Volkswagen Polo

The Polo's freshened up! Volkswagen is set to celebrate the car's 30th birthday by giving it a new look and a revised engine range

By adding a sweeping front and rear makeover, as well as two excellent new diesel engines, VW has increased the Polo's already strong appeal. The model is not as good to drive as a Ford Fiesta nor as individual as a Fiat Panda - and it's pricier than both. But it has plenty of safety kit and standard features, plus strong residuals.

Auto Express has driven one of the first to arrive in the country. The newcomer, on sale this week, maintains the current line-up of E, S, SE and Sport trims, and the range now kicks off at £7,495 for the entry-level 1.2-litre E.

The biggest changes are to the styling. By adopting the bold VW family grille, which debuted on the Passat, the Polo has much more presence, and that's complemented by the Golf-like headlamps. Circular tail-lights with red surrounds echo those already used on the Phaeton limousine and the latest Passat, while the side repeaters have been relocated to the door mirrors.

Apart from the addition of a new tray on top of the dashboard, plus some fresh seat fabrics, a chunkier steering wheel and redesigned graphics on the instruments, the interior has been left largely untouched. It is a shame some of the poor-quality low-level plastics have not been addressed, but the multi-size cup-holder and reach and rake-adjustable wheel compensate for this.

The entry-level 1.4-litre turbodiesel is now offered with 70bhp or 80bhp, replacing the current 75bhp TDI and 65bhp naturally aspirated SDI. Our car had the larger of the two new units, which impressed with its characterful note, punchy performance and superb economy. It is also as frugal as the motor it replaces. Ride and handling are identical to that of the previous Polo, yet while progress is smooth, the newcomer is not the most involving car to drive.

VW's latest model also upholds its predecessor's excellent safety reputation, as brake assist and ESP stability control are included on all variants. This S-spec car is our pick of the range, as it benefits from group five insurance and comes with air-con, 14-inch alloys and electric front windows as standard.

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