The Polo is priced in-line with key rivals, and while discounts aren’t as large as those offered on most small cars, it will be worth more when you come to sell it.
Fuel economy is competive, too, at least for the petrol engines. The 1.2 petrol managed 47.4mpg in our hands, which isn't far behind the 56.2mpg we achieved in the 89bhp 1.4 diesel, a model with an official claimed consumption of 83.1mpg.
If you’re a private buyer stick with petrol power, then. Company car users have more reason to look at the diesels since they offer very low tax bills, but even then, we’d say that the petrol models are worth their small extra tax cost, given how much better they are to drive.
Good-value, fixed-price servicing packages are available, and the Polo is one of the cheaper cars in its class to insure, making it a good option for young drivers.
S trim is pretty basic, although the S A/C version does at least have air-conditioning. We’d go for SE with its alloy wheels, air-conditioning, remote central locking, electric rear windows (on five-door models) and audio controls on the steering wheel. Most of the additions on SE Design are cosmetic, while SEL cars have larger wheels, front and rear parking sensors, and a front centre armrest. R-Line models get a sportier appearance inside and out.
However, apart from SE, none of these high-spec cars justifies their substantial premiums. Most of the key features you’d want that aren’t standard on SE can be added as an option, including auto lights and wipers.
The economy-oriented Bluemotion model, which is a standalone trim, is only available with the 94bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine, but gets the same equipment as SE.
Volkswagen Polo reliability
As a brand, VW came a middling 23 out of 37 manufacturers in the What Car? reliability survey 2015, which will have included the pre-facelift, and mechanically very similar, version of the Polo. Manufacturers producing rivals to the Polo that fared better included Renault, Vauxhall and Ford.
A three-year, 60,000-mile warranty is standard but you can extend the warranty to four or five years for a reasonable price. A year’s European roadside assistance is also included.
Volkswagen Polo 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 airbags, though, along with stability control and a post-collision braking system that aims to avoid secondary impacts following an accident. It was also awarded the maximum five stars in its Euro NCAP crash tests.
The Polo has deadlocks and an engine immobiliser, while an alarm is standard on all but the entry-level S trim. Security firm Thatcham Research awarded it the maximum five stars for its resistance to theft, and four stars for its resistance to be broken into, which compares well with rivals.
A full-size steel wheel is a very welcome standard feature, where many rivals would charge for a space saver.
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Only available with the base 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine and doesn’t get air-con, alloy wheels, body coloured door mirrors or folding rear seats, so best avoided.
Like the S but includes air-con, so we’d still advise going for the much better equipped SE which will hold its value better, as well as being more pleasant to live with.
Our pick Match
Our pick of the range. Available with most of the core engines, and with an automatic gearbox should you wish. Includes air-con, 15in alloy wheels, a USB connection, remote central locking, a multi-function steering wheel with leather trim, a variable-height boot floor and folding 60/40 split rear seatbacks.
Receives the same equipment as the Match, as well as tinted rear windows, a gloss black radiator grille, 16in ‘Knight’ alloy wheels, a distinctive ‘Flash’ red livery and sports seats with embossed Beats logo. However, the real star of the show is undoubtedly the powerful sound system - a 300-watt, eight-channel amplifier complete with sub-woofer in the spare wheel well.
As the name suggests, this gets the same spec as SE, only with a greater emphasis on style. Features include 16in alloys, front foglights, gloss black exterior trim highlights, tinted rear windows and some extended interior lighting. Not worth the extra it costs over standard SE, though.
Does without the variable-height boot floor in the SE but otherwise gets the same kit. Only available with the 1.0 93bhp petrol engine. One to avoid.
Only adds subtle styling tweaks, although brings more optional extras. It’s also only available with the higher-powered 1.0 TSI or 1.4 TDI engines, so not worth the extra over SE.
Gets 16in alloys and a sporty R-Line exterior styling pack that includes side sills, and front and rear spoilers. Aluminium pedals, sports seats and a leather-trimmed sports steering wheel can be found inside. Looks great, but isn’t really worth the extra.
Designated trim for the high-powered 1.4 ACT engine. Think of it as a semi hot-hatch, but with a comfort-oriented specification that includes cruise control. Too pricey to recommend.
The full-fat performance variant of the Polo, with the 1.8 turbocharged engine. Includes 17in alloy wheels, sports suspension, a bodykit, front foglights with cornering function, LED headlights, bespoke interior upholstery and plenty of GTI badging. Competitively priced next to plenty of other hot hatches, although a Fiesta ST makes it look pricey.