Our favourite engine is the lower-powered of the two 1.2-litre turbo petrols. This feels punchy even on faster roads, and is available with Volkswagen's excellent seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
By contrast, if you decide you do enough miles to justify a diesel, the higher-powered version is the one to go for.
The brisk 1.4 turbo petrol is also surprisingly frugal, because it can shut off two of its cylinders to save fuel. But you need the 1.8-litre turbo GTI model for hot hatch performance; this offers flexible and entertaining performance, although the Ford Fiesta ST is more fun.
Volkswagen Polo ride comfort
Even on the smaller wheels fitted to cheaper Polos, the ride can be a little unsettled around town. However, it’s supple enough to take the sting out of most bumps and potholes.
In addition, all Polo models settle down at higher speeds, making for one of the more stable and comfortable cruisers in this urban-oriented class.
Volkswagen Polo handling
A Ford Fiesta handles better, because the Polo suffers from a fair amount of body lean through bends, and the light steering is quite slow to respond to inputs. Even so, it’s a predictable car to drive, with plenty of grip, and easy manoeuvrability when being guided through city traffic.
The 1.4-litre petrol and 1.8-litre GTI models are both set up-to be more agile, the latter especially so with its stiff suspension, bigger alloys and sharp, quick responses. That said, you could still do with more feedback.
Volkswagen Polo refinement
By the standards of the supermini sector, the Polo is impressively hushed. Wind and road noise don’t intrude too much at speed, and the 1.2- and 1.4-litre petrol engines are smooth and quiet.
Even the 1.0-litre three-cylinder units are reasonably refined. And while the diesel cars get clattery when revved hard, engine noise fades to a background hum at cruising speeds.
Mechanical vibration is minimal, too, although the gearshift in the five-speed cars can be a little notchy. The six-speed greabox has a slicker action, and pedal responses are well judged for smooth driving, even in stop-start traffic.
This thrummy, characterful three-cylinder petrol is adequate for town driving but can feel underpowered in faster driving, when it needs to be revved hard.
A touch more sprightly than the lower-powered version, but can still feel strained at motorway speeds.
The quickest three-cylinder petrol Polo of the lot. Feels genuinely spritely and easily keeps up with traffic in town and on the motorway.
Our pick 1.2 TSI
Our pick of the range. Smooth revving, genuinely economical and a great price.
1.0 TSI Bluemotion
We haven't driven this engine yet.
1.4 TDI 75
Very economical, and great emissions, but it’s slow and clattery. Be sure you do enough miles to make the extra economy worth the car’s higher initial purchase cost and generally less pleasant driving experience. More suitable for business users than private motorists.
1.4 TDI 90
Very economical and has low, tax-friendly emissions. It feels nippy enough at low speeds but is quite clattery, while its high price can undermine any fuel savings you make, unless you do a sufficiently high mileage. The 1.2 is more pleasant to drive and cheaper to buy, and even company car buyers may want to consider this model.
ACT 1.4 TSI 146bhp
This engine shuts off two of its four cylinders when you don’t need them, making for low emissions, despite it having hot hatch levels of performance. Smooth revving and punchy, but expensive.
1.8 TSI GTI
The Polo GTI is an extremely quick hot hatch with a free-revving engine and a broad spread of torque.