The VW Polo isn’t a car I normally associate with boy racers.
Don’t get me wrong, it has always been one of my favourite small cars thanks to its competitive pricing, high levels of comfort and low running costs. It’s just that I fail to see why you’d want to take a practical small car around the Brands Hatch circuit, battling 26 cars, as 22-year-old labourer Jack Cottle did in June.
This week, he was sentenced to eight months in prison for his stunt; he didn’t actually have permission to burn rubber with the professionals. He might have taken to the track after reading a What Car? review of the latest VW Polo, which described it as a “brilliant all-rounder, with more satisfying real-world pace”, but I doubt it.
Testing the new Polo in a more familiar habitat – with a run down from south London gridlock to the lanes of Sussex – it’s a far more accomplished city car or cruiser, than it is a track-day machine. It’s smooth, compliant and sensible on the road, offering real-world fuel economy of around 55 MPG. Even dropping the suspension and adding the pokey new 1.2 TSI engine doesn’t turn it into an exciting drive; instead it just provides sufficient acceleration for unflustered motorway overtakes.
Traditionally, if drivers wanted fast fun in a package this size, they’d buy a Ford Fiesta or perhaps a Renault Clio. The Polo has never filled that slot in the market, and one can only assume that the young Cottle wasn’t bright enough to realise this.
Inside, it isn’t really a racy affair either, with a grown-up looking cabin of flush metal and soft gun-metals greys. On the move out of town, the Polo is a quiet place to be, with very little road hum or wind noise. The occasionally bumpy moment does let it down slightly, but for £13k, this is still a thoroughly accomplished car.
In fact, it’s a car I really enjoyed driving. Not because of its nippy engine and its delightfully sharp gearbox, but because it’s so accurate, so well-engineered and so sensible.
On the track at Brands Hatch it transpired that Cottle was actually driving his girlfriend’s Polo and she was in the passenger seat, screaming with fear at him to stop. I presume she has now dumped her erstwhile chauffeur. Let’s hope that her taste in men improves in line with that of her car.
Price £13,580 (1.2 TSE SE 90PS tested)
ENGINE Capacit y 1.2-litre 4-cylinder petrol
POWER OUTPUT (BHP & RPM) 90 @ 4,800
TOP SPEED (MPH) 114
FUEL ECONOMY (MPG) 60.1
CO2 EMISSIONS (G/KM) 107Reuse content