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The new Volkswagen Polo has already impressed us, but what's it like with the most powerful naturally aspirated petrol engine in the nose?

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Polo

Volkswagen’s ever-sensible supermini gets even more grown-up as the Polo hits its fifth decade, but can it take top honours?

  • First Drive

    Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI 115PS 2018 UK review

    Sixth-generation Volkswagen Polo arrives in the UK with a emphasis on safety and refinement. Could that be enough to see it become supermini king?
  • First Drive

    Volkswagen Polo 1.0 2017 review

    The new Volkswagen Polo has already impressed us, but what's it like with the most powerful naturally aspirated petrol engine in the nose?
Richard Bremner Autocar
1 September 2017

What is it?

This 74bhp naturally-aspirated 1.0 litre triple occupies the second rung of the new, sixth generation Polo’s powertrain ladder, placed above a 64bhp version and below the two turbocharged options, including the 113bhp TSI we have previously driven. All the options come with five-speed manual transmissions, with a seven-speed DSG optional on the 89bhp engine.

The car itself is largely new from the wheels up, not least because it’s now based on the VW Group’s MQB architecture, whose dimensional flexibility allows this car to share innards with models as diverse as the Golf, Tiguan, and Audi TT. More relevant to buyers is that the MQB technology pool provides the Polo with more sophisticated electronics, ranging from reconfigurable instruments that can present a full colour navigation map directly ahead of the driver to a suite of aids including autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot assist and rear traffic alert.

Inevitably the new car is bigger, 81mm added to its length, although the 92mm let into its wheelbase has yielded better proportions, the overhangs at both ends reducing. Width increases too, benefitting cabin space, as does that wheelbase stretch. The three-door version, incidentally, is no more. Disappointingly the Polo has put on a little weight – around 50kg – although it’s stiffer and better equipped besides being bigger.

It looks bigger too: the car is physically wider and sculpted to look at. There's the wide, slender grille and headlight ensemble that’s now a VW trademark, and a set of horizontal lines across the rear end. But more striking than any of this – even the curious pressed streak occupying two-thirds of each flank – is an interior more colourful than any previous Polo’s (not hard, in truth) and sophisticated with it. Dual-tone ceramic and black dashboards, coloured satin inserts and brighter upholsteries are available, along with the more sober finishes familiar to VW drivers.

What's it like?

Civilised, with refinement not only enjoyed in motion. the Polo’s quiet powertrain is complemented by low road and wind noise, while from the moment you pull a door handle you can feel the substance of a well-made car. The dashboard is particularly pleasing for being soft-feel, and for a neatly integrated infotainment system and its contrasting inserts.

There’ll certainly more time to enjoy this than in the more powerful versions, the loss of the turbocharger slicing 59lbs ft from a torque curve that peaks 1000rpm later at 3000rpm. So while this car certainly isn’t slow – 62mph can be yours in 14.9sec – you’ll need to make good use of the gearbox to maintain a brisk pace.

However, the torque is evenly spread, and the car’s quietness can make it easy to think you’re travelling more slowly than you actually are. Trying to better your A-to-B times is in any case not something the Polo’s demeanour invites – its chassis is entirely capable, but is also almost entirely bereft of the verve that used to come with superminis as a matter of course.

Should I buy one?

There’s not likely to be a huge difference in price – say £550 - between this engine and the turbo version, and even more of an incentive to choose the extra power is the turbo motor’s superior fuel consumption.

The naturally aspirated engine achieves 58.9mpg to the turbo’s 62.8mpg combined, and puts out 110g/km of CO2 rather than 103g/km. That said, enthusiastic use of the turbo’s boostings may increase its thirst beyond the normally aspirated engine’s. But unless you’re only ever going use your Polo in town, we’d suggest the 94bhp version.

Volkswagen Polo 1.0 74bhp

Where Hamburg, Germany; On sale October; Price £14,900 approx; Engine 3-cyls, 999cc, petrol; Power 74bhp at 6200rpm; Torque 70lb ft at 3000-4300rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual; Kerbweight 1105kg; Top speed 106mph; 0-62mph 14.9sec; Fuel economy 58.9mpg; CO2 rating 110g/km; Rivals Seat Ibiza, Nissan Micra, Ford Fiesta

Join the debate

Comments
16

1 September 2017

"its chassis is entirely capable, but is also almost entirely bereft of the verve that used to come with superminis as a matter of course."

Oh dear, you really don't like it do you?

Steam cars are due a revival.

1 September 2017

I would have thought that a 0-62mph time of 14.9 seconds was pretty much the definition of slow!  Then again, I can remember driving the original 900cc 1st generation Polo: that too was a very slow car, but exceptionally well built and refined, proving that performace isn't everything. 

Maybe this new one has similar traits, but I can't help feeling that I'd want something a bit more lively and interesting for my £15k... 

 

1 September 2017

One can have boosterjet Suzuki Swift with similar equipment levels - zero to 100 around 10 sec. So if Golf at 14,9 sec. certainly isn't slow the boosterjet Swift must be a rocketship. 

1 September 2017

My wife has a 1 litre NA car, a Daihatsu Charade. It goes surprisingly well because it is a lightweight, Autocar recorded just 720KG. a lard-arsed 1105KG Polo is just going to feel sluggish.

Citroëniste.

1 September 2017

"So while this car certainly isn’t slow – 62mph can be yours in 14.9sec"

 

Really!?

Jesse Crosse doesn't quite see it that way for the same power in the Ibiza:

https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-review/seat/ibiza/first-drives/seat-ibiza-10-mpi-se-2017-review

"The naturally aspirated 74bhp, 1.0 MPI engine tested here in SE spec is predictably sluggish in a car weighing a tad over a tonne. "

 

A bit of consistency is all I ask.

If I want an autonomous car, I'll take a taxi.

2 September 2017

15k for this?? Really? And as already pointed out 14.9 seconds it dreadfully slow, especially in todays modern driving enviroments with roads full of traffic. 

2 September 2017

I thought the comment about it not being slow would draw some response, and it has. Anything over 12 seconds these days is slow, even in a small car.

It seems reasonably well equiped, so maybe £15k isn't so bad, even with an engine you'd expect to see sold in third-world nations.

2 September 2017
mikeyw85 wrote:

I thought the comment about it not being slow would draw some response, and it has. Anything over 12 seconds these days is slow, even in a small car.

It seems reasonably well equiped, so maybe £15k isn't so bad, even with an engine you'd expect to see sold in third-world nations.

Is this the model that does not come with with two USB ports? 

2 September 2017
mikeyw85 wrote:

I thought the comment about it not being slow would draw some response..."

Recall driving Lancia Y10 with 45 bhp. One had to go all the way down to second gear in steep gradients and then it couldn't be pushed faster then 70km./h. Acceleration somewhere between 17-18sec. to 100. Later I had an escort 1,3L with acceleration about 0-100 in 15 sec. Cars this slow one drow usually in foot to the floor manner -- in truth I've usually got better fuel consumption later when driving cars with better power to weight ration, as in that case one can get about with part throttle outputs without being hindrance to traffic.

2 September 2017
There are more accelerative glaciers!

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