Volkswagen Polo Review
Bigger than ever, the "small" Volkswagen Polo now has enough space for an entire family
Strengths & weaknesses
- Comfortable ride
- Holds its value well
- Quality look and feel
- Not as compact as earlier models
- Steady, rather than exciting, to drive
- Higher-specification models are expensive
Latest-generation Volkswagen Polo prices from £8,500
Finance from £175.06 per month
The Volkswagen Polo might be classed as a small hatchback, but to say it lacks space would be wide of the mark. A 351-litre boot is bigger than the Ford Fiesta, and will happily consume three large suitcases, while two 6-foot adults will also sit comfortably in the back seats.
Much like the larger Volkswagen Golf, this latest-generation Polo is a sensible and grown-up looking car. Mature styling on the outside is coupled with a practical and sensibly laid out interior. It also feels more comfortable to drive, too, with a smooth and stable ride.
The Polo is a decent alternative to larger hatchbacks like the Golf or the Ford Focus, but the fact it comes at a lower price ought to tempt potential buyers who can afford to sacrifice the extra space. At the most basic level, prices for the Polo start at £15,390, while pre-registered models on BuyaCar start from just £17,995. The Focus, meanwhile, is close to £5,000 more, with the only real difference being the size of the car itself.
While this is all good stuff for drivers who want a little more space at a lower price, those who are looking for a compact and nippy run-around for those short trips into town are going to be disappointed. The Volkswagen Polo is no longer a small car, it’s now more than four metres long and 1.9 metres wide, which makes it somewhat less manoeuvrable than you might be hoping for.
This upsizing approach has also influenced the Ford Fiesta and Seat Ibiza, which offer similar dimensions and interior space, anyone looking for a thoroughbred city car would be better off with the Volkswagen Up.
|3 years / 60,000 miles
|1,964mm (including door mirrors)
|£125-£205 in first year, £140 thereafter
Best Volkswagen Polo for...
Best for Economy – Volkswagen Polo SE TDI 80
The diesel 80hp and 95hp engines return similar fuel economy, but the least powerful engine is the only one that you can buy in good-value SE specification.
Best for Families – Volkswagen Polo SE 1.0 TSI 115
If you’re not covering high mileages, the SE 1.0 TSI 95 petrol offers a good blend of price, economy and performance.
Best for Performance – VW Polo GTI 2.0 TSI 200
With acceleration from 0-62mph taking just 6.7 seconds, the GTI is the Polo to beat.
One to Avoid – VW Polo S 1.0 EVO 65
The sparse feel of this most basic of Polos (no split-fold rear seats, alloy wheels or rear electric windows and vry little power) make it one to avoid unless you're looking for the cheapest insurance costs
- January 2018 New Polo goes on sale
- May 2018 All current-generatio Polos built to this date are recalled over risk of a dangerous centre rear seatbelt failure
- November 2018 Sporty Polo GTI is launched
- February 2019 Least powerful 1-litre 65hp & 75hp petrol engines replaced 1.0 EVO 65hp & 80hp petrol engines
- February 2020 New trim levels introduced, SE models replaced by Match
Understanding Volkswagen Polo names
Trim level SE
Each one of the seven trim levels features a different amount of standard equipment and comes at a different price. S is most basic, while GTO+ is at the top of the range.
Engine 1.0 TSI 95
The engine's size is shown in litres (here it's 1.0). If that's followed by TSI or EVO, then the engine is petrol-powered. TDI motors are diesels. The final number is the power output in PS - a virtually identical measure as horsepower (hp).
The automatic gearbox in the Polo is badged DSG.
Volkswagen Polo Engines
Petrol: 1.0 EVO 80, 1.0 TSI 95, 1.0 TSI 115, 2.0 TSI 200, Diesel: 1.6 TDI
At the bottom of the tree is the 80hp 1.0-litre petrol engine badged EVO available exclusively with a five-speed manual gearbox with either S, Match or Beats trim levels. It's pretty puny in terms of power, but also manages to produce the same amount of CO2 (106g/km) in this guise than when it's producing 15 more horsepower. Definitely avoid this engine if you can afford to.
Next up is the same 1.0-litre petrol engine, this time producing 95hp and badged TSI. It's much better in every way, with more power and better relative efficiency as a result. It's also available with a seven-speed automatic gearbox alongside the manual.
That same 1.0-litre petrol engine is also available as the 1.0 TSI 115 with SEL or R-Line trim. It's more powerful, and more satisfying to drive as a result, but the inclusion of a six-speed manual gearbox calms things somewhat. The seven-speed auto is also here.
The final petrol option is the most powerful 2.0-litre TSI found in Polo GTI and GTI Plus models. With 200hp, there's more than enough speed to be had here, and it's definitely worth it if you have the money spare. Emissions are up as you would expect, with 138g/km of CO2 being produced.
There is a lone diesel option which is only available with the mid-range SEL trim. It's the 1.6-litre TDI, and while it's not really anywhere near as appealing as any of the petrol options, even the 80hp EVO, it still has its place thanks to the increased torque and superior fuel economy that comes with a diesel.
Volkswagen Polo Trims
S, Match, beats, SEL, R-Line, GTI, GTI+
S is the cheapest Polo trim and you can tell. Costs are cut by fitting an all-in-one rear bench seat, which can't be folded in two separate parts. There are steel wheels, rear passengers will have to wind up their own windows, and the only engine available is a weedy 65hp unit.
That said, air conditioning is standard, as is an eight-inch dashboard screen, which enables you to control your phone when it's plugged in or connected wirelessly by Bluetooth (but there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to bring full app functionality). Automatic emergency braking, which can help avoid frontal crashes, is standard.
The upgrade to Match trim is worth it for the increase in engine choice alone. It's a 1.0-litre petrol engine available in three power and gearbox variations. There's either an 80 or 90hp option with a five-speed manual gearbox, or that same 95hp engine with a seven-speed automatic.
Match models also get VW's Car-Net App-Connect, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on the eight-inch screen, while there's also a lumbar support feature on the front seats along with front and rear parking sensors.
Beats trim is designed to attract younger buyers, primarily thanks to a powerful eight-speaker audio system, larger 16-inch alloy wheels and red highlights on the dashboard and upholstery.
If you're downgrading from a larger car, then SEL trim won't feel too shabby in comparison, thanks to standard climate control, parking sensors at the front and back, mood lighting and sat-nav. However, it’s quite expensive and in the case of the automatic DSG version, for less than £1000 more you could have the genuinely sporty Polo GTI with even larger alloy wheels, sportier trim and a locking differential for better grip while cornering fast, not to mention its much more powerful 200hp engine.