Volkswagen Polo daytime running lights

Looking for a VW Polo and wondering what daytime running lights (DRLs) are and whether they're worth having? Read on to find out

James Wilson
Aug 23, 2021

In the world of upmarket small hatchbacks, the Volkswagen Polo is one of the most popular. Its mixture of conservative styling and impressive equipment levels has proved an incredibly popular proposition with drivers of all ages. Included in the package are daytime running lights and on newer, better-equipped versions there is some more flashy headlight technology, too.

Daytime running lights are commonly shortened to 'DRLs', so watch out for that when hunting for your next car. Although all cars sold in the European Union have legally been required to come with DRLs since 2011, there is a huge amount of variation in the style and design of daytime running lights - even when comparing the current and previous generations of the same car, such as the Volkswagen Polo.

Below we will take a look at the different types of daytime running lights available on the Volkswagen Polo as well as some of the other headlight tech Volkswagen has offered (or currently offers). This should help you to decide which version of the Polo is best for you.

Volkswagen Polo daytime running lights

The previous generation Polo was made from 2010 to 2018. While there were a few different types of daytime running lights, where these were included, they were integrated into the main headlight unit. Some cars, such as the Fiat 500 have separate DRLs but this is less common.

Up until 2015 the Polo came with more traditional halogen headlight bulbs and the daytime running lights used these also. Although these aren’t as bright as LED or xenon lights and in theory don’t last as long before they need replacing, they tend to be cheaper to buy and easier to replace. While having brighter lights seems like a must have, if most of your driving is on well-lit urban streets you might not notice a great difference.

After 2015 Volkswagen offered the option of full LED headlights, which do look more modern and are brighter but they are not so simple to replace should they go wrong. By the end of 2017 there was a new Polo and with it came a great deal of changes. The Volkswagen grew in size, the cabin became much more modern and there was a range of technological improvements - including in the lighting department.

Issues with Volkswagen Polo daytime running lights

When driving a car with daytime running lights, it can be quite easy to forget to turn on other lights when it gets dark. This might sound daft, but if you are driving at night in a place with lots of light from street lamps and buildings, your headlights aren’t going to be all that noticeable from the driver's seat, so you might not notice that the lights aren't on until you head onto darker roads.

Plus, many modern cars have dashboards which are permanently lit up, so they will be visible in the dark - regardless of whether the main lights are on or not. In older cars, you needed your lights on for the dash to light up, so it was more obvious when you'd forgotten to turn the lights on.

As DRLs are only on the front of a car, it can be very dangerous to forget about switching to brighter lights at night, as cars behind may not be able to see you. Fortunately, there is a simple way to overcome this and that is to buy a car with automatic lights, so when a car’s sensors detect it is getting dark they will switch the headlights on. While this feature isn’t standard on all older Polos, it is common on the higher specification trims such as SEL. On the latest Polo automatic headlights are standard.

On top of automatic lights, there are also automatic full beam lights. These systems are slightly more advanced in that they can turn a car’s high beam lights on and off, depending on whether other road users are detected by sensors hidden behind the rearview mirror. This can be especially handy when driving at night on twisty roads where it can be difficult to turn main beam lights on and off when cornering. Plus, it saves you blinding other drivers by accidentally forgetting to dim the lights.

One problem that has been reported on Polos with halogen lights is that the daytime running lights can damage the headlight lens when they are used for extended periods of time. This is likely because older bulb types create more heat than newer LED lights.

Volkswagen Polo other light features

From late 2021 updated VW Polos will be available. Underneath it is fundamentally the same car as the one it is replacing but it comes with revised styling and additional technology. Some of the biggest changes relate to lighting. For the first time, Volkswagen will offer - as an option - something it calls ‘IQ.Light LED Matrix’ headlights.

‘Matrix headlights’ are something that we've seen before in the likes of more expensive Audi models, and they use multiple bulbs to light up the road ahead with sensors to individually control the LEDs. This technology is now becoming more affordable, hence its appearance in Volkswagen's supermini.

Matrix lights work similarly to the pixels of a TV, with many individual light-emitting elements, but instead of sending light to someone sitting on a sofa they send light ahead of the car. When a sensor - commonly found at the top of the windscreen - detects another car ahead, the onboard computers will dim the specific lights that shine in that direction. As a result, the remaining LEDs can remain on at full brightness without dazzling the driver in the other car. Clever stuff - although replacing the lights in the event of a fault could be expensive.

Another big change is the LED light strip that goes along the front of the Polo and seemingly joins the front headlights - something which is becoming increasingly popular with German cars. There is a matching one on the back, too. Whether or not it looks good to you will be down to personal preference. This doesn’t replace the function of a headlight, it is more of a fashion statement.


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