2014 VW Polo - updated
The visual changes are small, but the 2014 VW Polo is a significant improvement over its predecessor in several key areas. We try it in the UK for the first time...
The 2014 VW Polo face-lift is a fairly big one. Not because it looks much different than before (it really doesn't) but because it's been given the 59bhp and 74bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engines from the Up city car, and has also had its steering and suspension altered.
The old 84bhp 1.4 petrol engine has been dropped, leaving the turbocharged 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol (now available with either 89bhp or 108bhp) and the new three-cylinder motors to make up the bulk of the sales.
There’s also a 148bhp 1.4-litre ACT petrol that can shut down two of its four cylinders when cruising to save fuel. This, and the 1.2 TSI, are the only engines that you can add the optional (£1375) DSG automatic gearbox to.
Come the end of the year, the engine line-up will change again when a turbocharged version of the new 1.0-litre three-cylinder replaces the 1.2. An 88g/km 1.4-litre, three-cylinder diesel engine is also available.
Interior materials and switchgear have been refreshed, too, but a new infotainment system is the key upgrade inside; even base models now get a 5.0-inch colour touch-screen, while SE models upwards get a more sophisticated 6.5-inch screen.
What’s the 2014 VW Polo like to drive?
We tried the new 1.0-litre petrol engine first, in 59bhp and 74bhp guises. Both versions sit comfortably at low revs around town, where they are refined and generally relaxing. Both also happily cruise at 70mph, although it’ll take you a while to get there - especially in the lower-powered version – because you have to wring everything out of the engine to make decent progress. At least the three-cylinder units are willing and reasonably refined when revved hard, while the five-speed gearbox is a delight to use.
If you value being able to overtake with confidence, or regularly carry more than just one passenger, then you’ll want one of the more powerful engines.
For most buyers, the best of those is the new 89bhp 1.2 TSI. It pulls eagerly from low revs, and the power keeps arriving cleanly as the revs build, with no noticeable flat spots. Being a four-cylinder, this engine is also smoother and quieter than the three-cylinders in many rivals, including the 1.0-litre Ecoboost in our favourite Ford Fiesta.
True, the penalty for the extra cylinder is higher CO2 emissions (the Polo pumps out 107g/km compared with the Fiesta's 99g/km), but in our real-world True MPG tests, it actually proved more economical, averaging 47.4mpg (compared with the Ford's 44.7mpg).
The old Polo was an unashamed cruiser, with a comfortable ride but relatively sloppy handling. This new model is less one-dimensional; it has lower suspension, so feels more agile and composed along twisty roads.
Sadly, the changes haven't done the ride any favours. No matter what speed you’re doing, things are always a bit choppy – even on standard 15-inch wheels. We can’t help thinking VW would have been better off sticking with the original setup, because the Polo’s slow and somewhat vague steering means it still isn’t much fun to drive quickly.
Still, the Polo rides well enough, and you can make things slightly more comfortable by reducing the tyre pressures to their optional ‘comfort’ setting – although this will increase fuel consumption slightly.
Refinement is excellent compared with most other small cars. Road and wind noise don't intrude too much at speed, and although you can hear the suspension working away on less-than-perfect roads, this doesn't spoil the peace too much.
What’s the 2014 VW Polo like inside?
If there’s anything that really sells the Polo, it’s the cabin. Dense, soft-touch plastics and a new colour touch-screen (which is a bigger 6.5-inch unit on SE trim and above) immediately give it a grown-up feel that sets it apart from the majority of the competition.
All the switches are where you want them, and while the smaller touch-screen features some fiddly icons that need frustratingly precise prodding, the menus are logical and easy to navigate. The larger screen is better in all respects, and is particularly quick to respond to commands.
Otherwise, the Polo’s interior remains unchanged, which is no bad thing. The driving position is good and a height adjustable driver’s seat features in all models, making it easy to get comfortable.
Some rivals offer more space for passengers travelling in the back – particularly legroom – but a couple of young kids will be more than comfortable and headroom is decent in both the front and back. Visibility is also among the best in class. Combined with the Polo’s boxy shape, this means parking in tight spaces is a breeze.
As well as the colour screen, entry-level S trim models come with a DAB radio, a USB socket and Bluetooth, although you have to step up to S A/C trim to get air-conditioning, which adds £720 to the price.
The biggest-selling trim is SE, which starts at £12,435 for the 59bhp 1.0 three-door (the five-door commands a £640 premium). It comes with 15-inch alloys, body-coloured door handles, electrically adjustable door mirrors, a leather multi-function steering wheel and a single CD player.
Meanwhile, SE Design includes various tweaks including 16-inch alloys, front foglights and sports seats, while the range-topping SEL adds front and rear parking sensors and a front centre armrest.
Should I buy one?
The VW Polo has always been one of our favourite small cars, and this face-lift addresses some of our few criticisms of the car, namely its inflexible engines and its antiquated infotainment system
Of the two three-cylinder engines, we'd say you may as well save some money and go for the lower-powered 59bhp option. Ultimately, both are very slow, if refined and pleasant to use in all but fast motorway driving, so the extra power doesn't make much difference in everyday use.
If you do value more peppy performance, it's worth finding the extra for the 1.2 TSI 90, which in SE trim is a brilliant all-rounder, with more satisfying real-world pace, lots of equipment and a high-quality cabin.
So, while the Fiesta is the still the more rewarding car to drive and is available with bigger discounts – which offsets its higher price – it isn't quite as rounded as the latest Polo.
What Car? says...
Volkswagen Polo 1.0 MPI 60 S
Engine size 1.0-litre petrol
Price from £11,100
Torque 70lb ft
0-62mph 15.5 seconds
Top speed 100mph
Fuel economy 60.1mpg
Volkswagen Polo 1.0 MPI 75 SE Engine size 1.0-litre petrol
Price from £12,960
Torque 70lb ft
0-62mph 14.3 seconds
Top speed 107mph
Fuel economy 58.9mpg
Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI 90 SE Engine size 1.2-litre turbo petrol
Price from £13,580
Torque 118lb ft
0-62mph 10.8 seconds
Top speed 114mph
Fuel economy 60.1mpg
Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI 110 TSI SEL Engine size 1.2-litre turbo petrol
Price from £15,610
Torque 129lb ft
Top speed 122mph
Fuel economy 57.6mpg
Volkswagen Polo 1.4 TSI BlueGT Engine size 1.4-litre turbo petrol
Price from £17,710
Torque 184lb ft
0-62mph 8.0 seconds (est)
Top speed 134mph
Fuel economy 58.8mpg
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