Volkswagen Polo review - Engines, performance and drive
The Polo is safe and comfortable rather than fun on the road, but the 1.0 TSI turbo petrol is a cracker
Although not being the default choice for driving fun, it'd certainly be fair to hand the refinement and comfort titles to the Polo. It boasts a supple ride for a small car, edging out its competitors with Golf-like composure, and Volkswagen’s engineers have coaxed a comfortable character out of the Polo compared to the SEAT Ibiza – a car that also uses the MQB A0 architecture.
Unsurprisingly, the Polo can still develop a rough edge on potholed roads or over nasty ridges in the tarmac, particularly with larger wheels fitted. But overall the ride quality is very high.
On A-roads and motorways, the Polo feels a much larger car than it actually is. Refined power units only assist in this regard, while low levels of wind and road noise are impressive, too.
The trade-off is that some rivals are more enjoyable to drive when the road begins to narrow and twist. The steering on regular Polos is sharp and direct enough, but devoid of feel. It’s the same deal with the pedal box and gearshift on manual models, revealing that the Polo is focused towards being as easy and as relaxing to drive as possible, rather than on providing outright fun. There is a balance between comfort and capability, but the bias is towards the former.
Car group tests
- Skoda Fabia vs Volkswagen Polo: 2023 twin test review
- Ford Fiesta ST vs Volkswagen Polo GTI vs Hyundai i20 N: 2022 group test review
- Volkswagen Polo vs SEAT Ibiza vs Hyundai i20: 2021 group test review
Used car tests
It does mean that the Polo works well in town, however. The good low speed ride paired to the direct, lightweight steering means that it shouldn’t be too terrible a place to be stuck in stop-start traffic.
Most Polo versions are equipped with a standard five-speed manual gearbox, with a seven-speed DSG transmission as an optional extra. The 109bhp 1.0-litre TSI and 204bhp 2.0-litre GTI models come with the DSG 'box only.
0-62mph acceleration and top speed
The 1.0-litre 79bhp option is sluggish, as suggested by its on-paper figures - taking 15.5 seconds to hit 62mph from standstill, and reaching a top speed of 106mph.
In almost every case, we’d recommend stumping up a bit more cash for one of the newer, more powerful 1.0-litre TSI units. In either 94bhp or 109bhp guise it delivers a dollop of refined performance, while the turbocharger means torque swells to 175Nm and 200Nm respectively, so there’s much more grunt to lean on and it’s easier to find when dropping down a gear to overtake.
It’s a peppy unit, but it’s impressively quiet at motorway speeds, too. The 94bhp TSI car does 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds and tops out at 116mph. The 109bhp, seven-speed auto model manages 10.4 seconds from 0-62mph, with a top speed of 122mph, while the GTI delivers an impressive 6.5-second sprint time.
In this review
- 1Volkswagen Polo reviewThe Volkswagen Polo remains an impressively capable supermini, offering plenty of comfort, refinement and big-car features
- 2Engines, performance and drive - currently readingThe 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 CostsFrugal three-cylinder petrol engines help keep Polo running costs down
- 4Interior, design and technologyVolkswagen has introduced subtle exterior changes for the Polo, with a stylish cabin and impressive infotainment
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceWith good boot space and plenty of room for passengers, the Polo is a practical supermini
- 6Reliability and SafetyThe VW Polo chalks up an impressive Euro NCAP score, with additional safety tech on the options list