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In-depth reviews

Volkswagen Polo - Engines, performance and drive

The Volkswagen 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
£20,945 to £26,945
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Although not the default choice for driving fun, the Volkswagen Polo would take the honour of providing the best refinement and comfort of almost any small car. It boasts a supple ride, edging out its competitors with Golf-like composure, providing a comfortable character out of the Polo compared to the firmer SEAT Ibiza – a car that uses the same MQB A0 architecture that underpins this Polo, as well as the Audi A1 and Skoda Fabia

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Adding the stiffer sports suspension pack and larger alloy wheels does compromise comfort levels, but that’s true of most cars with such options added. We’d avoid picking it because it’ll give the car a rough edge on potholed roads or over nasty ridges in the poorly maintained tarmac, and even then, it doesn’t make the Polo a particularly entertaining car to drive.

That’s not to say the Polo is a bad driving car, it’s just that some rivals are sharper and more enjoyable to pilot on twisty B roads. The steering is sharp and direct enough, but devoid of feel. It’s the same deal with the clutch pedal action and gearshift on manual models, revealing that the Polo is focused towards being easy and relaxing to drive, rather than providing an engaging experience.

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It does mean that the Polo works well in town, however. The good low-speed ride paired with the direct, lightweight steering means it’s a very easy car to navigate through heavy stop-start traffic. 

On A-roads and motorways, the Polo impresses because it has the refinement of a much larger car. The engines fade into the background hum, while low levels of wind and road noise mean you don’t need to crank up the stereo or shout to your passengers.

Most Polo versions are equipped with a standard five-speed manual gearbox, while a seven-speed DSG automatic is available as an option on the 94bhp 1.0 TSI. Both the 109bhp 1.0-litre TSI and 204bhp 2.0-litre GTI models come only with the DSG gearbox.

0-62mph acceleration and top speed

The non-turbocharged 1.0-litre 79bhp option might be okay for strictly urban driving, but it struggles to keep up with traffic on faster roads. It takes 15.5 seconds to hit 62mph from a standstill, and reaches 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. Of the two choices, it’s the 94bhp model that gets our vote. The extra performance it has due to its turbocharger makes driving much more relaxing, because you won’t be left struggling to make a gap when merging into traffic. Its torque figure swells from a mere 93Nm for the lesser engine to a healthy 175Nm, all helping to drop the 0-62mph time to 10.8 seconds, while the top speed increases to 116mph

The pricier 109bhp version provides a little more oomph, but not enough to justify its price. It’s fractionally faster than the 94bhp model, going from 0-62mph in 10.4 seconds, and romps to a top speed of 122mph. The quickest Polo is the GTI, which delivers an impressive 6.5-second sprint time and a top speed of 150mph.

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.0 Life 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £19,875

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.0 Life 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £19,875

Fastest

  • Name
    2.0 TSI GTI Edition 25 5dr DSG
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £31,045
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 for DrivingElectric and won the Newspress Automotive Journalist Rising Star award in 2022.

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