In-depth reviews

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

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Engines, performance and drive Rating

4.0 out of 5

Price
£20,710 to £32,275
Find your Volkswagen Polo
Offers from our trusted partners on this car and its predecessors...
Or are you looking to sell your car?
Advertisement

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.

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.

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.0 Life 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £19,640

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.0 Life 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £19,640

Fastest

  • Name
    2.0 TSI GTI Edition 25 5dr DSG
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £30,810
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 on DrivingElectric.com and won the Newspress Automotive Journalist Rising Star award in 2022.

Most Popular

‘Forget leasing a car, a cut-price van should be your next everyday vehicle’
Opinion - Fiat Scudo
Opinion

‘Forget leasing a car, a cut-price van should be your next everyday vehicle’

With some huge savings to be had, Mike Rutherford thinks a van could be the perfect vehicle
3 Dec 2023
New Renault 5: price, specs, launch and on sale dates
Renault 5 EV concept at 2022 Goodwood Festival of Speed
News

New Renault 5: price, specs, launch and on sale dates

Renault’s reborn Renault 5 will start from €25,000 in Europe, suggesting a circa-£30k price in the UK. It's due on sale in the summer of 2024. Here's …
1 Dec 2023
Deal of the Day: Vauxhall Grandland is an ideal family SUV for £210 per month
Vauxhall Grandland front cornering
News

Deal of the Day: Vauxhall Grandland is an ideal family SUV for £210 per month

Vauxhall’s largest SUV can be had for the same price as most superminis, making it our Deal of the Day for 1 December
1 Dec 2023