Maturity, solidity and trusty old conservatism are all things that you'd associate with the Volkswagen Polo. You wouldn’t think virtues like that would sell a supermini – a part of the new car market fuelled by fashionable style and colourful originality.

But they’re exactly the virtues that continue to sell one of the class’s longest-established entrants, and make the Polo a permanent feature of both the segment’s top sales ranks and of Autocar’s road test top five.

Digital editor
It feels considerably more upmarket than other superminis

Now in its fifth generation, the Polo looks more like a shrunken Golf than ever. And that pretty neatly sums up what Volkswagen has tried to offer with this current version: all the positive attributes of the Golf, just in a smaller, more affordable package. The derivative styling and bigger dimensions are designed to make the Polo feel even more mature, while the Scirocco-inspired nose and lights add the merest touch of flair.

With established market presence comes complexity, of course – and the Polo range is more complex than most. Volkswagen offers the car in three or five-door forms, with a vast array of petrol or diesel engines, which include an ultra-efficient 80mpg-plus BlueMotion model and a be-spoilered 178bhp GTI.

Between those two extremes lie normally aspirated 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrols, turbocharged 1.2 and 1.4-litre TSI petrols, and two further turbodiesels offering between 74 and 89bhp.

Trim levels run from S, through Match, SE and SEL, to R-line and R-line Style. S models can be (and usually are) specified with air conditioning, when they gain the A/C tag, while the GTI with its standard DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox is a standalone model.

A fairly recent addition, meanwhile, is the Polo BlueGT, which is a halfway-house warm hatchback combining spritely performance with some of the most competitive fuel economy and emissions in the range.

Along with the more mature styling comes an equally grown-up price tag – this isn’t a budget supermini, after all. While this is also the case for the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa, the supermini class is ultra-competitive and the Polo is facing a string of ever-more-credible, cheaper competitors.

So just how compelling is the prospect of a downsized Golf?