Volkswagen Polo Hatchback full 9 point review
Entry-level petrol power comes from a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine with either 59 or 74bhp. Both versions are fine around town, but can feel underpowered on faster roads. Our favourite is the lower-powered 1.2 turbo, which pulls eagerly from low revs. The 1.4 turbo (which sometimes shuts off half its cylinders to save fuel) is genuinely brisk. There are also a couple of 1.4-litre three-cylinder diesels; the 89bhp version is strong at low revs, so you rarely have to work it hard.
Ride & Handling
The Polo isn’t as much fun to drive as a Ford Fiesta because there’s a fair amount of body lean through bends and the steering doesn’t offer as much feedback. Even so, it’s a stable, predictable car to drive, and easy to thread through city traffic. Ride comfort is good at high speeds, but bumps and ripples around town can unsettle things.
By the standards of the class, the Polo is impressively hushed. The 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrol engines are smooth and quiet, and the 1.0-litre units are reasonably refined, even at high revs. The diesel is clattery when revved hard, but engine noise fades to a background hum when cruising. There’s little mechanical vibration, either. Wind and road noise don’t intrude too much at speed, so the Polo is quiet on the motorway.
Buying & Owning
The Polo is competitively priced against key rivals, and while discounts aren’t as large as those offered on most small cars, the VW will be worth more when you come to sell it on. Fuel economy and CO2 emissions are also impressive, and there are good-value fixed-price servicing packages available, so it won’t cost much to run. Company car tax bills are decently low, especially on the diesel versions.
Quality & Reliability
Short of an Audi A1, there’s little to rival the Polo for quality at this end of the market. All versions have an impressively upmarket feel, with solid-feeling switchgear, and dense, soft-touch plastics covering the dashboard. The pre-face-lifted Polo was rated above average for reliability in the latest JD Power customer satisfaction survey, so this version should be similarly reliable.
Safety & Security
Curtain airbags and a deactivation switch for the front passenger airbag are cost options, whereas most rivals have them as standard. The Polo does have front and side ’bags, though, along with stability control and a post-collision braking system that tries to avoid secondary impacts following an accident. It was also awarded the maximum five stars in its Euro NCAP crash test. The usual deadlocks and an engine immobiliser are fitted, but you have to pay for an alarm on entry-level S versions.
Behind The Wheel
Few superminis can rival the Polo’s simplicity and fine ergonomics. Clear instruments, large dials and switches, an excellent colour touch-screen system (SE models and above get a particularly impressive version) and a well-ordered centre console all help make the Polo exceptionally user-friendly. There’s also a broad range of adjustment to the steering wheel and driver’s seat (S trim misses out on height-adjustable front seats, however), while all-round visibility is excellent.
Space & Practicality
There’s a decent amount of space in the front, but several rivals have more room in the back. The cabin feels airy, though, so your passengers shouldn’t feel too hemmed in. The boot isn’t the biggest in the class, either, but it should be large enough for most people’s needs. SE versions and up have a height-adjustable boot floor, which removes the loading lip at the entrance to the boot, while you can also lift the rear seatbases and fold the seatbacks nearly flat to create more space.
The regular trims are S, SE, SE Design and SEL. S is pretty basic, so we’d go for SE, which has alloy wheels, air-conditioning, remote central locking, electric rear windows (on five-door models) and audio controls on the steering wheel. It also gets a larger touch-screen system than S models. Most of the additions on SE Design versions are cosmetic, while SEL cars have larger wheels, front and rear parking sensors, and a front centre armrest, but neither model justifies the extra it costs.