Volkswagen’s turbocharged 94bhp 1.0-litre engine deserves to be the pick of the range. Although that doesn't sound like much power, it easily handles town work, pulling strongly from low revs and willingly revving when you need a turn of speed to dart through traffic. Head out onto faster roads and you'll need to work it harder, but it never feels out of its depth.
There’s a more powerful turbocharged 113bhp 1.0-litre petrol, which is a great engine that picks up eagerly from low revs and doesn't have trouble keeping up with traffic on the motorway. But the modest gains in acceleration aren't quite worth the extra financial outlay this engine asks for over the 94bhp unit.
There's also a non-turbo, entry-level petrol engine with a modest 64bhp. Predictably, it feels slow. Around town, the lack of power isn't such an issue and it will happily keep up with traffic, but once you get on faster roads the performance feels very flat and it really struggles to make quick progress. It's the cheapest option in the line-up, but even if you only do occasional motorway journeys, you're much better off looking higher up the range. There is also another non-turbo 1.0-litre option with 74bhp, which we're yet to drive.
For those who want more punch, a turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol is available (which you’ll also find in the Golf), while a 2.0-litre turbo is exclusive to the range-topping hot hatch GTI coming later this year – although we haven’t driven these yet.
Of the two 1.6-litre four-cylinder diesels on offer, we’ve experienced the 79bhp version (a more powerful 94bhp is available, too). We’d avoid this and stick with the turbocharged 1.0 petrol, because the diesel feels extremely flat at low revs and, even when pushed hard, feels pedestrian in terms of performance in and out of town.
Volkswagen Polo ride comfort
What really stands out when driving the Polo is just how comfortable it is, because the suspension takes speed bumps and potholes in its stride, stopping them from crashing through to the interior – even at low speeds with our test car's relatively large 17in alloy wheels fitted. At higher motorway speeds, the Polo remains stable and smooths away rough surfaces.
Volkswagen Polo handling
Does the car take class honours in the way it handles? In short, no; that still belongs to 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, but the steering is precise, handling is secure and there's plenty of grip, meaning you can confidently thread through a series of corners.
Volkswagen Polo refinement
Push the 94bhp turbo 1.0 petrol hard and it never feels or sounds strained, while there's little to no vibration through the controls, and the same can be said of the 113bhp version. However, the 64bhp engine has to be worked hard to make progress, so it makes a bit of a racket as you find yourself regularly revving quite hard.
The diesels are a different story from the petrols. They sound off under load and send more vibration through the Polo’s controls.
Happily, though, what strikes you about the Polo is just how quiet it is at a cruise. Not only is its engine restrained, but there's very little wind or road noise and no clonks from the suspension over bad surfaces.