Choose your engine

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What Car? Staff
22 May 2009

Choose your engine

Power for the Polo line-up starts with the ageing 1.2-litre three-cylinder engines that are available with either 59bhp or 69bhp outputs.

Experience has shown us that these engines are at best an acquired taste and at worst noisy, vibration-prone lumps, but they're extremely economical and can deliver a good turn of pace if you are prepared to work them hard.

Unsurprisingly, VW didn't offer us either of these motors at the international launch, preferring to showcase the four-cylinder engines, including the all-new turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol and 1.6-litre diesel engines.

Although the turbo petrol isn't as powerful as we'd hoped, at 103bhp, it is a smooth performer and the addition of that turbocharger ensures strong mid-range urge.

It's just a shame that the availability of this engine will be limited to the range-topping SEL trim.

Given the Polo's relatively light weight VW reckons that it is 7.5% lighter than the outgoing model we'd expected a bit more urge from the latest common-rail direct-injection diesel engines, too.

Tall gearing doesn't do their performance any favours, but it does go a long way to helping both the 74bhp and 89bhp versions return an average of 67.2mpg on the combined cycle.

However, the most disappointing aspect is the amount of diesel clatter at idle. With their harsh-edged rattle and a fair bit of vibration noticeable through the pedals, these new engines aren't as refined as those found in the Renault Clio.

Things improve at speed, though.

Comfort comes first

The Polo is nowhere near as much fun as a Ford Fiesta. Yes, it's extremely comfortable: the ride feels cushioned; the steering puts up little resistance around town; and the gearshift, although somewhat imprecise, is light.

There's also a standard hill-hold device to ensure hill starts hold no fear, even for the most inexperienced of drivers, but such comfort and ease of use come at a price.

On the open road, there's very little wind or road noise and it grips well, but quite a lot of body lean is evident through bends.

The Polo responds relatively sluggishly when you want to change direction, too. In short, try chasing a Ford Fiesta down a swift B-road and you won't see it for dust.

Of course, the Fiesta is no longer a cheap alternative to the Polo, and with a starting price of around 9000, the VW looks good value.

Reassuringly, all Polos will come with ESP stability control as standard, and Volkswagen is confident it will achieve five stars in the latest, more stringent Euro NCAP crash tests.

Further peace of mind should also be drawn from the fact that the Polo is likely, once again, to top the supermini charts for residual values.