Volkswagen baby is bigger, more refined and more economical

This is the fifth-generation Volkswagen Polo, which features styling inspired by the new Scirocco and Mk6 Golf, and super-frugal petrol and diesel engines capable of 74mpg and 96g/km of CO2.

Unveiled in Geneva tonight, the new Polo is roomier and more sporty than the current model. The new car is based on the same platform as the new Seat Ibiza and Skoda Fabia. That shifts it up in size; at 3952mm and 1682mm, it's 36mm longer and 32mm wider than the outgoing version.

The standout styling feature is VW’s new front-end look, centred on a full-width lower grille and a narrower upper opening. Together, they widen the Polo's stance.

Bigger external dimensions translate into a wider and longer cabin, with shoulder and legroom improved from today’s car. And while the new Polo is 13mm lower than the outgoing car, VW claims more interior headroom. Boot space is up too, measuring 280 litres (952 litres with the rear seats folded down).

The key engines in the UK will be a brace of 1.2-litre three-cylinder motors with either 58bhp or 68bhp. Both models will return 51mpg and 128g/km of CO2; they are equipped as standard with five-speed manual gearboxes.

There is also a new 1.6-litre common-rail TDI diesel, with outputs of 73bhp and 87bhp. Also equipped with a five-speed manual as standard, these models both return 67mpg and 109g/km of CO2.

See more pics of the new VW Polo

The headline economy model is the BlueMotion, which adds a suite of economy technologies, including longer gearing in third, fourth and fifth, to boost economy over the 1.6 TDI to 74mpg and 96g/km. VW is also using Geneva to preview the following generation of eco-Polo, which is said to offer fuel economy of 85mpg and just 87g/km of CO2. It's due to arrive in 2010.

Until a GTI model appears (possibly as late as early 2011), the performance Polo will be powered by a soft-turbo 102bhp 1.4 TSI petrol engine, and equipped with a six-speed manual as standard. A seven-speed, dual-clutch DSG ‘box will be optional only on the 82bhp 1.4.

Interior quality has also moved a step up, as with the latest Golf. The soft-touch plastics look like a major improvement, and VW rates the new backlit dials as a step forward in perceived quality. Upmarket alloy trim decoration also lends a quality feel to the cabin.

VW’s impressive touch-screen sat-nav is an option and MP3 connectivity is on the spec sheet.

The Polo five-door starts production in July, and UK deliveries should start in October; prices will rise by an average of £500 over the outgoing models. You'll have to be more patient if you want a three-door example, though; it won't go on sale until December.

Julian Rendell

Geneva cars: news and images

Chery DR, Ferrari 599XX, Ford Iosis Max, Frazer Nash Namir, Hyundai ix-onic, Infiniti Essence, Kia No3, Lagonda Concept, Lamborghini Murcielago SV, Land Rover Freelander TD4_e, Mazda CX-7, Mini JCW Cabriolet, Mitsubishi iMIEV Sport Air, Nissan Qazana, Renault Megane RS, RUF Greenster, Skoda Fabia vRS, Skoda Yeti, Tata Nano Europa, Toyota Prius, Volkswagen Polo

Autocar.tv: see Mike Duff's in-depth Geneva show coverage

Lagonda Concept, Skoda Yeti, Rolls Royce 200 EX, Vauxhall Ampera, Nissan Qazana, Infiniti Essence, Bentley Continental Supersports, Ford Iosis Max

Video blogs from the show floor

Audi TT RS, Ferrari 599XX, Hyundai ix-onic concept, Kia No3, Lamborghini Murcielago SV, Mercedes E-class coupe, Peugeot 3008, Renaultsport Megane, Subaru Legacy, VW Polo

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