Volkswagen Polo review
The Volkswagen Polo shows how sophisticated the humble supermini can get
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 feels best in class for quality. It is an expensive small car though, and its chief adversary, the Ford Fiesta, is more fun to drive.
No matter which Volkswagen Polo you choose, from entry level S to the rapid GTI, you're getting one of the classiest superminis for sale in the UK today. The sixth-generation arrived in 2018, and it brought with it 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.
Indeed, the Polo is now nearly as long as a Mk3 Golf, and it's nearly as wide as the Mk5 version, which means the Polo is 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. The Ford Fiesta is the choice for a fun drive, while the Citroen C3 adds personalisation and funky design to the mix. The Vauxhall Corsa and Skoda Fabia are solid, practical choices, while the SEAT Ibiza and Mazda 2 add a sporty edge.
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But the rivals don't stop there, because the Polo is a quality product, so it could also be considered a rival to premium superminis such as the MINI and Audi A1. Then there's the rest of the supermini ranks, including the Hyundai i20, Toyota Yaris, Kia Rio and all-new versions of the Peugeot 208 and Renault Clio.
To help the Polo compete, VW has fitted it with its latest turbocharged engines. At the entry point to the range there's a 80PS three-cylinder naturally aspirated unit, but we'd recommend going for the 1.0 TSI three-cylinder turbo petrol engines. They come in 95PS and 115PS forms with power outputs of 94bhp and 113bhp. All models are front-wheel drive, with the 80 and 95 engines coming with a five-speed manual, while the 115 has a six-speed manual. In addition, the 95 and 115 TSI engines can be had with VW's quick-shifting seven-speed DSG auto.
The 1.6 TDI diesel is the 95PS version of the four-cylinder unit, and it's only sold in SEL trim. This is front-wheel drive and comes with a five-speed manual gearbox, with no option to add the DSG box.
At the top of the range, the Polo GTI comes with a detuned version of the 2.0 TSI found in the Golf GTI. Here it's rated at 197bhp and comes with a six-speed DSG gearbox as standard.
Trim levels run through S, SE, Match, Beats, SE-L, R-Line, GTI and GTI Plus. All cars come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 2 USB sockets, alloy wheels, all-round electric windows (all Polos are five-door now), and a leather trimmed multifunction steering wheel. Prices start from around £15,000, with the top-spec GTI coming in at around £23,000.
The Polo has been a longstanding member of the VW fleet, having first arrived in 1975. The original Polo was a rebadged version of the Audi 50 small car. It came as a three-door hatch or two-door saloon called the Polo Derby, while the Polo Mk2 of 1981 introduced a new three-door pseudo estate body. The hatch continued as the Polo Coupe, and this also spawned a supercharged G40 hot hatch, while the Derby saloon was also kept on the books. With a facelift in 1990, the Polo Mk2 remained in production for 13 years.
By the time the Polo Mk3 arrived in 1994, the supermini class was better defined, so it came in three or five-door hatch body styles, as well as slow-selling estate and saloon incarnations. The first Polo GTI arrived in 1999 as part of the facelifted Mk3 range, while the whole model range was replaced by the Polo Mk4 in 2002. By this time, the estate and saloon variants had fallen by the wayside, although the oddball Polo Dune added off-roader looks to the supermini mix.
Volkswagen decided to approach the Polo differently from the Mk5 car onwards, released in 2009. The supermini took on a decidedly Golf inspired bent, which is a theme carried over strongly in the latest model. It even sits on a shortened version of the Golf platform, known as MQB A0.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe Volkswagen Polo shows how sophisticated the humble supermini can get
- 2Engines, performance and driveThe Polo is safe and comfortable rather than fun on the road, but the 1.0 TSI turbo petrol is a cracker
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsWith frugal three-cylinder petrol engines on offer, the Polo can keep running costs down
- 4Interior, design and technologySubtle exterior changes cloak a revolution inside, with a completely fresh cabin and impressive infotainment
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spacePolo’s 351-litre boot is very competitive for the class, while interior space is good
- 6Reliability and SafetyVW Polo chalks up an impressive Euro NCAP score, with additional safety tech on the options list