AN awful lot of people have owned a version of Volkswagen’s endearing supermini, the Polo.

At the last count, more than 14 million had been sold through its previous five iterations.

So what has VW done to better the fifth generation model and give the latest version six appeal?

The main focus is a rather large increase in cabin and luggage space, which ties in with a decision to offer it in five-door only form.

Certainly, it feels bigger as soon as you step inside the refined cabin, and that should come as no surprise when you consider what has been done on the outside.

Bigger in every dimension but length than the Golf Mk IV – sold here until 2003 – the capacious new Polo offers a boot volume that has grown 25 per cent, from 280 litres to 351 litres, and a wheelbase up by 94 mm compared with that of the previous car. The new car is longer and wider, and even though it has a lower overall height it somehow has improved headroom versus its predecessor.

With its new engines, sharper design, a new generation of infotainment systems and some assistance systems usually only found on bigger cars, VW has in fact created the perfect car for the city and suburban driver.

This was recognised earlier this year when the Polo was awarded the World Urban Car of the Year award at the New York Auto Show. These awards are judged by more than 80 international motoring journalists from 24 countries.

The developments in Polo also reflect a new level for assistance systems in the supermini segment. Technologies such as city emergency braking with the new pedestrian monitoring function, adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection significantly improve safety.

This Polo, like the Seat Ibiza, is built on VW’s new MQB AO platform to allow for a long wheelbase, short body overhangs and a sporty ratio of its key dimensions.

It is the first car in its class to offer entirely digital instruments, and it also comes with new glass-encased eight-inch touchscreen units as standard.

You cannot fail to be impressed by the Polo’s new exterior and cabin, but the biggest plus for me is the introduction of the 1.0-litre 95PS turbocharged engine. It is on a par with Ford’s equally excellent and similarly sized Ecoboost unit, and is as good as it gets.

In all, there are five three and four-cylinder petrol engines, ranging from from the naturally aspirated 1.0 with 65 PS to the turbocharged 2.0 TSI with 200 PS. There are two 1.6 TDI diesel engines whose outputs are 80 PS and 95 PS.

Regardless of fuel choice, all new Polo engines are equipped with a stop-start system and a regenerative braking mode, while any of the TSI and TDI powerplants with an output of 95 PS or more can be configured with a 6 or 7-speed DSG automatic gearbox, depending on engine choice. Alternative gearbox options include five- or six-speed manuals.

Here we concentrate on what must be the pick of the bunch, the 1.0-litre TSI 96 PS petrol, which not only delivers brilliantly in an urban environment but also provides the sort of hushed and composed ride on longer journeys normally only to be found in bigger and more expensive cars.

There might not be the same amount of feel you can enjoy in the Fiesta, but the suspension is judged to perfection and the package as a whole is excellent.

With a 0 to 62mph sprint time of 10.8 seconds, it is not particularly fast, but the official average economy figure of 64.2 is certainly among the best in class.

There’s more as well… new LED headlights replace all Xenon headlights, while LED daytime running lights are also standard. You can also use the driving profile selection system, which allows you to choose between the choice of eco, sport, normal and individual programmes, to tailor the Polo’s character to your needs.

Volkswagen Connect – the smartphone app-based connectivity system which allows drivers to access a wide range of information about their car and their journeys – is also fitted as standard.

There are five trim levels - S, SE, Beats, SEL and R-Line – plus a GTI version to choose from.

Even the entry-level S trim gets an eight-inch touchscreen, DAB radio, Bluetooth and air conditioning. But SE trim, which adds 15-inch alloy wheels, electric rear windows, leather trim for the steering wheel and the increasingly important compatibility for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, is likely to find most homes.

That Beats package brings a 300-watt stereo, sports seats, 16-inch alloy wheels and extra leather trim to the party.

The SEL specification includes dual-zone climate control, automatic windscreen wipers, chrome interior and exterior trim, a central armrest, front and rear parking sensors and foglights with a cornering function. R-Line models get their own special version of the 16-inch alloys, bodykit enhancements and upgrades to the interior.

All in all, this Polo is a class act, and in combination with that turbocharged three-cylinder engine can resume its place at the top of the class. There’s only one word needed to describe the Polo: mint.


Volkswagen Polo SE

Price: £16,310 (Polo range from £14,235)

Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged TSI petrol producing 95PS

Transmission: Five-speed manual driving front wheels

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 10.8 seconds; top speed 116mph

Economy: 64.2mpg combined

CO2 emissions: 101g/km


Performance: *****

Economy: *****

Ride/Handling: ****

Space/Practicality: *****

Equipment: *****

Security/Safety: ****

Value For Money: ****