Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
With 94bhp, the 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine (badged TSI 95) might not appear to be a powerhouse but it’s actually the pick of the range. It shines around town where the boost from the turbo pulls you strongly from low revs, but also has the legs to sit comfortably at motorway speeds all day long. In fact, it makes the more powerful 114bhp TSI 115 seem a luxury rather than a necessity.
As for the rest of the range you have two non-turbo 1.0-litre petrol engines, badged EVO 65 and EVO 80, that are both too sluggish to recommend – the EVO 65 needs over 16 seconds to get from 0 to 62mph, and even though the EVO 80 has a bit more power, it’s still not enough. At the top of the range sits the 197hp 2.0 petrol fitted to the Polo GTI, but that’s covered by our separate review.
Meanwhile, the 94hp diesel (badged TDI 95) feels a bit flat at low revs and you need to work the gearbox in order to keep it in its sweet spot. We’d stick with the TSI 95.
Suspension and ride comfort
What really stands out when driving the Polo is just how comfortable it is. Around town it deals brilliantly with uneven roads, speed bumps and you hardly feel the multitude of potholes that are all too common nowadays. Even if you do happen across a particularly nasty crater, hardly any shudder comes through to the interior.
It’s a similar story when you go out on the motorway. The Polo remains calm, with only a tiny amount of the fidgeting over very small bumps that pretty much any small car is prone to. Only the best-riding versions of the Ford Fiesta and Audi A1 get close, without actually bettering it.
Does the Polo take class honours in the way it handles? In short, no; the crown is shared by the more agile Ford Fiesta and Seat Ibiza.
However, there's a lot to like about the new Polo on the road. It may not be as rewarding to drive as the Fiesta and leans more through bends, but its steering is precise (around town or on the open road), its handling is secure and there's plenty of grip, so you can thread it confidently through a series of corners. If you simply want something surefooted and easy to drive, you’ll be quite happy.
Noise and vibration
Push the TSI 95 or the TSI 115 petrols hard and they never sound coarse, and there’s little to no vibration through the controls. However, the EVO 65 and EVO 80 petrol engines need to be worked harder to make progress and produce more of a racket as a result. The diesel is even worse. It’s noisy under load and sends plenty of vibration through the steering wheel and gear lever compared with the petrols.
Whichever engine you choose, you will barely hear it on the motorway. There's also very little wind or road noise and, with suspension that’s very quiet over bumps, it's one of the most hushed cars in the class. The manual gearbox has a light action and the clutch pedal is positive and easy to judge. The dual-clutch automatic changes smoothly though its gears, but can be a little hesitant and jerky when parking.