From £10,1658
New convenience and safety gadgets, plus a great new TSI engine, help keep the Polo close to the top of the class

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Polo

The fifth-generation Volkswagen Polo has junior Golf looks, but is that enough?

Steve Cropley Autocar
23 July 2014

What is it?

As the adverts proclaim, this is “the new Polo”. That seems a bit of a stretch when you consider that the latest revisions to Volkswagen's supermini include neither alterations to the exterior sheet metal nor to the lights and plastic bumpers, which are the more usual candidates for facelift revisions.

Instead, VW has concentrated on refreshing the engines and upgrading the gadgetry, and despite the lack of headlines has made a pretty good job of it.

There are now four petrol engines – the 59bhp and 74bhp 1.0-litre petrol triples from the Up, plus two versions of the 1.2-litre TSI turbo petrol four, in 89bhp and 108bhp forms. 

Naturally they’re all Euro 6 compliant and carry VW’s Bluemotion badge of unobtrusive frugality, which entails the fitment of features including a stop-start system. The SE version we tested was the lower-powered of the two TSI engines, good for 60.1mpg on a combined cycle and stated to emit just 107g/km of CO2. 

As well as the mechanical changes, there is also a general equipment upgrade. Our SE had a new central 6.5in screen (in the lesser models it’s only a 5.8in) that incorporates a comprehensive new infotainment system.

All Polos now come with electronic stability control, a hill-hold system and a post-collision braking system that reduces the severity of a second impact after an initial crash.

Typical big-car options include adaptive cruise, a driver alert warning system and city emergency braking, all for £500.

In fact the SE (well equipped but not luxurious) gets close to being the ideal supermini, were it not for the fact that its styling is well proportioned but extremely bland: a Polo is one of those cars that almost entirely escapes notice.

What's it like?

On the road the revised Polo transpires to be an agile, easy driving car, with plenty of grip and accurate steering.

Fully electric power steering is now standard, instead of the electro-hydraulic of past models. It works well in the Polo though, as always seems to be the way in well-developed cars of this size. The gearchange is also great and the brakes deliver exactly the strong retardation you’d expect.

The 1.2-litre 89bhp engine performs respectably and is well matched to the SE’s standard five-speed gearbox (the higher output 1.2 TSI gets a six-speeder) except that there’s an occasional, un-VW like stagger at low revs in first and second. 

Performance is adequate rather than impressive but there’s pleasant thrust just where you need it at around 4000 to 5000rpm, usually struck just when you need it during an overtake.

This car’s strongest suit, however, is its economy. Unlike many modern petrol engines, which display a cavernous gap between their official combined fuel figure and what they can actually achieve, the Polo claims 60.1mpg and is well capable of 50mpg in give-and-take driving, a very good performance for a petrol engine.

Should I buy one?

For all its virtues it’s rather a shame that the Volkswagen Polo is such an anonymous-looking vehicle. It’s not unpleasant to look at; it just never catches the eye.

VW has been styling its Polos this way for so many generations that it’s obviously "policy". Perhaps it’s about staying out of the Golf’s way. 

Still, if we were compiling priorities for the next-gen model, it would surely be to give the car looks that better embodied the rest of the Polo’s impressive strengths and achievements.

Volkswagen Polo SE 1.2-litre TSI 3dr

Price £15,315 0-62mph 10.8 sec Top speed 114mph Economy 60.1mpg CO2 107g/km Kerb weight 1107kg Engine 4cyls, 1197cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 89bhp at 4800rpm Torque 118lb ft between 1400-4000rpm Gearbox 5-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
20

23 July 2014
A very well-written article that goes beyond praising this car's obvious strengths and politely admonishes the dated styling.
Personally I can't get over the well over £15G price tag for a so-so specced car especially when you can buy a top-of-the range 4WD spacious Dacia for less.

23 July 2014
£15k is list price for a lot of inferior stuff in this category. I'm not sure why we would compare this to a Dacia Duster, chalk and cheese. The Indian built Duster is a quality disaster (check the owners forum) and feels it. Unlike the perfectly pleasant Romanian built Sandero Stepway, I might add. The main problem I had with the pre-facelift Polo was the persistent use of the n/a 1.4 engine when Skoda and Seat were given the 1.2 TSI 86ps unit. VW have made some significant updates to the Polo, engines included, perhaps masked by the very subtle styling changes, but then subtle evolution is the VW way, and it works for most. If I have a gripe, it is that curtain airbags should not be a c.£600 option on a car of this spec/price, especially when five door versions are available and some will buy one as a small family car. For its substance and design integrity it remains one of my favourite superminis.

23 July 2014
I have a 1.4 N/A Polo Match Edition which seems a bit of a bargain next to this new SE. Engine is a bit long in the tooth but you can still get a respectable 47-50mpg out of it. Decent torque low down, just not very pleasant an engine to rev too high. Workmanlike but not much fun sums the old 1.4 up. Pictures above are of a 1 litre 60ps I believe, the picture of the engine confirms this as an MPI 3 cylinder not a 1.2 TSI.

24 July 2014
JezyG wrote:

Pictures above are of a 1 litre 60ps I believe, the picture of the engine confirms this as an MPI 3 cylinder not a 1.2 TSI.

Well spotted. Shame they had to spoil a nicely written article by using library photos instead of ones of the car that was tested.

24 July 2014
Mr Cropley states this generation Polo is anonymous-looking and suggests that this is to keep out of the Golf's way. Well most people I know (drivers rather than having an interest in cars) think it looks very like a Golf. Personally I think the shape is pleasant and well balanced. The interior is typical VW, in a sombre and rather boring way but no doubt well made. What I cannot get over, and where I agree totally with fadyady is that well in excess of £15000 for a 3 door super-mini is just ridiculous.

jt

24 July 2014
In other words, arguably a bit better but not such as to justify the extra money. Certainly no-one would buy a Polo for its stylistic flair (don't confuse dullness with "taste"). A little more visual imagination would pay VW across nearly its entire range.

24 July 2014
Interior great, exterior Dull dull dull. Could never think of enough reasons to buy this over a DS3, Fiesta, 208,Mini,A1 and then there's the far cheaper Corsa.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

rxl

24 July 2014
Polo is a dull car. Period. that interior is a shame, all black nothing to spark a bit!! the new Yaris look way better inside and out. as for the engines it is aligned with the competition, except the 1.0 60 bhp is which a stupid way to VW offer a lower price Polo... it is a slug this engine, they shouldn't make any more and they will save production costs...

24 July 2014
Sorry Steve, but I think you will find that the front and rear bumpers and also the front and rear lights are all new.

24 July 2014
Whilst the differences in bumpers and lights are subtle - comparing the photos thre's clearly a difference

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