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