What is it?
Once upon a time, a common-or-garden supermini in hot hatch drag was about as desirable as parachuting behind enemy lines armed with a replica weapon; it looked the part, but wasn’t much use when things got physical. This was because most ’minis were grossly underpowered, burdening their buyers with plenty of shout but little length of trouser.
Today, the formula makes more sense. Volkswagen’s new R-line trim, a styling garnish of bumpers, grille, grippier seats and 16in wheels, comes exclusively with its 1.2 TSI-engined Polo.
What is it like?
Progress is congenially delivered, with enough in reserve for you not to be humiliated by oil-burning MPVs. Combined with quick-witted handling, it’s neat and peppy in town and revs out cleanly beyond. However, for an idea pinched from Audi (this is a brazen cribbing of the popular S-line trim), it’s a wonder there’s no sports suspension; even more surprising is the fact that, thanks to slightly wayward body control, the Polo could probably use a few millimetres of Ingolstadt-style spring clenching.
Should I buy one?
Not if your expecting a full-on hot hatch experience. In the best traditions of VW’s design conservatism, the Polo R-line is as gently sporting as a pair of cheap tennis shoes, but it will be easy to insure and comes with a generous equipment bounty. The only thorn in the R-line’s side is the price. At £15,195, the car is almost £1700 more expensive than the Suzuki Swift Sport, a model which, dynamically and spiritually, is the real McCoy to VW’s affable facsimile.
Volkswagen Polo R-line
Price: £15,195; 0-62mph: 9.7sec; Top speed: 118mph; Economy: 53.3mpg (combined); CO2: 124g/km; Kerb weight: 1088kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1197cc, turbo, petrol; Power: 104bhp at 5000rpm; Torque: 129lb ft at 1550-4100rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual