In-depth reviews

Volkswagen Polo review: a sensible and highly refined small car

The Volkswagen Polo remains an impressively capable supermini, offering plenty of comfort, refinement and big-car features

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Price
£20,945 to £32,510
  • High quality interior
  • Composed ride
  • Interior space
  • Not the most fun to drive
  • Expensive for a supermini
  • Disappointing GTI model
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The sixth-generation Volkswagen Polo builds on the strengths of its predecessors. It's more like a shrunken Golf than ever, and offers lots of space and tech when compared to its supermini rivals. Put simply, this is the quality option in the class, and nowadays, it straddles the gap between regular superminis and premium models such as the MINI.

Buy a Polo, and you’ll be getting into a small car that rides with a similar level of composure to a VW Golf, while the interior quality is impressive. However, it remains an expensive small car, perhaps so much so that it could put off potential buyers.

About the Volkswagen Polo

​No matter which Volkswagen Polo you choose, from entry-level Life to the rapid GTI, you're getting one of the classiest superminis for sale in the UK today. The sixth generation Polo arrived in 2018, bringing a step up in quality over the old car, as well as a range of efficient engines and some of the latest tech from the larger Golf.

The (five-door only) Polo is now nearly as long as a Mk3 Golf and almost as wide as the Mk5 version, which means it's one of the roomiest cars in the supermini class. It's a strong selling point in the face of a long list of rivals with their own talents. With the demise of the Ford Fiesta, the options for small car fun now boil down to the likes of the SEAT Ibiza, Mazda 2, or (if your budget can stretch to it) the MINI. The Citroen C3 adds personalisation and funky design to the mix, while the Vauxhall Corsa and Skoda Fabia are solid, practical choices. 

Then there are premium offerings like the Audi A1 to consider, as well as a pair of fuel-efficient high-tech hybrids in the form of the Honda Jazz and Toyota Yaris that are available for similar money to the A1. If value for money is your main concern, the Hyundai i20 and highly-rated Renault Clio should fit the bill. Some may also wish to go electric and both the Peugeot 208 and aforementioned Corsa can be had in versions powered solely by volts.

To help the VW Polo compete with this raft of rivals, it comes with an array of up-to-the-minute turbocharged engines, which put power to the road through the front wheels. At the entry point to the range, there's a 79bhp, three-cylinder naturally aspirated unit, but we'd recommend going for the 1.0 TSI three-cylinder turbo petrol engine. It comes in 94bhp and 109bhp forms with power outputs, with the former getting a five-speed manual, while the latter has a seven-speed DSG auto 'box. The sporty GTI model delivers 204bhp from its 2.0-litre TSI petrol unit, and can only be had with that DSG auto.

Trim levels have been slimmed down to include Life, Style, R-Line, GTI and the limited GTI Edition 25. All cars come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 2 USB sockets, alloy wheels and a multifunction steering wheel. The Polo range starts just shy of £21,000, with the Style and R-Line versions coming in at a touch over £24,000. The performance GTI is priced at nearly £30,000, with the GTI Edition 25 costing over £32,000.

Used and nearly new

The history of the Volkswagen Polo dates back to 1975. Since then, it has grown from being a rebadged Audi into one of the best superminis you can buy. It’s not the cheapest supermini you can buy, but solid residuals mean you’ll lose less money when you sell it, while the latest versions feel like slightly smaller versions of the excellent Volkswagen Golf.

Volkswagen Polo history

Volkswagen Polo - best superminis

Volkswagen Polo Mk6: 2017-

The current Polo is one of the classiest superminis you can buy. It’s like owning a smaller Golf, although this means you’ll pay a premium for the privilege compared with the Polo’s immediate rivals. Buying a used version of this will be your only way of getting the short-lived diesel version because this engine choice disappeared with the 2021 facelift, which also ushered in some styling tweaks, and made the digital instrument display a standard feature. 

Used Volkswagen Polo Mk5 - front

Volkswagen Polo Mk5: 2009-2017

Launched in 2009, the Mk5 was the first Volkswagen Polo to be named European Car of the Year. It was also the 2010 World Car of the Year, completing a double of gongs for the impressive supermini. Only a lacklustre driving experience puts a blot in its copybook, although the Polo GTI offers grown-up thrills. Read our full Mk5 Volkswagen Polo buyer’s guide here…

Volkswagen Polo

Volkswagen Polo Mk4: 2002-2009

Feeling every inch a ‘mini Golf’, the Mk4 Polo felt like a grown-up supermini. Excellent ride quality, superb build quality and economical engines are just some of the highlights, although a mediocre driving experience lets down the Polo. The 2005 facelift introduced Golf-style headlights and rear lights that wouldn’t look out of place on the VW Phaeton luxury car. Read our full Mk4 Volkswagen Polo buyer’s guide here...

Older Volkswagen Polo models

The Volkswagen Polo has come a long way since it arrived in 1975 as a rebadged version of the Audi 50. The Mk1 Polo lived on until 1981 when it was replaced by the Mk2, which included a now iconic ‘breadvan’ version. Things stepped up a gear in 1994 with the launch of the Polo Mk3, which was based on a new platform and came complete with new body and engines.

For an alternative review of the Volkswagen Polo, visit our sister site carbuyer.co.uk...

Frequently Asked Questions
Despite not being the most fun to drive, the VW Polo is still a well-made small car that’ll easily cope with congested city streets and long motorway jaunts alike. It’s also big enough inside for most needs and has plenty of equipment.

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.0 Life 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £19,875

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.0 Life 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £19,875

Fastest

  • Name
    2.0 TSI GTI Edition 25 5dr DSG
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £31,045
News reporter

As our news reporter, Ellis is responsible for covering everything new and exciting in the motoring world, from quirky quadricycles to luxury MPVs. He was previously the content editor for DrivingElectric and won the Newspress Automotive Journalist Rising Star award in 2022.

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