While there’s not a huge amount here for keener drivers to get excited about, the Polo TDI retains the sure-footed, predictable dynamic qualities of its petrol-powered brethren. The steering is reasonably light and relatively quick, lending the Polo plenty of agility around town, while at motorway speeds it carries with it the same sense of calm you’d find in a larger Volkswagen Group product. It’s not quite as nimble or rewarding as an equivalent Ford Fiesta or Seat Ibiza, though.
Its strut-type front and torsion beam rear suspension keep lateral roll and vertical travel in check through bends and over undulating surfaces, while its low-speed ride is - for the most part - equally as comfortable and inoffensive. Our only complaint here is that the optional 17in alloys fitted to our test vehicle emphasise imperfections in the road surface to a degree that the standard 16s do not.
That diesel engine, meanwhile, lends the Polo a fair amount of punch. While its 185lb ft of torque is available from 1500rpm, it doesn’t feel particularly enthusiastic until the revs stray above 2000rpm - at which point the acceleration will arrive in a surge. Refinement isn’t particularly noteworthy, either, with a noticeable grumble both at a standstill and under throttle. Still, once you’re up to speed, things settle down.
Getting up to speed is an easy process too. The pedals are all sensibly spaced and weighted, while the five-speed manual transmission that comes as standard at this level is positive and short in throw. It’s not going to make you want to engage with it more than you need to, though. The driving position, meanwhile, is spot on thanks to plenty of adjustability in the seats and steering column.
As for the cabin, it carries with it a more upmarket feel than you get from many other contenders in this market segment. Central to this is Volkswagen’s Discover Navigation infotainment system that - thanks to its slick graphics and sharp responsiveness - is about as close to class-leading as you can get. Our test car also featured the Active Info Display, which replaces the Polo’s standard dials with a 10.3in TFT customisable screen that can show the sat nav map in-between the dials, trip information, phone contacts and more. In a similar fashion to the 8.0in screen in the central dash fascia, the Active Info Display is incredibly easy to read and interact with, and certainly worth the £325 asking price.
Interior space, meanwhile, isn’t quite as tight as you may expect it to be in a car in this class. Two adults will be able to sit in the back in reasonable comfort - provided they’re around the six-foot mark - owing to decent leg and head room. Bootspace, meanwhile, comes in at 351 litres with the rear seats in place. By way of comparison, a Seat Ibiza has 355 litres, while a Honda Jazz manages 354.
VW Polo GTI review