From £10,165
Plenty of punch, and more of a mini-Golf than ever

What is it?

It's the fifth-generation Polo, now virtually as big as a Mk3 Golf and the first Volkswagen to be designed entirely under the direction of Walter de'Silva. Revealed at the Geneva motor show, and due on sale in Europe next month and in the UK in September, the new Polo has a visual attitude wholly lacking in the previous version, a car which had almost entirely fallen off UK buyers' radar.

Volkswagen makes much of the new Polo's eco-credentials, with very low CO2 figures (and some pretty conservative power outputs) from new or revised engines. Two 1.2-litre three-cylinder engines of 59bhp and 69bhp produce 128g/km apiece, while a four-cylinder 1.4 manages 84bhp and 139g/km. A new 1.6-litre common-rail diesel comes in 74bhp, 89bhp and 104bhp forms, all emitting 109g/km, so it's hard to see the attraction of the puniest version. All of these TDIs have a stop-start system.

The eco-stars, though, are the Bluemotion (on sale next year), with its 1.2-litre 75bhp three-cylinder turbodiesel plus long gearing, optimised aerodynamics, regenerative braking and an extraordinary 87g/km CO2 score, and the petrol 1.2 TSI with a turbocharger, 104bhp and a 129g/km CO2 count. At the other extreme, a Polo GTI is promised for next year with a 168bhp version of Volkswagen's 1.4-litre Twincharger engine featuring both a supercharger and a turbo.

What's it like?

Volkswagen is pitching the Polo as a 'mature, high-end' car, yet also one described by R&D chief Ulrich Hackenberger as, yes, emotional and sporty.

It's true that the Polo looks good in a typically simple, stark, age-proof VW way, with a wedgy, big-wheeled side view, crisp edges and a wide, Golf-like face, and the interior fittings feel they will last forever. Precision and finish are generally superb, but the hard plastic door trims are disappointing when set next to the expensively padded dashboard.

There's proper space for a family and the boot has a removable false floor to match its level to the folded rear seats. But the contrast between the Polo's restrained, understated cabin design and a Ford Fiesta's Nokia-on-wheels approach couldn't be greater.

We concentrated on the 1.2 TSI for this first encounter, specced-up with optional 17in wheels (normal rubber is 15in, or 14in for base models) and a trim level equating to the UK's top SEL model (others will be S, SE and Mode). It comes with a six-speed gearbox, but a seven-speed DSG (the first in a supermini) is optional with this and some other engines.

It's a smooth, gutsy engine whose turbocharger is betrayed only by a soft initial throttle response. Thereafter it feels like a normal 1.6, but there's little point in revving it hard; its best work comes in the midrange. Cruising is relaxed in sixth, and this Polo is a quiet car.

That refinement comes partly from an extremely rigid structure, which – unlike the test car's low-profile tyres – also helps the ride's smoothness. The electro-hydraulic steering feels more natural than some rival all-electric systems, and the Polo threads tidily through curves with plenty of grip, tight body control but not a lot in the way of interactive entertainment. The brakes have too much servo assistance and are hard to feather at first. ESP and hill-start assist are standard on all new Polos.

Should I buy one?

The new Polo is more than ever the mini-Golf, and for many that will be enough to clinch the deal. It should be super-safe, with a five-star score predicted in the revised, tougher EuroNCAP test, and it will be very cheap to run. It will last well and shouldn't date, and all these things suit it well to the current economic climate. This 1.2 TSI is punchy enough to entertain a little, too.

Back to top

But you can guess what's coming: a Fiesta looks more fun, and it is. The Polo has an air of detail quality not found in the Ford, but the playful Fiesta will lift your mood more.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
beachland2 27 August 2010

Re: Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI 105

rodenal wrote:

Quote from an old post in the thread but if you think you can remap a 1.2 turbo from 105 to 140bhp and have it last you've another thing coming - It's more likely it'd be mapped to about 120bhp to prolong the turbos lifespan, keep it reliable and avoid needing other mods i.e injectors etc.

I know you can get 30+Bhp maps for cars that start of with more power but it's all down to the specific turbo and engine, it's very very unlikely you'd get that much of a power increase from the polo.

my reply a bix mixed in with the AMG thread but its this anyway.

the vag 1.4 goes from 120bhp to 180bhp. non aftermarket tune.

an ecu map already exists for taking the 1.2 105bhp to 140bhp. its a myth from decades ago about stressed engines, thats when engines were not made properly.

a 1.2 with 140bhp is not stressed at all....

the current evo 2.0 400bhp has at least a 12k mile service schedule, more than many low tune petrol cars without turbos. it is not stressed at all with 200bhp/litre.

but a standard block 1.2 with 240bhp (not 140bhp) would be over stressed, but can easily be built to not be over stressed. it would cost more money.

having a 1.2 with 140bhp ecu map would not stress the car as much as it being 105bhp and the tyres a few psi down on pressure in my view, or having a set of golf clubs in the back and a fat partner riding shotgun.


i am not saying a bigger turbo can just be added to make the 530bhp 5.5v8 to make it 1100bhp and it will last a ling time. i'm saying they could easily build to do that, which is different. but its costs money, and it shows a huge amount of cost cutting in the industry, like most other people in the world are having to deal with about everything.


its also not to be dismissed even if the engine does have a lower parts life than might be expected. so what if it does need a new engine rebuild once a year as part ofthe service schedule? ok its adds £10k to the annual serivce cost. but thats nothing in the scheme of supercars. it just keeps the car ticking over thats all the owner cares about. yes it might put people off that were also considering a ford focus as a potential used alternative. as it happens this is not the case anyway.

look at the service schedule of the £650k lotus GP2 alike road legal race car.thats not even turbo charged and has load of bhp, and at high rpm. it's fine. dont worry about it.

Lee23404 27 August 2010

Re: Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI 105

bomb wrote:
Although on paper the 1.4T has slightly worse fuel consumption than the 1.2T I suspect in reality with a little more torque and less stress it'll use less juice. That's the new sweet-spot in the range IMO.

I agree. The 1.2 was a great little engine but most of my miles are on the motorway so I was worried about the MPG and high speed performance. The 1.4 would be ideal.

I normally lease and go diesel but would have bought this one so my wife could have it after me. Maybe next time, the Yeti is a great little car.

bomb 27 August 2010

Re: Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI 105

Lee23404 wrote:
Shame, if it had been available when I was looking in May I might well have gone for it. I wouldn't normally go petrol but that would have made a good replacement for my wifes Meriva in 3 years time, when I've finished with it.

Yeah, I think the 1.2T is perfect for certain types of journeys - especially in DSG form - but perhaps gets a little strained on longer runs. Autocar's long termer appears to be suffering a little from this, averaging 32mpg!

Although on paper the 1.4T has slightly worse fuel consumption than the 1.2T I suspect in reality with a little more torque and less stress it'll use less juice. That's the new sweet-spot in the range IMO.