We drive the latest version of the big-selling Volkswagen Polo. Bigger, yes, but better than ever?
What is it?
The all-new Polo is the sixth generation of Volkswagen’s popular supermini originally launched in 1975.
Some 14 million Polos have been sold worldwide (an estimated 1.4 million in the UK) and it’s VW’s second best-selling car in the UK after the Golf.
Now only available as a five-door, the Polo is priced from £13,855 and is up against impressive rivals including the new Ford Fiesta, Seat Ibiza and Nissan Micra.
Equipped with the latest driver assistance systems, it’s also safe and was awarded a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests. A special mention for Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) which is fitted as standard across the range.
The new Polo is evolutionary in terms of design, but it’s much fresher. For instance, the LED headlights have now been replaced by Xenon units up front.
However, the most obvious difference is that the new model is larger. In fact, it’s as big as a Golf of 20 years ago. For the record, it’s 8cm longer and 7cm wider than the outgoing model, but it’s the extra width that stands out.
It’s now remarkably spacious inside with room for adults to sit in comfort at the front and in the rear, while boot space is a generous 355 litres (1125 litres with the back seats folded) which beats some cars in the class above.
The only slight disappointment is the lack of soft-touch plastic in the cabin, meaning that it’s not quite the step-up from its cousin, the Seat Ibiza, as you might expect.
That said, it’s well built, nicely designed and comfortable. The centre console is dominated by an 8.0-inch touchscreen (standard across the range), while VW ‘Active Info Display’ – or digital dashboard – is available as an optional extra.
There’s a wide range of efficient petrol and diesel engines of various outputs including 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0-litre petrol units, plus a 1.6-litre diesel.
The two cheapest options are the 64bhp and 74bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engines. Badged MPI, these are not turbocharged.
Then it’s up to the 1.0-litre (94/113bhp) turbo petrols, a 1.5-litre (148bhp) and 197bhp 2.0-litre for the GTI.
The 1.6-litre diesel comes with 79 or 94bhp and is the most economical with fuel economy of 76mpg and CO2 emissions of 97g/km.
We’d say the two 1.0-litre petrol turbos (badged TSI) are the pick of the engines, offering the best combination of performance, economy and entertainment. For instance, the 94bhp version is good for 64.2mpg, has low CO2 emissions of 101g/km and yet can hit 62mph from standstill in a brisk and thrummy 10.8 seconds.
All variants come with stop-start mode and have either a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox or five/ six-speed manuals.
There are seven specifications for the new Polo, ranging from S, SE, beats, SEL and R-Line, to GTI and GTI+. The most popular choice is expected to be the lively 1.0-litre TSI in SE trim.
The Polo is generously equipped with goodies like AEB and an 8.0-inch touchscreen as standard, though you will have to go up to SEL or above if you want sat nav as part of the fully connected infotainment system.
Other driver assistance technologies available include adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection are also available.
How does it drive?
Driving an entry level car is generally a great way to benchmark a new car so I tested the 64bhp 1.0-litre petrol three-cylinder (not turbocharged) which cost £16,725 with optional extras including cruise control (£285) and parking sensors (£315).
With a 0-62mph time of 15.5 seconds it’s no hot hatch and you will have to work the five-speed gearbox if you want to make swift progress. That said, once it’s up to speed it will cruise quite happily. It’s also good fun, frugal and a surprisingly refined experience all-round.
Fuel economy is officially 60.1mpg and I achieved more than 50mpg without even trying.
With CO2 emissions of just 108g/km and low insurance, it makes sense – particularly for cost-conscious drivers in predominantly urban areas.
The new Polo builds on the outgoing model’s comfort levels, adding more driving dynamics with sharp steering, minimal body lean through challenging corners, and good visibility.
The VW Polo has always been a solid choice – the new version is now one of the best cars in its class. Spacious, generously equipped, safe and comfortable, it’s now entertaining to drive too.