First DriveWe drive VW's supermini in range-topping trim and with its pokiest 109bhp 1.0-litre engine. Does the combination make sense in the UK?
First DriveNew convenience and safety gadgets, plus a great new TSI engine, help keep the Polo close to the top of the class
Just three years into the Polo’s lifecycle, VW is giving its second-best-selling model fresh appeal for its 30th birthday. All of the body panels save for the doors and roof have been altered, and there are also new engine options and chassis improvements.At the front, the Polo adopts VW’s new corporate grille, with one-piece headlamps, creased wings and a more heavily contoured bonnet, while the indicator repeater units are now incorporated in the door mirrors. The rear has also been tweaked, with an altered screen and new tail-lights.The changes inside are less far-reaching, amounting to new trim materials, reworked instrument graphics and a thicker-rimmed steering wheel. It’s a friendly driving environment, with loads of adjustment, and the quality is high by class standards.Mechanically, the Polo is little changed, with the same five petrol engines (54bhp and 64bhp 1.2-litre units, 74bhp and 99bhp 1.4-litres and an 85bhp 1.4 FSI), but revised 69bhp and 79bhp 1.4-litre three-cylinder diesels along with 100bhp and 130bhp 1.9-litre four-cylinder diesel engines.While a three-cylinder oil-burner might not hit you as being anything special, the Polo’s 69bhp and 79bhp engines are quite exceptional. They’re not as hushed as the petrol alternatives, especially at idle, but they are hugely flexible and give the Polo impressive levels of performance.Pick of the bunch is the 79bhp unit, which delivers a satisfying 144lb ft of torque from 2200rpm. Added to this is an alluring three-pot thrum that urges you to keep the revs high, if only for entertainment.The 0-62mph sprint takes a languid 12.8sec, owing in part to a rather wide gap between first and second gears, but the engine’s real strength is its in-gear acceleration. With just 1089kg to haul it’s got extraordinary overtaking urge, yet it’s claimed to average 64mpg on the combined cycle and, while there’s no option of a particulate filter for Euro4 emissions compliance, a CO2 rating of 119g/km is one of the best around.Underneath, the MacPherson strut (front) and torsion beam (rear) suspension has been firmed up slightly, while the electro-mechanical steering has been given more off-centre feel. This results in better-controlled body movements, giving you greater confidence in corners. However, it is the ride that really impresses. Despite the firmer springs and dampers, the Polo displays a calmness over broken bitumen that’s matched by few, if any, small car rivals.Prices are yet to be revealed but, going on those already announced in Germany, expect them to remain roughly as they are when the facelifted Polo reaches the UK in June. On the strength of the revised entry-level diesels, you now get even more for your money.