Entry level Polo is in no way an inferior choice

What is it?

This is the new entry-level model to the fifth-generation Volkswagen Polo range. It gets a 59bhp three-cylinder 1.2-litre engine, which produces 80lb ft of torque and can get it from 0-62mph in 16.1secs.

VW expects this model to be the biggest seller in the range, with SE trim being the most popular trim level. The model tested here is kitted out in VW’s new Moda trim level, which it hopes will attract new younger buyers to the Polo away from its traditional middle England market.

It gets the same equipment as the SE (minus air-con, which is an option) for the same price, but it comes with sportier alloys, rear privacy glass, new front fog lights and iPod connectivity.

What’s it like?

Despite its low 59bhp power output and seemingly slow 0-62mph time, this doesn’t feel like a car lacking too badly in performance. Off the line, it initially pulls well and it’s perfect for nipping around town in. The three-cylinder engine has character and makes a satisfying whine if you really push it on B-roads.

Motorway driving too is a hassle-free experience, as its peak 80lb ft torque is available at 3000rpm. Keeping up with the traffic is not an issue, although things under the bonnet can get noisy when pushing on at motorway speeds. Thankfully, the engine noise isn’t added to by wind or tyre roar so it has the grown-up capabilities to go with its quasi-Golf styling and more premium feel.

Where this car surprisingly impresses though is on aforementioned B-roads. This is in no way a hot hatch or even a warm one, but its lightweight, excellent brakes and smooth gearchange always raise a smile when scurrying across country. Peak power comes at 5200rpm, so keep the revs up and it possible to have a bit of fun you wouldn’t necessarily expect when checking out the spec sheet.

The ride is particularly soft and supple, both around town and out on B-roads, which makes the cabin a comfortable place to be. Minor imperfections hardly even register, while even rougher surfaces do little to trouble the Polo. One criticism of the generally slick overall package is the electric power steering, which is largely devoid of the sufficient feel required to fully involve the driver.

Its interior is generally excellent, with cabin materials for the class being beyond reproach. A good driving position is easy to find with a reach and rake adjustable steering wheel and height adjustable seats. And there’s enough space in the back for rear passengers to be comfortable (especially in this five-door model), which you’d expect from a car that seemingly grows ever nearer to the Golf in size. Interior styling is far more conservative than the Fiesta, however, and it’s probably best described as ‘safe’.

Should I buy one?

There’s certainly enough here to suggest that VW won’t be far off in its guess that this Polo will be the best seller. This model is most likely to be used as an urban runabout and at that it excels. But its accomplished levels of performance, refinement, and character, as well as its ability to raise the odd smile, will also please those venturing outside the city.

The claimed combine fuel economy figure of 51.4mpg is achievable when driven sensibly, although its CO2 emissions of 128g/km are a touch disappointing.

Back to top

Our test car’s Moda trim may be aimed at the younger audience, but with such conservative interior and exterior styling, it’s unlikely some new alloys, a new connector and fog lights will win over many younger buyers. Therefore, as VW expects, the SE model is likely to remain the strongest seller.

But in this guise, the Polo remains a mature and refined choice and one which certainly makes a strong case in the crowded supermini segment.

Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, autocar.co.uk website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
BriMarsh 9 October 2009

Re: Volkswagen Polo 1.2 60 Moda

polodriver wrote:
The Polo is the same - better quality than its competitors

ie. Unnecessarily expensive.

polodriver wrote:
and an engine which is characterful

About the only characterful thing in a Polo then; that 3 cylinder is much more fun in a Fabia.

Colonel Snappy 9 October 2009

Re: Volkswagen Polo 1.2 60 Moda

The problem with underpowered cars is dealing with the kind of driver who seems to be endemic in the UK: the lane-hogger who, after finally moving over, accelerates hard to prevent you overtaking.

230SL 9 October 2009

Re: Volkswagen Polo 1.2 60 Moda

Don't think it looks basic at all, in factthink it looks like it is trying too hard, think all the plastic bits on it should be black, its just waste of paint and they look rubbish after a couple of years anyway, also I like steel wheels with a bit of plastic fit under the wheel nuts to stop the wheel seizing on to the hub, the whole ethos of wheels filling the wheel arches,(does n't matter what it rides or handles like) is getting rather boring.