From £10,1658
We 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?

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Polo

The fifth-generation Volkswagen Polo has junior Golf looks, but is that enough?

Darren Moss
29 September 2015

What is it?

The facelifted Volkswagen Polo - which we first drove on international soil last year - featured a major overhaul of the car's engines. Out went the ageing 1.4-litre petrol motor and in its place came a new three cylinder 1.0-litre unit. We've already driven that engine in entry-level 59bhp form, so now it's time to try the same powerplant in range-topping 108bhp guise. 

To go with the range-topping engine we have a range-topping trim level, in the form of R-Line specification. At £17,590 this Polo is far from the cheap and cheerful stereotype its diminutive dimensions may suggest, but R-Line cars do come with luxuries including front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, sports seats and a 6.5in touchscreen infotainment system.

On paper, a semi-luxurious small car with a small engine appears to make sense, especially when it emits just 99g/km of CO2 and can return over 65mpg. We like the way the Polo looks, too, even next to stylish rivals like the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa. Especially pleasing is its five-door packaging, with doors that allow easy access even in the tightest of parking spaces.

What's it like?

When we first drove the facelifted Polo, we conceded that while this 1.0-litre engine in 59bhp form felt fine, it wasn't overtly impressive. In 108bhp form, however, it becomes that. This is a surprisingly powerful, refined and quiet engine. Indeed, at idle it's so quiet that you'd be forgiven for momentarily panicking over whether the engine is on at all.

The three-cylinder petrol motor excels around town, even if its revs have to be kept relatively high in order to make smooth progress. The gearchange points suggested by the car to make as economical as possible are somewhat optimistic - it'd have you shifting into sixth at 35mph only to then struggle to accelerate.

On the motorway the Polo remains quiet, and the addition of a sixth gear means the 1.0-litre engine doesn't sound strained. It's also stable, with none of the fidgeting that smaller cars can experience at cruising speeds. In fact, the Polo's handling in general is worthy of praise. Its steering is light but well weighted and its tight turning circle ensures navigating busy back streets is easy.

There are a few drawbacks, but despite its extra power don't expect this Polo to scream away from a standing start. The 0-62mph sprint may 'only' take 9.3sec, but you'll have to work the engine hard to achieve that. Peak power arrives between 5000-5500rpm, which is where you'll need to be. Otherwise the Polo can quickly feel bogged down.

Transmission options on this car include a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox or a six-speed manual, and it was the latter that was fitted to our test car. It's standard VW fare and functions well.

This being an R-Line car, the interior is comfortable and loaded with kit. Volkswagen did a great job in updating the Polo's cabin with this facelift to improve the perceived quality and the result is a cabin that feels truly premium. The driving position is as good as ever, too, and despite its size the Polo does offer a practical enough boot, at 280 litres (only a smidgeon behind the Fiesta's 290 litres).

Should I buy one?

It's easy to see why you would think of buying this Polo: it's generously equipped and works well with this 1.0-litre engine. As an urban runabout that can easily tackle the occasional motorway journey, it's one of the better small hatchbacks on sale today.

It is a pricey option, though, especially in R-Line form and especially when you remember that prices for the Polo start at £11,300. Remember, too, that a 1.0-litre Fiesta in Titanium trim comes in at £15,795. If value for money is top of your agenda, then lesser trim levels and power outputs would be worth considering.

Volkswagen Polo R-Line 1.0 110

Price £17,590; Engine 3 cyls, 999cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 108bhp at 5000-5500rpm; Torque 147lb ft at 2000-3500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1135kg; 0-62mph 9.3sec; Top speed 122mph; Economy 65.7mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 99g/km, 14% 

Join the debate

Comments
25

29 September 2015
"when it emits just 99g/km of CO2 and can return over 65mpg." That line made me laugh and I don't know why!

29 September 2015
Okay, so VW isn't quite the devil they're being made out to be but they are [insert expletive] liars. Over 65 mpg on combined cycle. Does that combined cycle include 30 miles in neutral going down hill?

It's time for a fresh start. Every test from here on should include real world mpg. For two long car makers have been insulting our intelligence and VW is probably the worst offender. Never mind, listen to how the door shutting sounds, eh?

29 September 2015
Outoftowner1969 wrote:

It's time for a fresh start.

From my point of view, I would like journalists to start now, and refrain from using expressions like "especially when it emits just 99g/km of CO2 and can return over 65mpg" in the body of their narrative. By using these expressions, it gives the impression that they are endorsing them as achievable on the road. This would be a simple measure and would go some way towards dispelling the notion that the "official" laboratory figures are representative of what can realistically be achieved in road-going operating conditions by members of the public.

29 September 2015
Outoftowner1969 wrote:

For two long car makers have been insulting our intelligence

LOL.

29 September 2015
Okay, so VW isn't quite the devil they're being made out to be but they are [insert expletive] liars. Over 65 mpg on combined cycle. Does that combined cycle include 30 miles in neutral going down hill?

It's time for a fresh start. Every test from here on should include real world mpg. For two long car makers have been insulting our intelligence and VW is probably the worst offender. Never mind, listen to how the door shutting sounds, eh?

29 September 2015
The real problem here is that the standard test isn't very demanding, and is open to considerable rule bending by manufacturers keen to present the best figures. Any manufacturer who doesn't bend the rules will be subject to a big disadvantage in the market place, especially given the UK's CO2 based taxation regime. In this instance, VW is only doing what all manufacturers do.

29 September 2015
Sorry but what exactly is a real world test that can be exactly duplicated over different years and countries within Europe??? It can only ever be done without a driver and in a lab and therefore it can never be true real world! You might want to fine tune it but at the end of the day it's comparasion test and always will be therefore it should be used as such.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

29 September 2015
That's close to the original Golf GTi's. Only that one weighed 250 kg or so less than the Polo. Define progress.

29 September 2015
voyager12 wrote:

That's close to the original Golf GTi's. Only that one weighed 250 kg or so less than the Polo. Define progress.

Might not sound like progress when a new car is 250kg heavier than the old one while having the same amount of bhp. But there are many definitions of progress.

How about progress in terms of not likely to kill you when you hit a brick wall? How about progress in terms of nice luxuries like sat nav, DAB radio, auto headlights and wipers?

All these progress comes in the form of 250kg. So...as I've said. There are many definitions of progress. What's yours?

29 September 2015
voyager12 wrote:

That's close to the original Golf GTi's. Only that one weighed 250 kg or so less than the Polo. Define progress.

Nowadays, bigger size, bigger wheels, bigger brakes, electric this and that, air conditioning, more sound deadening, greater crash protection structures. And that's without optional leather (heavy stuff, is leather). But less gloss paint, under the bonnet doesn't have it, so that does save a bit on weight. The original GTi had 3 doors.

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