Review: VW Polo

A small car that feels grown up.

Graham Scott
Thursday 05 January 2017 18:13 GMT
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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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The VW Polo isn’t some cheap and cheerful small car. It’s more of a larger car, like a VW Golf, distilled. It has that premium, grown-up quality, compressed into a smaller size. Mind you, it’s about the size of an old Golf, so it’s not exactly a tiny car these days. But it’s small by the standards of today, and just packed with options, choices and more.

Just look at the range of petrol engines: 1.0-litre, 1.2-litre, 1.4-litre and 1.8-litre. Not forgetting two versions of the 1.4-litre diesel engine. The 1.2-litre petrol engine comes in two power outputs, and we’d go with the lesser of them. It’s turbocharged and has more than enough heft to shift the Polo, particularly when linked to the seven-speed dual-clutch auto box.

The higher-powered of the diesel variants would suit the bill better if you really do do a lot of miles, but if you want hot hatch performance then you’ll need the 1.8-litre engine in the turbo GTI. All the engines perform fairly quietly, certainly quieter than many others in the supermini class. The diesels can be a bit more vocal but only when they’re worked hard. At steady cruising all the engines are peaceful powerplants.

Cruising is also when the ride quality is at its best. At lower speeds it can get a bit choppy, but the faster you go the more it settles down. The handling does allow a fair bit of lean in the corners and the steering is a big stodgy, but overall it’s a light and easy to operate performance from the Polo.

Overall, the Polo has an air of quality about it, not always present in this sector or indeed at this price point. You feel like this is a VW that’s been properly put together. Of the trim levels we’d go for SE, since that gives you a 6.5in screen rather than the 5in screen on the S trim. SE is really all you’ll need.

You’ll need to upgrade for sat nav, or you could get the Car-Net App-Connect so you can use your smartphone to control things. The driver has everything he or she needs close to hand, and it all feels robust. The driving seat isn’t the most comfortable but you have to go up to R-Line, Blue GT or the GTI to get a more wrapped-round supportive seat.

Driver and front passenger get plenty of space, particularly elbow room, which is handy if you’re using the Polo as a dining room. Mind you, you won’t be able to stash much of the takeaway in the glove box since, in SE trim, that’s where the CD player lives.

Those in the rear get decent, if not class-leading, space, so they too can waggle their elbows about without inflicting any black eyes. Behind them, once again we see the SE’s advantage as you get an adjustable boot floor as standard. Given the space isn’t huge, having the ability to stack vertically does help.

SE trim gives you alloys, air con, remote central locking and more. We’d stick with SE trim and if desired simply add the odd option. That works out a much better deal than buying the higher spec levels like R-Line or SE Design.

The Polo was awarded five stars in the Euro NCAP safety testing, so that’s worth having in a small car. The Polo has a lot going for it, and prices shouldn’t put people off either. You won’t get a huge discount, but costs are sensible anyway. We’d go for a petrol version, particularly if it’s a private sale, and you won’t find servicing or insurance bills anything to startle you.

In the real world we managed 47.4mpg from the lower-powered 1.2-litre petrol engine, which is pretty good. That engine, a few additions to the SE trim and you’re set, with a really classy supermini that will hold its value well.

Graham Scott is a writer for WhatCar.

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