Inside? Barring some scratchy plastics, it’s incredibly grown up. A bit dour, even, though the vibrant ‘dashboard pack’ inserts available on some trim levels would undoubtedly lighten the mood.
The architecture is difficult to fault, however. A high dashboard has been designed to put a broad central touchscreen on the same plane as the air vents and instruments, and looks smart. On SEL models up, VW’s Audi-inspired ‘Active Info’ display is an option, and for £325 replaces the physical binnacles with a 10.5-inch TFT display – a first for a supermini, and a very slick touch.
It’s a well-considered space; one in which owners of the new Golf will feel at home and only the exceptionally tall will struggle for room while sitting in the rear seats. Those who regularly travel five-up may want to consider a larger car, however.
Sitting some way below the 197bhp 2.0-litre TSI tucked in the Polo GTI is the three-cylinder 1.0-litre TSI driven here. Until a version of VW’s 1.5-litre TSI arrives later on in 2018, it’s the next most powerful petrol model in the range and suits the car extremely well, spinning quietly and lightly up to about 2200rpm, at which point the double-clutch gearbox executes shifts with a lazy precision. Our only real criticism would be that it clatters noisily when reignited by the stop-start system.
Detuned, less expensive versions of this three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine will sell in greater volumes, but this version lends the Polo a sharp turn of pace once you’re over a slither of initial turbo-lag. That ‘small car, hearty engine’ feeling never really gets old, and is one we’d pay the premium for, though you’d give up little by opting for the 94bhp TSI.
As for transmissions, you would save yourself almost £1500 by opting for the five-speed manual, though in doing so would sacrifice the DSG’s two additional ratios and hamstring the car’s impressive cruising abilities as a consequence.
That would be a shame, because where the new Polo excels itself is on longer journeys. On the motorway, and in this specification, it operates with the insouciance and hush of a larger vehicle, something that’s also down to the quality of the damping, soundproofing and significantly widened tracks. Barring a slight fidget that’s almost inevitable with B-segments cars, the assured ride is so uncanny for something this size it’s actually endearing.
The driving experience is still not as engaging as that of a Fiesta, alas, but neither is the Polo as inert as you’d imagine, finding good grip and responding earnestly.
The steering is light but accurate, and on the wet roads of our test route, body control never felt compromised. And all the while that composure pervades, aided by a level of refinement that is yet to be matched in this segment.