Rather than cosmetic tweaks, the brand focused on mechanical upgrades when it updated the supermini earlier in the year. This 1.2-litre four-cylinder is one of the new additions to the range, offering 89bhp and 160Nm of torque.
The extra punch the 1.2 has over the 1.0-litre engine is immediately obvious. Acceleration is more urgent, with 0-62mph taking 10.8 seconds as opposed to 16.5 seconds. But find yourself in the wrong gear or on an incline, and it still feels a little bit breathless.
Elsewhere, the Polo has preserved its big car feel with a supple ride and light but accurate steering. And while the car can’t quite frighten a Ford Fiesta when it comes to cornering fun, the petrol models have a sense of agility that the heavier diesels simply don’t.
There’s plenty of head and knee room for passengers in the rear, although 280-litre boot is a bit smaller than supermini rivals’. SE models get a generous level of kit as standard, such as alloys, as well as DAB and air-con. But sat nav is a £700 option.
The problem with the 89bhp 1.2-litre engine is that it holds a middle ground where there is no specific focus isn’t on value, economy or performance. It returns 60mpg, which is better than the equivalent but cheaper Fiesta or Renault Clio, and a match for the smaller 1.0-litre Polo. However, if fuel efficiency is a priority, the three-cylinder 1.4-litre diesel will return 83mpg-plus. For those wanting some extra punch the 148bhp Polo BlueGT will be a stronger choice, and it’s still capable of 58.9mpg.
Admittedly, both cost more to buy, but if you want value, the entry-level Polo 1.0 undercuts the 1.2 by over £1,000 and will be just as cheap to run.