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New car review

Volkswagen Polo review

What is it?
The new Volkswagen Polo is the fifth generation of the solid-selling supermini

Key features
New engines, new tech, refreshed looks

Our view
Compares favourably with rivals and build quality adds to residual values. A strong contender in the supermini sector.

The Volkswagen Polo has always been one of the brand’s most reliable lines – the second-biggest seller in the VW line-up, it appeals to a significant number of buyers who want the build quality that Volkswagen is renowned for, but don’t need a car the size of the Golf.

Now the Polo has reached Mk5, though the fifth generation is not an all-new car, but a refresh – a significant one, to maintain the challenge to rival manufacturers introducing completely new versions of their cars, such as Vauxhall with the Corsa. And of course, the biggest rival is the Ford Fiesta, the UK’s best-selling car.

The latest Polo has been given new engines, new technology and some slight visual changes – the last making it appear ever more like a Golf, just smaller.

Available in three or five-door form, it looks practical and is – mostly. Boot capacity, in particular, falls shy of many rivals, the 280 litres of space five less than in a Corsa, 10 under the Fiesta. It’s also only 29 more than in the Up city car and with the rear seats folded, the Up actually offers more space at 959 litres compared to the Polo’s 952. The height-adjustable floor, standard on SE models and above, is a useful touch.

The driver’s surroundings are a plus point. The instruments and controls are large, easy to use and sparing in their number, a quality touchscreen assisting in removing several buttons. VW’s Modular Infotainment system is standard on all Polos and includes Bluetooth and USB connectivity, while with the optional MirrorLink system the screen can be used to access apps on a connected smartphone.

The driver is offered plenty of adjustability to the seat, and the view is good. Space for front seat occupants is plentiful though not so much for those in the rear. But the general build quality makes the Polo a pleasant environment in which to travel.

The seven-strong engine range is completely new, running across five petrol and two diesel units – all are Euro 6 emissions compliant and according to VW have seen efficiency improvements of up to 23 per cent.

Expected to be the biggest seller is the base 59bhp petrol unit, as fitted to the up!. It’s not at all swift, but does offer fuel economy stretching close to diesel territory.

The latest diesels, however, move the goalposts again – they are two new three-cylinder units, of 1.4 litres and with either 74 or 89bhp. Official fuel economy goes above 80mpg, emissions down to 88g/km, whichever power option you choose.

For The Car Expert, it was the lower-powered version and it proved smooth and refined in general use, though the characteristics of the three-cylinder unit take a little getting used to especially at low revs. Only at very high revs does the engine note become noticeable.

The Volkswagen Polo is an assured performer on the road, though not quite the best. It offers comfortable progress and only the harshest surfaces transmit their way into the cabin. Body lean is a little noticeable in corners, but for the urban environment in which most of these cars find themselves, it is more than capable.

There are four Polo trim levels and all cars include such niceties as Bluetooth, the five-inch colour touchscreen, DAB digital radio and a Hill Hold function.

Highlights of the extras on our SE model, second of the four trims, include alloy wheels, an upgraded media system with larger screen with smartphone connectors, remote locking, air conditioning and electric heated door mirrors.

Price-wise, the Volkswagen Polo compares favourably with rivals and its long-appreciated build quality adds to residual values. The changes made by VW do not make any radical difference to the Polo’s appeal, but they do enhance what is already a consistently strong contender in the supermini sector.

Volkswagen Polo – key specifications

Model Tested: VW Polo SE 1.4 TDI 75PS
On Sale: July 2014
Range price: £11,100-£19,715
Insurance group: 4E-13E
Engines: Petrol 1.0 x 2, 1.2 x 2, 1.4. Diesel 1.4 x 2
Power (bhp): 59/74, 89/109, 148. 74/89
Torque (lb/ft): 70/70, 118/129, 184. 155/169
0-62mph (sec): 15.5/14.3, 10.8/9.3, 7.8. 12.9/10.9
Top speed (mph): 100/108, 114/122, 137. 108/114
Fuel economy (combined, mpg)*: 60.1/58.9, 60.1/57.6, tbc. 83.1/83.1
CO2 emissions (g/km)*: 106/108, 107/110, 109. 88/88
Key rivals: Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio, Vauxhall Corsa
Test Date: August 2014
* All figures with manual gearbox

Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.
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