You’ll usually find two generations of the VW Polo on sale - one that was made up to 2017 and the current model. The newest version is simply an evolution of the older car, coming in a hatchback body style with three or five doors.
VW has played it pretty safe with the Polo’s styling. In fact, we wouldn’t blame you if you mistook it for its larger sibling, the Golf, with which it shares many of its oily bits. It’s a safe pair of hands in terms of looks – even in GTI guise. Think of it as the Tom Hanks of the car world.
We wouldn’t blame you if you mistook it for its larger sibling, the Golf.
What’s it like to drive?
The Polo has changed a heck of a lot since it made its debut in 1975. Its latest version is only the sixth generation, but VW has done a good job of making sure it can compete with its main rivals, such as the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa.
The best bit about the way the Polo drives is its suspension, which manages to keep the car composed over rutted roads in town and unflustered on long motorway drives to visit distant relatives. It handles well enough, too.
Acceleration is good with the small, turbocharged petrol engines – the 1.0 and 1.2 – compared with the lower-powered, non-turbo petrol versions. The diesels are also ideal if you cover longer distances, while the GTI is as quick as rival hot hatches.
The best bit about the way the Polo drives is its suspension.
The VW Polo majors on comfort and refinement, despite its diminutive status. It’s very easy to make yourself feel at home behind the steering wheel, thanks to its range of seat and wheel adjustments. There’s plenty leg and headroom in the front seats and it’s a similar story in the rear, with no real issues for 2 or 3 adults – unless you’re carpooling the local rugby team.
Although the dashboard design on the older Polo is getting on a bit now, it’s well put together and uses quality materials. That version of the Polo gets a multimedia touchscreen, with a DAB radio in the Match trim and above. Most have air-con or climate control, Bluetooth, smartphone mirroring via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and rear parking sensors. Higher trims add leather trim, auto headlights and wipers, front parking sensors and electric folding door mirrors.
The newer Polo’s dashboard is more stylish and feels even more special than that of the premium Audi A1. Every version gets an 8-inch touchscreen as standard, with DAB and sat-nav. Some cars have digital instruments in front of the driver, while optional Dashpad packs add a splash of colour to the dash. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto form part of the Car-Net App-Connect function, and built-in sat-nav comes with the United trim.
The audio system is reasonable enough on both versions of the Polo, and Beats trim on the later car brings a stereo upgrade that adds a subwoofer.
Both versions of the VW Polo offer decent practicality for a supermini – the two cup holders are a good size so trips to drive-thru restaurants are easy to manage. There’s at least one USB socket and somewhere to put your phone. The door bins (front and rear) are spacious, too, and there are pockets on the back of the front seats. In fact, the only supermini that offers more in this regard is the Honda Jazz.
The rear seatbacks on most cars are split 60/40, and with the seats in use the boot on the earlier Polo can take 280 litres, which is enough for a regular family shopping trip. This compares with 351 litres on the newer car. Fold the seats and the boot expands to a respective 952/1,125 litres, although those seatbacks don’t go flat.
Running costs and reliability
This is a supermini, so you’d expect running costs to be reasonable. And you’d be right, with average economy from the 1.0-litre petrol engine topping out at 53mpg or so with the manual gearbox. It makes them a good choice for first drivers who might not be able to afford regular top ups.
That falls into the 40s if you opt for more power, while the GTI’s 2.0-litre unit is in the 30s. The diesels tend to be the most economical, with the 1.4 and 1.6 TDI returning figures into the 60s if you drive sensibly.
What cinch loves
We love how Volkswagen has managed to make its supermini feel like a proper grown-up family car from behind the steering wheel. Its suspension glides over most bumps without fuss, the seats are comfy and the interior features lots of plush materials.
Both versions of the Polo were awarded the maximum five stars by crash experts Euro NCAP, which makes the supermini perfect for a broad audience, including new drivers who’ll find it a reassuring car.