When is a supermini not a supermini? When it’s near enough the size of a Mk5 Golf, perhaps.
With the help of its new, modular MQB-A0 platform, Volkswagen has stretched the sixth-generation Polo by 81mm, widened it by 63mm and lowered it just a touch.
The result is a car with a greater visual presence than its predecessor, and a few aesthetic licks have been effected to further toughen up the Polo.
Most conspicuous are poker-faced LED headlights – replacing the xenons of the old model – that merge into a clean-cut radiator grille made shallow by a strip of body-coloured plastic.
There’s also a double swage line that halves the car, top to bottom. Such things are adventurous for Volkswagen although still not enough to give the car the kind of personality that emanates from, say, a Peugeot 208.
That said, the French car, and many other rivals beside, can only dream of possessing shut lines as slender as those found between the German car’s crisp body panels.
Using the MQB platform brings benefits other than the ability to easily build a bigger car. The new Polo is now more rigid (18,000Nm per degree versus 14,000Nm), which theoretically allows for greater body control at the same time as yielding a more supple ride.
To this end, on higher-spec Polos VW has introduced Sport Select running gear, which comprises adaptive dampers complete with auxiliary springs and 15mm drop in ride height. Our test car didn’t have this set-up.
Meanwhile the engine line-up is broad, ranging from a naturally aspirated 1.0-litre MPI petrol with 64bhp to the 197bhp 2.0-litre TSI petrol in the flagship GTI. There are diesel options, too, although you’ll be limited to an SCR-equipped (selective catalytic reduction) 1.6-litre TDI and none tops 100bhp. Is it surprising that VW expects just one in every 20 buyers to opt for diesel? We’d say not, and not necessarily because of the company’s recent misdemeanours.
The standard transmissions are five-speed or six-speed manuals, and there’s the option of a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic.
Our test car had a five-speed manual gearbox attached to what VW expects to be the Polo’s most popular engine (1.0 TSI 95) and trim (SE).