From £14,5107
Volkswagen's classy Polo supermini is now available with a 79bhp three-cylinder motor. Is this the engine to go for?

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?

Volkswagen Polo Beats 1.0 Evo 2019 UK

What is it?

The Volkswagen Polo is a car we like here at Autocar. It might be quite a serious little thing, but it drives well, handles tidily and goes about the business of being a car with little in the way of fuss or bother. When we road tested the sixth-generation version of Wolfsburg’s supermini early last year, we didn’t like it quite enough to award it five stars, but four and a half isn’t a bad innings. 

That car was the 1.0 TSI petrol model. It had a turbocharged 94bhp three-cylinder motor under its bonnet, driving the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. It wasn’t quick, but neither were its rivals, and its 129lb ft meant it felt strong by the standards of the class. Flexible, too. It earned its keep, in other words.

This particular Polo is that car’s little brother, and it replaces the 1.0 TSI with a 1.0 Evo engine. It’s still a three-cylinder unit, only it doesn’t benefit from any form of forced induction, so you’ll have to make do with 79bhp and 68lb ft - the latter arriving at 3750rpm. Even by the standards of the wider supermini class, that seems a touch, well, underwhelming. It’s available in both SE trim and our Beats-specification test model, and it's £715 cheaper than the 94bhp equivalent.

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Elsewhere, though, it’s business as usual. It still has a five-speed manual ’box, driving the front wheels. MacPherson struts still make up the Polo’s front suspension, and a torsion beam continues to be employed at the rear. In £16,795 Beats specification, the Polo's cabin still feels a cut above the rest of the class in terms of premium appeal, and it’ll still seat two adults in reasonable comfort in the second row. You’ll have to pay an extra £675 if you want the snazzy Discover Navigation system that was fitted to our test car, and climate control is also optional, at £415.

What's it like?

Putting the engine firmly to one side, there’s not much about the manner in which this Polo goes down the road that’ll upset. At the same time, there’s not much to really inspire, either. Dynamically, it’s a bit beige; it changes direction with respectable conviction and grips tenaciously enough when you tip it into a bend. Body roll arrives in a controlled and progressive fashion, too. But that eager sense of fun and enthusiasm you get from a Ford Fiesta or a Mini 3dr is conspicuous by its absence. 

Next to those more adjustable, spry-handling superminis, the Polo isn’t particularly willing to bring its rear end into play with a lift of the accelerator. And its steering - though nicely weighted once you wind on a good amount of lock - doesn’t paint much of a picture as to the relationship between tyre and road. You never get the sense the Polo is a car that enjoys being thrown about. It’ll deal with being thrown about just fine, sure, but you feel as though it's rolling its eyes at you when you do, like a disinterested teenager might. Those after a car to simply get them from A to B with as little fuss as possible will probably quite like the Polo for this. Others might not. For what it’s worth, I find the Polo’s handling difficult to get excited about.

Its ride is as impressive as ever, though. It retains the same rubber-footed, cosseting demeanour common to all Polos this side of the hotter GTI (and even that rides in an impressively civilised manner). It still suffers from some of the shuddering that affects all cars with shorter wheelbases, but generally it does well to sand down the edges of all but the sharpest intrusions - both at town speeds and on the open road. It’d certainly be easier to live with than a Mini, but the Mini - even with its far firmer ride - would be more fun. So would a Fiesta.

So how about that engine, then? For town duties, it’s fine. Its torque may not be quite as accessible as that of its turbocharged brethren, but you don’t have to rev it to death to avoid stalling. The gearshift is light and accurate enough, and while the pedals are positioned slightly too high relative to your driving position, they’re suitably weighted and spaced sensibly.

It’s not quick, though. Put your foot down and nothing much really happens until you’re well above 3000rpm. That’s not so much of an issue in an urban environment, but it can be frustrating on the open road. Taking on an incline in top gear can see the speedo needle begin to retreat back down the dial. Overtaking requires numerous downshifts and plenty of clear road ahead, too. It seems that by losing that turbocharger, the 1.0 Evo engine has lost a good deal of the tractability that made the 94bhp 1.0 TSI powerplant so appealing.

Should I buy one?

As a no-nonsense, comfortable, attractive and practical supermini, the Polo has a lot going for it. With the 94bhp 1.0 TSI engine, it’s a highly recommendable choice in a market that’s currently awash with rivals. But by losing some of user-friendliness that contributed to that strain of Polo’s four-and-a-half-star road test score, the 1.0 Evo also ends up losing a star.

Volkswagen Polo Beats 1.0 Evo 80

Where Surrey Price £16,795 On sale Now Engine 3 cyls, 999cc, petrol Power 79bhp at 5000-5500rpm Torque 68lb ft at 3750rpm Gearbox 5-spd manual Kerb weight 1125kg Top speed 106mph 0-62mph 15.4sec Fuel economy 48.2mpg CO2, tax band tbc Rivals Ford Fiesta, Mini 3dr

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6 June 2019

£16795 for a 79bhp car? Oft! That is expensive

9 June 2019

Exactly! And it won't do great in fuel economy as well.

6 June 2019

 Yeah, a bit limp waisted, if it’s a Town car or your a low mileage driver then it’ll be fine, I think otherwise a minimum of 110bhp is ideal, it’ll beats 10 seconds to sixty, give you 48mpg, but, I wouldn’t buy the Polo, I’d by an Ibiza Fr, same underneath but rides better and it’s cheaper too!

6 June 2019

Superminis have always had low powered options and they usually sell well, like my daughter's 04 68bhp fiesta which has enough power for a new driver, so can't see why this polo should be any different. Agree with Peter though, I too would have the Ibiza.

6 June 2019

No qualms about the power, it is the price! 

6 June 2019
superstevie wrote:

No qualms about the power, it is the price! 


Fair one, it is expensive.

6 June 2019
bobbins wrote:

That also had no turbo, but strangely had more torque, over a wider band.

The 74bhp engine was the one in my UP High-up and it was, how can I put this, gutless! If you needed power for overtaking safely you had none. No doubt the 90bhp TSI was better, but presumably this engine will be in the UP as well and it's a lot lighter and rather smaller than the Polo. I assume the lower powered engine will come at the same price, or higher.

6 June 2019

however the price isn't reflecting such a position, too expensive for what it provides. 

6 June 2019
Einarbb wrote:

however the price isn't reflecting such a position, too expensive for what it provides. 

The pace isn’t sufficient though for modern day traffic - most vans would probably put accelerate this - their is very few superminis that accelerate this slowly this day in age, even my first car a 59bhp Fiesta in 2001 accelerated quicker and that was slow. If everything around it was slower accelerating it wouldn’t be a problem. 

I also don’t think it’s good for new drivers - imagine inexperience and underpowered joining a motorway, it’s simply an accident waiting to happen. Pulling out of side roads onto 60mph roads struggling to get up to speed. 


I drive a 1.3cdti Astra at work and I think that does 60 in around 14 seconds - that is a long slog when I have pulled into a lay by on an A road and trying to rejoin... 


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