With the ever-popular Ford Fiesta as its main rival, the latest VW Polo had a lot to live up to
The supermini class is one that’s grown significantly in recent years. From the Kia Rio and Seat Ibiza, to the Citroen C3 and Mazda 2, there’s plenty of competition for VW’s latest effort.
To flesh out their offering, the manufacturer is selling the Polo in a range of guises – from the SE right up to the performance-spec GTI Plus. We drove the former of those, with the 1.0-litre petrol engine.
This latest Polo has been the subject of quite a substantial redesign. It’s now lower and wider, with a full-width grille and more dynamic body.
The external and interior panels have been overhauled, resulting in a look that loosely resembles the VW Golf.
A longer wheelbase also extends legroom and boot space, and allows it to be fitted with a greater choice of engines.
All specs are fitted with either the 1.0-litre petrol or 1.6-litre diesel, apart from the Polo GTI that gets its very own 2.0-litre petrol.
The smaller petrol and diesel units come in a range of power outputs, with our model’s 1.0-litre petrol peaking at just under 80bhp.
It’s got most of what you’d want from a supermini engine – refined, smooth and with a lively note at higher revs. In terms of power, however, it’s a bit lacking.
It can struggle overtaking on the motorway and climbing steep inclines, but that’s only something you’d notice on longer runs – this is an engine that’s better in the city centre.
Younger drivers might appreciate the low insurance group, but others may want to opt for the more powerful versions instead.
The last-gen Polo was as safe and solid as you’d like, and this newer model is no different. It might not match the energetic nature of the Fiesta, but it will appeal to those who aren’t as bothered about an involving drive.
And for that crowd, the Polo has plenty going its way. The steering’s light but direct, and our SE model was great at absorbing bumps.
Despite the power issue that we found with our tester, it’s impressively comfortable on the motorway too.
The indented lines down each side of the car emphasise the wider body, and make the Polo look closer to the road.
It adopts the understated, but modern look that VW have long been known for, with smart features such as the boot release hidden within the badge on the back.
The rest is really down to what colour and wheels you opt for – the darker colours and small wheels give it a subtlety, while the ‘Energetic Orange’ shade this model was finished in gives it an eye-catching edge.
The Beats trim also comes with a racing stripe – a real Marmite feature.
If there’s one thing you can expect from VW it’s a solid interior, and the Polo carries that trend.
Slide behind the wheel and everything looks and feels properly premium, right down to the click of the dash controls – the build quality may even rival that of more expensive rivals.
The higher specs also get a splash of colour on top, to break up the heavy use of dark materials – though the way it’s put together can’t be questioned, certain buyers might want something more exciting.
It might be the base spec, but the SE comes with some nifty kit as standard. You get an eight-inch touchscreen, stop-start tech and automatic headlights to name just a few.
There’s also a number of safety features, such as Front Assist, emergency braking and pedestrian detection. Our model had a few extras too – namely climate control, new alloys and an upgraded touchscreen.
Those additions bumped the price above £17k, which may be too pricey for most, but it’s a matter of preference – that money could either get you a few fancy bits inside, or one of the higher-spec engines.
The VW Polo is mature and well-built but can also be made more appealing to younger drivers with the added quirks of the higher trims.
It may lose out to the Fiesta on driving, but you might not get the room or comfort in one of those. And the quality on offer here is tough to find elsewhere in the class.
For more on the Volkswagen Polo, or browse the latest Lookers VW offers at www.lookers.co.uk/volkswagen/offers/new-offers/polo. The Polo is also available on the Lookers VW Motability Scheme.
Example monthly payment
Available from or /month (Rep)