The 225bhp Polo R will make its debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March. Featuring a tuned version of the Golf GTI’s 2.0 TSI engine, it should set a new class benchmark for performance from a supermini – but if you want the go-faster look without the engine to match, the Polo R Line is perfect.
This new model is based on the 1.2-litre TSI in Match trim, and comes as a three or five-door. The regular Polo’s styling is pumped up with deeper R Line-specific bumpers, chunky side skirts and a more prominent roof spoiler.
A set of 16-inch ‘Mallory’ alloy wheels and tinted rear windows finish off the look. And while it’s hardly a Fast and the Furious-style makeover, it adds some welcome visual punch to the Polo’s uneventful design.
It feels good inside, too, with a thick-rimmed three-spoke sports steering wheel and aluminium pedals giving the driver a sense they’re in something much quicker.
Cloth-trimmed sports seats are comfortable, with plenty of bolstering to hold you in, while the R Line logo is splashed across the headrests and aluminium scuff plates on the door sills. There’s plenty of equipment thrown in, too, including a DAB radio, an iPod connector, heated mirrors and air-conditioning.
Under the bonnet is the higher-powered 104bhp version of VW’s 1.2-litre TSI petrol engine, which is so quiet at idle you’ll think it’s not running. But it can perform when it needs to, and offers enthusiastic acceleration and a raspy exhaust note.
At all other times, this Polo is a doddle to drive. A lightweight shift action from the six-speed manual box, accurate steering and pedals that require little effort to push mean you’ll feel instantly comfortable behind the wheel.
But it’s not as sharp to drive as a Ford Fiesta Zetec S, which gets lower and firmer suspension. Still, the 16-inch alloys – which look fantastic crammed into the wheelarches – don’t spoil the standard Polo’s supple ride. Hit a pothole or a bump at speed and there’s a larger jolt than normal, but the difference is mostly negligible.
A large part of the R Line’s appeal is its low running costs. Despite the high-performance looks, the car promises 53.3mpg fuel economy and 124g/km CO2 emissions. Plus, you get exactly the same 280-litre boot capacity as in the standard Polo – this grows to a maximum 952 litres when the rear seats are folded.