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.

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.

The next generation Polo looks to build on that concept, with it expected to be larger and lighter than the current generation and it will only be available as a five-door car. It is also the first car of the VW group to built on the new MQB A0 chassis layout which will also be used as the underpinnings of the next Audi A1, Seat Ibiza and Skoda Fabia.

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 1.0 petrol, turbocharged 1.0, 1.2, 1.4 and 1.8-litre TSI petrols, and two further turbodiesels offering between 74 and 89bhp.

Trim levels run from S, through S A/C, Match, Beats, and SEL, to R-Line, Bluemotion, BlueGT and through to the range-topping GTI.

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?

To find out what our sister site, What Car? thought of the Polo, watch the video below.

Top 5 Superminis

  • Ford Fiesta
    Fiestas sold in Europe are ostensibly the same as those sold in America and Asia

    Ford Fiesta

    1
  • Mini Cooper 5-door hatch

    Mini 5-door hatch

    2
  • The Mazda 2
    The Mazda 2 name dates back to 2002. This latest version showcases the firm's Skyactiv technology and 'Kodo' styling

    Mazda 2

    3
  • Volkswagen Polo

    Volkswagen Polo

    4
  • Renault Clio
    Distinctive styling details are taken from the showstopping Renault Dezir concept car

    Renault Clio

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Lamborghini Aventador S
    First Drive
    21 January 2017
    Is an upgrade to 730bhp and the addition of four-wheel steering enough to realise the Aventador's potential?
  • Ford Focus RS Mountune FPM375
    First Drive
    20 January 2017
    Does an official Mountune upgrade of 25bhp and 30lb ft, improve the already rampant and rather magnificent Ford Focus RS?
  • Audi S5 Sportback
    First Drive
    19 January 2017
    The Audi S5 Sportback is more bruising GT than practical sports car, but it makes sense for those wanting a fast executive saloon in coupé get-up
  • First Drive
    18 January 2017
    Despite receiving a cosmetic and mechanical refresh, Lexus's compact executive saloon still fails to provide much driving involvement
  • 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 5h review
    First Drive
    18 January 2017
    Big-selling plug-in SUV gets a light refresh in the face of new challengers to offer decent economy but only average driving dynamics