Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
With 94bhp, the entry-level 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine (badged TSI 95) might appear to be a bit weedy, but it’s actually the pick of the range. It really shines around town, where the boost from its turbocharger pulls you strongly from low revs, and it also has the legs to sit comfortably at fast motorway speeds. In fact, it makes the more powerful 1.0 TSI 115 look like a luxury rather than a necessity.
The cheapest engine in the Polo range is the 1.0 80 Evo. However, this engine doesn't employ a turbocharger, so it needs working hard to get the best from it – and, even then, its acceleration is far more pedestrian than that of the TSI versions.
The 1.6 TDI diesel is also best avoided; it feels a bit flat at low revs, so it isn't worth the hefty premium over the petrols. Meanwhile, if you want hot hatch performance from your Polo, you can read about the GTI version in our separate review.
Suspension and ride comfort
The Polo is unquestionably one of the smoothest-riding cars in the class. Around town, it deals with pockmarked roads better than the Seat Ibiza and Ford Fiesta, and even if you happen across a particularly nasty crater, the Polo stays surprisingly composed. Only the most comfort-orientated versions of the Peugeot 208 offer a noticeably smoother ride.
It’s a similar story when you venture onto the motorway. The Polo remains calm, with only a tiny amount of fidgeting over small imperfections – something pretty much all small cars are prone to. Indeed, on smoother stretches of road you could be mistaken for thinking you’re driving a car from the class above, such is its impressive level of composure.
If you really enjoy driving and want something fun and agile, you'd be better off looking at the Ford Fiesta, Seat Ibiza or Renault Clio. Their firmer suspension, sharper steering and more playful handling balance make them that bit more fun on twisty roads.
But that’s not to say the Polo isn’t competent through the corners. It’s surefooted, with plenty of grip and well-weighted steering that enable you to thread it confidently through a series of bends – even at quite fast speeds. So, if you simply want something that’s confidence inspiring and easy to drive, you’ll be quite happy.
Noise and vibration
Although the Polo's petrol engines make themselves heard when you're accelerating, you don't feel much engine vibration filtering up through the pedals or the steering wheel. The 1.6 TDI is another kettle of fish, though; the sole diesel engine in the line-up is decidedly agricultural.
But whichever engine you choose, you won't hear much from it at a steady 70mph cruise. The Polo also does a better job than most rivals, even the Peugeot 208, at suppressing wind and road noise on the motorway.
Better still, the manual gearbox is slick and the Polo is easy to drive smoothly. However, if you opt for the optional seven-speed automatic (DSG) gearbox, it can be a little jerky from a standstill – a bit of nuisance when parking or in stop-start traffic.
With funky colour combinations available, the Citroen C3 does...
Hybrid is very economical, but rivals outshine the Yaris elsew...
The Vauxhall Corsa is competent but not outstanding...
Mazda's small hatchback impresses with its economy, but falls...