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Volkswagen Polo Review

Find out more about the Volkswagen Polo in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

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8
Out of 10
Average Price £8,756

The Volkswagen Polo has become known as one of the more premium options in the supermini market.

In 1975 it was introduced as a rebadged version of the Audi 80. As Volkswagen grew and acquired other manufacturers – including Audi – the tables turned and the Polo became the base for a number of other manufacturers’ cars.

It’s been a popular model with buyers, seeing sales increasing to a peak of 809,549 units globally in 2011. The latest generation saw sales increase drastically as buyers responded well to new styling, an updated interior and a new range of engines.

Latest model

The latest model was introduced in 2009, receiving a minor facelift in 2014. The new model received a drastic makeover with the soft and safe appearance of old models ditched in favour of a bolder, more angular look.

The update brought the car further into line with the bigger Golf. It feels just like its bigger brother from behind the wheel, which is a big compliment considering that car’s popularity.

This is partly because the interior borrows a lot from the family hatchback, and while it’s a bit bland there’s no denying the quality of materials.

Value for money

If it’s kit you’re after, you’re going to have to be prepared to spend a bit to get it.

The entry level S models come with very limited kit, but the five-inch touchscreen infotainment system works nicely. Volkswagen teamed up with Beats Audio to create the Polo Beats, which features a high-output sound system, which will appeal to those who like to listen to music while driving.

The wide variety of trims on offer extend to economical ‘BlueMotion’ variants that come with unique styling, a more efficient aerodynamic body kit and a bigger touchscreen, to the top-spec GTI model, which has sportier styling both inside and out, and a more powerful engine under the bonnet.

The switch to premium feel has been a relatively new one, with older cars having slightly cheaper materials and lower levels of kit. However, the build quality is still up there with the best of them and therefore offer great value for money.

Polos hold their value well on account of their high build quality. However, there are some great deals to be had in the classifieds with 2013 GTI models available for the price of a new entry level Polo. If you’re looking for something more economical, there are 12-month-old mid-spec Polos also dropping to around £11,000.

Looks and image

Volkswagen uses its vast network of manufacturers that it owns to sell cars to all corners of the market. This allows it to pitch its own cars as affordable premium models, with excellent build quality and upmarket badge appeal.

The Polo’s bold styling gives the image of a solid, well-built car and the Volkswagen badge on the bonnet lets the outside world know it’s a quality product.

Inside, 2014-onwards cars come with improvements such as the touchscreen infotainment system, and some later cars also have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Pre-facelift models might lack some new technology but exterior differences are minimal.

Previous generation cars, built between 2002 and 2009, have dropped sufficiently in price that even the most economical diesel-engined cars can now be bought for less than £5,000.

Space and practicality

Being a supermini, space is not the Polo’s forte. However, among its rivals it has some of the best cabin space around, making it much easier to carry people around in the rear seats – all but the tallest adults should have plenty of space.

There are a number of safety and security systems implemented to help the driver, including adaptive cruise control, emergency braking systems and a system that monitors driver behaviour to notify when a break is needed.

Safety levels are highly impressive in the Polo, achieving a five-star rating out of five in NCAP’s testing. The passenger safety was particularly commendable, achieving 90 per cent for adults and 86 per cent for children.

The only matters for concern here were missing knee airbags and the lack of Isofix points in the front passenger seat – though they are present in the rear.

Engines

There’s a great selection of engines on offer, from economy-focused to sporty.

There are just two diesel variants in the shape of a 1.4-litre three-cylinder unit that makes either 74bhp or 88bhp, depending which you choose. Both are geared towards economy, emitting just over 100g/km of CO2 and registering 74.3mpg on the combined cycle.

Petrol engines offer more choice, though. There’s a 1.0-litre unit making between 59bhp and 109bhp, a 1.2-litre engine making 89bhp and a 1.4 making 148bhp. The top-of-the-range GTI model has a 1.8-litre engine making 189bhp.

In recent years the trend towards downsized engines has contributed to this range of 1.0-litre units. Plump for older Polos though, and there are some bigger turbo-diesels available with similar power outputs and rear-world economy figures.

Running costs

Running costs are all fairly low, no matter which engine you choose. However, the best bet for fuel costs are the higher-powered diesels, which offer more than 70mpg, while the mid-range petrols all offer above 60mpg. Even the GTI model is relatively good on fuel, registering 47mpg on the combined cycle.

Older cars barely skimp on fuel economy, though. Opt for a 2002 to 2009 diesel and there are options that can achieve as much as 74mpg. Couple that with cheaper tax and it’s easy to see why these older Polos remain so popular.

Under the new car tax rules, which come into play from April onwards, the economy-focused BlueMotion model would cost £120 for its first year and £140 per year after that.

Things to look out for

There are very few major problems with the VW Polo but most issues tend to be down to electrics. If there’s a check engine light on when you do the test drive, make sure you query it. It might be something simple but could indicate a bigger underlying problem.

Rivals

The Polo is up against some extremely capable rivals, with the Ford Fiesta the undisputed champion in this sector. It offers excellent value for money, with decent build quality and impressive levels of kit for the money, but doesn’t quite have the badge allure of the Volkswagen.

The Hyundai i20 and Honda Jazz suffer similarly in the image department, while the Vauxhall Corsa is an excellent alternative so long as you’re looking at the latest model introduced in 2014.

Compared to each of these, the Polo offers better build quality and residuals, though kit levels are less impressive unless you pay a bit more.

Depreciation warning

Compared to its rivals in this segment, the VW Polo fares better than most in the depreciation stakes. Thanks to the premium badge, reputation for build quality and the fact they aren’t the best sellers in this segment leading to relative scarcity, they hold their value well.

Which Polo to Pick

Trims Explained

In total, there are nine trims available with the Polo. The entry level S and S A/C models don’t offer a huge amount of kit, but the VW build quality is naturally apparent. There are halogen headlights, cloth upholstery and a touchscreen infotainment system.

S

The entry level S and S A/C models don’t offer a huge amount of kit, but the VW build quality is naturally apparent.

There are halogen headlights, cloth upholstery and a touchscreen infotainment system.

Match

Upgrade to a Match model and there are upgraded 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights and a leather-trimmed steering wheel inside.

For music fans, upgrade to the ‘Beats’ trim, which features a 300-watt Beats Audio sound system and unique trim elements inside.

R-Line

For those looking for sporty styling without the associated costs of driving a higher powered model, the R-Line trim offers a great compromise.

Styling touches include a bodykit and bigger alloy wheels with sporty interior trim.

BlueMotion

The BlueMotion model comes with a more aerodynamic bodykit to reduce air resistance and aid fuel economy, and also receives low rolling resistance tyres.

The top-spec standard model is the BlueGT, which gets 17-inch alloy wheels, gloss black interior touches and premium upholstery to give a more expensive feel.

GTI

The GTI model is the sportiest of the lot, and gets LED headlights and a beefier bodykit to indicate the performance underneath.

Motors Choice

1.8 TSI GTI 3dr

What to look out for

  1. Considered the premium supermini
  2. More expensive with less kit than rivals
  3. Great range of economical engines
  4. Sporty GTI model is extremely capable
  5. Entry level engines are pretty gutless
  6. Even older models offer good economy
  7. Impressive five-star safety rating
  8. Interior space fares well against rivals
  9. Feels just as high quality as a Golf
  10. best infotainment system only available on newest models

Review Rating

"This Volkswagen Polo is arguably the most upmarket small car that you can buy.... Read More"