Used Volkswagen Polo (Mk5, 2009-2017) - How practical is it?
The VW Polo isn't the most practical supermini, but it's not at all bad. Stick with the five-door version though
Even entry-level Polos come with a full size spare wheel, which is rare in this class – so you’ve got peace of mind in case of a puncture. Avoid the very cheapest models and there’s a reasonable level of standard equipment. The interior is very well built and should stand up to family life very well.
There are deep cup-holders and a handy tray in front of the USB and 12V sockets on the centre console to keep your smartphone in, while the standard touchscreen infotainment system is logically laid out and easy to use.
Dimensions and cabin design
At less than four metres in length, the Polo is actually smaller than some rivals, such as the Hyundai i20 and Ford Fiesta. It also weighs around 1,100kg, give or take a few kilos according to specifications (the diesel engine, DSG gearbox and five-door options all add weight), which makes it a nimble car.
There’s decent head and legroom in the rear, and if you go for the five-door model it's easy enough to get in and out as well. Access to the rear seats is simple thanks to the wide-opening back doors, but legroom is a little tight. A high window line and dark cabin materials mean it feels claustrophobic in the back.
The Polo’s 280-litre boot is not bad for its class, but it’s nowhere near as spacious as the Honda Jazz and it’s not great for trips to the dump. Split-folding rear seats are standard across the range, which boosts the capacity to 952 litres. The Peugeot 208’s maximum of 1,152 litres means the Polo falls behind for boot space in its class, but it does get a false floor for hiding valuables.
Equipment and technology
While the Polo isn’t the most exciting car to look at, you can’t fault its fit and finish. Tight shut lines are a sign of its quality, plus the classless looks mean it will appeal to a broad cross-section of customers.
Car group tests
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Used car tests
Inside, there’s a neat three-spoke steering wheel, but the entry-level S trim doesn’t get air-conditioning. For that, buyers needed to pay around £720 extra, so check this when buying a used Polo. We’d recommend the mid-range Match which also comes with 15-inch alloy wheels, a chrome-rimmed front air intake, leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel, glovebox-mounted CD player and electrically adjustable door mirrors.
Go for the Match Edition for a more stylish look, including 16-inch alloys, black gloss exterior detailing, front fog lights, tinted rear lights and windows, plus front sports seats and revised interior upholstery. The R Line simply adds body styling extras and interior goodies to make it look sporty, so isn't really worth the premium.
SEL cars build on Match spec with a number of these styling changes, but also feature standard-fit parking sensors – however, it’s not exactly cheap. BlueGT models get a unique body kit, 15mm lower sports suspension and even bigger wheels signalling the presence of the punchy 148bhp 1.4 TSI engine.
The Polo GTI has styling similar to the larger Golf GTI. There are red accents for the honeycomb grille, big alloys, a roof spoiler and twin exhausts out back, while the cabin gets tartan trim. It’s less than a grand more expensive than the BlueGT.
The Polo has the same infotainment system as found in the Mk7 Golf. A five-inch touchscreen is standard on entry-level models, with all variants getting Bluetooth connectivity, DAB digital radio and a USB port. Opting for higher spec models adds a 6.5-inch display that’s better, with smartphone-style swiping movements used to navigate through the different menus.
Match Edition and higher-spec beats models are the only Polos to get Volkswagen’s CarNet App-Connect system as standard. It cost £130 when new and added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which relay sat-nav maps via your smartphone. Plus, you can connect two devices simultaneously.
However, if you want a fully integrated sat-nav, look for cars with the Discover Navigation system. It’s operated through the same 6.5-inch colour touchscreen, which also combines the radio functions and other car settings, as well as adding a speed limit display.
Beyond this, VW’s CarNet Guide and Inform package brings a three-year subscription to VW’s online services, delivering info on traffic, fuel prices, parking space availability and weather forecasts. The screen’s graphics are crisp, while the responsive touchscreen and hot keys make it easy to use.
The Polo earned a five-star Euro NCAP rating in 2009, but its percentage scores should have improved with the 2014 facelift. However, it only gets four airbags as standard – curtain bags cost extra.
On the plus side, it does benefit from Volkswagen’s touchscreen technology and should come with the most recent software updates, so the in-car infotainment should be trouble free.
In this review
- 1Used Volkswagen Polo (Mk5, 2009-2017) reviewThe ageing Volkswagen Polo is still a front-runner in the supermini class, but rivals are cheaper
- 2How much will it cost?Engines return excellent economy, and residual values are among the strongest in class, offsetting the Polo’s high price
- 3How practical is it? - currently readingThe VW Polo isn't the most practical supermini, but it's not at all bad. Stick with the five-door version though
- 4What’s it like to drive?A wide range of excellent petrol and diesel engines work well with the refined manners of the Polo
- 5What should you look for?The Polo’s reputation for quality is undermined by a poor showing in our Driver Power satisfaction surveys
- 6What do owners think?The Mk5 VW Polo struggled in our Driver Power surveys, but owners did like the fuel economy and running costs