Volkswagen Polo review (2002-2009)
The Polo is a very grown up supermini that exudes quality, though rivals offer a sharper, sportier drive
The Polo is a very grown up supermini. Ride quality is excellent, with the softly suspended supermini smoothing out city centre bumps well. It feels very much like a mini Golf, though this does mean that, while handling is safe and secure, there is more roll through corners than sportier rivals, and driver involvement is lacking. Steering is light and a little lacking in feel. Smaller petrol engines need working hard and are fun when you're in the mood, frustrating when you're not. Larger petrol units are better and diesels satisfyingly torquey, if a little rattly. Really, the extra pace of the Polo suits its long distance cruising ability well.
The Polo range is large and all-inclusive - and prices are, nowadays, much more competitive than you might think. Most variants come with air conditioning and the range of E, S, SE and Sport models is straightforward. There is a huge range of engines, and later this year there will be a 150bhp 1.8-litre turbocharged GTI variant too, with plenty of Golf GTI styling cues. A strong seller, the Polo battles with the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, Renault Clio and Peugeot 207 - though competition also comes from the Seat Ibiza and Skoda Fabia that share the platform it's based upon. Generally, the other VW brands offer lower prices and a little more equipment.
The Polo remains a supermini that feels a cut above the rest. Build quality is excellent and the smart dashboard has a commanding, grown up feel. A chunky steering wheel and VW's trademark blue instrument lighting add a classy feel and firm, supportive seats are very comfortable. Space in the rear is reasonable and the boot is practical. A facelift in 2005 brought Golf-style headlamps, Phaeton-style circular tail-lights and side indicator repeaters mounted in the door mirrors. All engines are economical and the inclusion of brake assist and ESP stability control on all variants is a real safety boon, even if the Euro-NCAP crash score isn't class-leading. Servicing may be a little more costly than some rivals though - but excellent retained values make it a safe place to put your money.