The Volkswagen Polo is one of the perennials of the supermini class: it’s been around for years, and typically it’s been a reliable, if somewhat conservative, choice of small hatchback.
Volkswagen hasn’t strayed too far away from its winning formula with this latest model, which has been with us since 2009 but received a small refresh in 2014 to keep it competitive: some tweaks to the exterior, interior, equipment, steering and engine line-up.
Read the full review below or watch my video review:
Changes to the exterior of the Polo are very subtle so I’m not going to go into them in detail, but the Polo is a good-looking car in a simple way, and the styling will always be more grown-up than cute.
There are up to 14 body colours to choose from, including some exclusive to Cross Polo and Lounge models. The Cross Polo and Polo BlueGT add something different to the Polo range in their own unique way. The Cross Polo works the crossover look with a raised suspension, silver roof rails, different bumpers, 17” ‘Canyon’ alloy wheels and silver door mirrors.
On the sportier side of things, the 150bhp Polo BlueGT has a lowered suspension, front and rear spoiler, sporty multispoke 17” ‘Montani’ wheels and twin exhaust.
But regardless of what body style you go for, a key selling point for the Polo has to be its cabin. The Polo brings small car interiors to another level with a really well-made dash, that looks and feels like something from the class above. In the same vein as the outside of the car, it’s conservative rather than fun or quirky, but it works. A 280 litre boot is not class-leading but it’s still competitive in this segment and cabin space is good – rear passengers are well accommodated for and should have no problem stretching out.
Availability differs across trim levels but there’s a good selection of engines for the Polo: non-turbo 1.0-litre petrols (60/75bhp), a 1.2-litre turbo petrol (90bhp), a 1.4-litre TDI diesel (75/90bhp) and a range topping 1.4-litre turbo petrol (150bhp) with innovative active cylinder management to improve fuel economy, while also offering sprightly performance. Volkswagen’s DSG automatic transmission is available on select engines.
My test car has the brand new three cylinder 1.4-litre TDI BlueMotion diesel. A diesel is not an obvious choice for a small car, but with this under the bonnet, the Polo makes a good case for itself as a commuter car. It’s very frugal with an official economy of just under 80mpg, and despite having a mere 75bhp, it doesn’t feel underpowered and it will still pull away and gather speed quickly.
The Polo is very well insulated from engine, wind and road noise and there’s no vibration coming through the seat or the pedals from the three cylinder diesel. You do hear the engine on start up, and when you accelerate hard, but I don’t find the tone too rough or irritating, and you’re not aware of it at all at speed.
A comfortable and compliant ride is another reason why you will enjoy taking the Polo on long journeys. It’s a good car to drive in other ways too: the steering is light, but you still feel connected to the road, and the Polo holds itself well through corners. It has that lucid quality I’m a fan of – it’s willing to change direction quickly with enough grip to inspire so you can have a proper go at the back roads (and roundabouts in town). Such fun!
The claimed economy for the 1.4-litre TDI BlueMotion diesel is up to 78.5mpg. The CO2 emissions are just 93g/km so annual motor tax for this model is just €180.
There are five levels of trim for the Polo: Trendline, Comfortline, Lounge, Cross Polo and BlueGT. The test car is in quite a luxurious Lounge trim so equipment includes alloy wheels, front fog lights, electric windows and electric folding mirrors, cruise control, air con, rear view camera, parking sensors and a 6.5” touchscreen displays and controls infotainment, navigation, and vehicle data and settings. Smaller touchscreen radio/CD systems (5″/5.8″) are standard on the lower two trim levels. City emergency brake is standard on all models.
The Comfortline model that slots in below Lounge has a lot of the ‘must have’ equipment and will save you some money too, while Volkswagen Ireland has a number of offers where you can spec up your car for less money.
Is the Polo classic or just a bit too conservative? I think it boils down to personal taste. It’s easy to criticise the Polo as dull or boring: the styling is attractive but safe, the interior is solid but plain…
But to dismiss the Polo for being the safe, conservative choice would be very short-sighted because its charm lies in its capability – it’s willingness to get on with the job without drawing much attention to itself. This competency is very attractive in a small hatchback.
There’s a great selection of engines and trims for the Polo, so it can be the basic urban runaround, the motorway cruiser, or even a ‘hottish’ hatch in BlueGT trim. The Lounge model on test moves into the realm of premium small car with all the kit you could ever need and a sophisticated presence in exclusive Crypton Grey with multispoke 16” alloys, though the €20,985 list price reflects that too.
The small hatchback market is a crowded one but I think the Polo does enough to stand out because it does such a good job of masquerading itself as a bigger car – the cabin space, the interior finish, the refinement, the finely-tuned road manners – but with suitably small engines that also tick the efficiency box. Throw in some classic VW styling and the Polo is the small car that never goes out of fashion.
Model Tested: Volkswagen Polo 1.4 TDI 5dr Lounge
OTR Price: €21,760 (Range starts at RRP €15,410)
Engine: 1.4-litre three cylinder turbo diesel
0-100km/h: 12.9 seconds
CO2 Emissions: 93g/km
Motor Tax: €180 per year