittent bulb-light circuit failure, third was a broken washer-pump followed by peeling paint on the rear bumper, lacking a primer. The boot won't shut properly and requires frequent slamming to lock. All of these faults occurred within 4 months of receiving the car. One dealer refused to fix the paintwork and another initially refused to fix the washer-pump before being persuaded by my invoking the involvement of VW GB headquarters. When it works, the car is smooth and refined, but the 3-cyl is not as economical as the 1.4 Seat Ibiza I owned previously. I will get a MINI next time.

Chris. Interested to read about your Polo. I also have a 4 month old Polo Match, and have also experienced a broken washer-pump and bulb-light (indicator) failure. I'm in discussion with my Dealer right now to get these resolved - interestingly their response seemed like I wasn't the first Polo customer to complain of the these issues. Did you have your problems resolved in the end? Would be good to compare notes.

Survives "tarting up" a tad better than its sister "granny wagon" the Skoda Fabia.

"Our choice: Polo 1.2 TSI Match Edition" - Are you sure this exists ? I've been looking for it for ages but, as far as I am aware, you can only get the 1.2TSi in the ridiculously expensive SEL edition. No problem in other countries, but not in UK

My other half's 2001 Polo expired after only 80,000 miles. I know it was an old car, but 80k is 80k. Clutch and gearbox went, smoke billowed out of the steering column because of an electrical short and the ignition system previously needed replacing.

The match spec is crying out for the TSi, but like you say in the UK it's stuck with nasty old 3 CYL 1.2's (hateful engines) and the just as old 1.4 85.

The Seat Ibiza FR 1.2tsi is available under £12k brand new, but quality is lacking compared to the Polo.

Strong 9/10 ;))

AE seems to get totally confused with the Polo's engine range. A recent article about the R Line Style model incorrectly said that the R Line has a 1.4 tsi engine, whereas it actually has the 1.2. The article above mentions the "entry level" 1.2tsi, but as has been mentioned its only available in the top SEL and R-line trims......

Another re-cycled 12 month old review

I´VE DRIVEN ONE. THIS CAR IS NOT FOR ME! RATHER A FIESTA!

this magazine autoexpress is too much VW tendency!!

You should have bought a Honda Jazz like me. Totally reliable, economical, spacious for passengers with a large boot and brilliant flexible seating and as a bonus great dealer service

Not for me.

Is a "granny wagon" an older version of a "passion Wagon"?

Polos are rubbish and completely unreliable, to beat this buy any car from the orient. AE must be in a different universe or more likely taking bribes from VW.

Awful problems with Polo from week 1 ranging from engine faults to trim falling off for no reason. Build quality is the worst I have ever seen in a car and I ran a fleet of over 100 different vehicles. Terrible service from VW. Will never go near this brand again.

Last updated: 4 Nov, 2013

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