Several mainstream supermini ranges – Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa included – start with entry-level models offering around 60bhp. The Polo buyer, however, can opt for a 59bhp 1.0-litre three-pot that’s mechanically identical to the 59bhp unit and which, theoretically at least, offers the same fuel economy.
Nonetheless, the bald performance figures for the 69bhp Polo do not look great. The car’s three-cylinder engine, even if worked as hard as possible, is only capable of pulling what is a relatively light car from rest to 60mph in 14.2sec. That’s competitive, though not exactly impressive. Don’t forget that the peppy, 108bhp 1.0-litre turbocharged engine may very well be the answer.
Diesel engines are often an irrelevance in superminis, but the 1.4-litre oil-burner in the BlueMotion puts a strong case for itself. In spite of pedestrian performance, there’s the lure of an official combined 80.7mpg (you’ll be happy of you get within 10 per cent of that) and a CO2 figure of 91g/km.
But where you save in fuel costs, you pay for on the list price. The BlueMotion is substantially more than the diesel SE model that comes without the BlueMotion gadgetry. The SE still averages more than 70mpg according to the official figures, but it misses out on a free tax disc.
The 1.4-litre turbocharged and supercharged GTI, with a 0-62mph time of less than 7.0sec, are swift and fun, if pricey and a little short of high-revving excitement.
Volkswagen has recently introduced Active Cylinder Management (ACM) to the Polo, promising diesel-like efficiency from a petrol powerplant. Starring in the BlueGT model, the technology features on a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. A pair of electronic actuators above the cams on the middle two cylinders control the movement of the valves and fuel injection.
Between 1400 and 4000rpm and torque loads of between 18 and 74lb ft – an operating range that VW claims covers nearly 70 per cent of all driving states – the valve operation and injection process on those middle cylinders are shut down, effectively turning the engine into a 700cc twin for improved efficiency, most notably in city driving and at constant motorway speeds.
Moreover, when more performance is required, the BlueGT can also deliver. With 138bhp and a fat wad of torque, it takes just 7.9sec to hit 62mph and will reach 131mph. In our experience, we found the 1.4-litre turbo to be an eager and refined powerplant, albeit a little short on character. However, emissions of just 107g/km should make it a popular junior fleet car for those looking for a realistic added-fun option.
The Polo’s five-speed manual gearbox is light and a pleasure to stir. The brakes, which are ventilated discs at the front and drums at the rear in most cases, provide sufficient stopping power, and the Polo’s lightness and limited pace mean they don’t want for stopping power, even after heavy use.