The Polo is supple, calm, quiet and rubber-footed in its ride, and comfortable in a way that small cars often aren’t.
At high speeds, it keeps its cabin settled but is still decently controlled over larger, longer-wave bumps.
At town speeds, it’s nicely forgiving and absorptive over sleeping policemen and soothes away all but the shortest, sharpest edges, which can sometimes be felt but seldom thump or crash.
This is the kind of small, affordable car, in other words, to effectively ease you through the urban rush hour with the minimum of stress and strain, and to reassure you on motorway trips that it can mix it with bigger cars, at higher speeds, without feeling at all out of its depth.
With medium-light, medium-fast steering, the Polo is agile enough at town speeds, with a grip level and responsiveness more than capable of making a dynamic virtue of its compact size.
Thanks to VW’s preference for ever-linear, predictable handling, it’s also very easy to drive. The car isn’t among the most grippy or compelling prospects in the class, but it has better body control than some and a very consistent balance of grip that resists understeer well initially and allows it to build only gradually as the car corners, and only in a proportion great enough to add a blanket of stability to everything the car does.
There’s little joy about the Polo’s handling, true, but it’s a car tuned to filter out many of the influences that might otherwise enrich a supermini’s driving experience for a keener driver.
So although weight builds usefully into the steering as the car corners and rolls and you ask more of its front tyres, there’s little contact-patch feel to tell you how much grip is left.
And although the chassis always keeps the car feeling stable and assured, even at high speeds, it’s also closed to any attempt to engage the rear axle in the cornering conversation by deliberately unloading it on a trailing throttle.
The Polo effectively does what Polos have been intended to do for generations – soothes, reassures, isolates, obliges and protects – and does it better than any predecessor, or any other small car in the class.
The Polo’s handling around the Millbrook hill route won’t linger long in the memory and that’s both a compliment and a criticism. You won’t find a more viceless small car to drive quickly. Its grip level is ample, even on the standard 15in wheels and in damp, chilly conditions, and its handling is as near to unflappable as superminis get.
Take a tight corner hard and the car rolls, but in contained fashion on both lean angle and roll rate. It responds fairly keenly on turn-in and keeps gripping hard at the front wheels even when the body’s settled on the outside wheels, allowing you to tighten your line if you need to.
Although the stability control system has a Sport mode, you’ll rarely need it: the system is far from intrusive even when you’re driving quickly and it neatly and cleverly keeps the car on line and under control without you realising that it’s working.