Volkswagen Polo hatchback
Volkswagen Polo hatchback
Price £11,100 - £19,715
- Spacious interior
- Impressive comfort
- Excellent quality
- Lacks fun factor
- Entry car lacks air con
- Basic engine slow
At a glance
"The Volkswagen Polo has been given a mild facelift for 2014. The car gets new engines, new trim levels, and extra equipment."
The Volkswagen Polo is one of the enduring models of the small hatchback segment. It appeals to people who want the build quality of a Volkswagen Golf in a smaller package. Its main rival, the Ford Fiesta, is more fun to drive but can’t match the Volkswagen's build quality.
With the new Vauxhall Corsa and the new Mazda2 set to go on sale later this year, Volkswagen has given the Polo a thorough refresh for 2014. The model gets new engines, revised in-car tech, and new trim levels.
The Polo range offers a good selection of engines, with the most economical 1.4-litre diesel engine capable of 83.1mpg. For now, the fast Volkswagen Polo GTI has been phased out, in favour of the BlueGT model that offers a better balance between performance and economy.
The Polo tends to have less equipment for the money than rivals. The base model does without air-conditioning (it's a £720 option), but does get electronic stability control, electric front windows, a Bluetooth phone connection, and an infotainment system with a colour touchscreen.
MPG, running costs & CO2
All models are affordable to run
High running costs aren’t in the Volkswagen Polo's vocabulary. Choose the basic 1.0-litre petrol-engined model and it can return 60.1mpg and emissions of 106g/km, for road tax of just £20 annually. The 1.4-litre diesel model takes things to a new level with economy of 83.1mpg, while emissions are low enough to mean that road tax is free. The 1.2-litre petrol engine also makes a decent case for its self with running costs that match the 1.0-litre petrol and spritely performance, but if you are only ever going to use it in town we would stick with the 1.0-litre. Even the BlueGT, currently the quickest model in the range, can get fuel economy of 58.9mpg and emissions of 109g/km for £20 road tax.
Volkswagen has done its bit to keep maintenance and service costs low by offering fixed-price service plans for £15.99 a month. They run for two years/20,000 miles, three years/30,000 miles, or four years/40,000 miles.
Insurance across the range should also be cheap – ranging from group 6 in the 1.0-litre BlueMotion to group 22 in the 1.4-litre BlueGT.
Volkswagen's warranty could do with being more generous, its three-year/60,000 mile cover looks penny pinching compared to the five and seven-year plans offered by Hyundai and Kia, respectively.
Interior & comfort
Lots of space in the front and rear and soft suspension, too
The Volkswagen Polo's interior is one of its biggest strengths. The family connection with the Volkswagen Golf is plain to see with extensive use of quality plastics and a simple, but upmarket design. New for 2014 is the standard-fit touchscreen, which makes it easy to navigate the car's systems and also tidies up the dashboard by reducing the number of buttons.
Getting comfortable behind the steering wheel is easy too and the Polo has height adjustment for the driver's seat as well as a steering wheel that can be fine-tuned for reach and rake.
Take the Polo for a spin and its clear that, on the basic models at least, VW has setup the car to be cosseting rather than to offer the last word in handling prowess. Comfort is really impressive. The ride in the Polo can shame many larger cars with the way the suspension soaks up bumps and potholes.
The Polo is generally relaxing to travel in, for a supermini, but wind noise is noticable at motorway speeds. The new three-cylinder 1.0-litre engines make a slight thrumming noise when revved, which is a characteristic of this type of engine. However, it's neither annoying nor intrusive and no louder than similar engines from other manufacturers.
There are, however, several refinement issues surrounding the diesel engine. Like most, it's a little gruff and in such a small car it is more obvious. Having said that, there are no intrusive vibrations found in the cabin and once up to speed the engine settles.
Practicality & boot space
Large boot has handy false floor
Although the Honda Jazz offers the biggest boot for a small hatchback, the Volkswagen's 280-litre capacity is big enough to see off the Ford Fiesta (276 litres) and gets close to the Vauxhall Corsa's 285-litre boot. All Polos come with split-folding back seats that when folded away increase the load capacity to 952 litres. The VW also features a false floor that provides a hidden space for your valuables and means the boot floor stays flat with the seats down.
If you regularly carry people in the back then the five-door model makes more sense, but all Polos have enough space on the rear seat for two adults. Space in the front is better and even tall adults can get comfortable.
Volkswagen has been generous with cubbyholes and the glovebox is also huge, you’ll also find deep doorbins, cupholders, and map pockets hidden around the interior.
Reliability & safety
Scored the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests
Despite its reputation for cast-iron build quality, the old Volkswagen Polo could only finish in 119th place out of 150 cars. That's a 17-place drop from the already poor score in 2013. This could be attributed to it being a bit outdated and we expect the new model to make a significant improvement for 2015.
The Polo's ‘small but tough’ marketing tagline rings true when it comes to safety and it was awarded five-stars when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP. All models come with electronic stability control and anti-whiplash headrests, a full complement of airbags, Hill Hold assist and a system that locks the brakes after a collision to prevent secondary impacts.
The Polo is also available with a raft of extra safety kit. They include city emergency braking, which automatically brakes the car to prevent low speed collisions and is a £500 option. included in the price is active cruise control that can match the speed of the car in front.
Engines, drive & performance
Suspension smooths out bumps in the road but the Fiesta is more fun
Driving thrills is one area in which the Ford Fiesta has got the better of the Volkswagen Polo. On a straight road the VW is quiet and comfortable, but drive down a twisting country road and its deficiencies are all too obvious.
One of the worst offenders is the steering, which is too light to give reasonable idea of how much grip is offered by the front tyres. Factor in the soft suspension, which allows plenty of body lean in the corners, and the Polo is stable, but uninspiring to drive.
That's certainly true if you opt for the basic 1.0-litre petrol engine, which adds lacklustre speed to the mix. Its 59bhp will drag the Polo from 0-62mph in 16.5 seconds, so you can more or less rule out overtaking long queues of traffic on busy A roads. The 75bhp version of the 1.0-litre petrol engine may not sound a lot quicker, but it cuts 2 seconds from the 0-62mph time and feels much more capable on the motorway.
Go for the more expensive diesel model and you’re not only rewarded with the aforementioned excellent economy, but also a reduced 0-62mph time of 12.9 seconds. The 1.2-litre petrol engine with 89bhp strikes the best balance of economy and performance, with 0-62mph taking 10.8 seconds, while the quickest model in the range – the BlueGT – has a 1.4-litre petrol engine for a 0-62mph time of 7.8 seconds.
Price, value for money & options
VW Polo Match Edition cars are well equipped with electric windows and alloy wheels
Buy a Volkswagen Polo and you’ll pay a premium for the VW badge. However, you can expect the model to have stronger second-hand values than the Ford Fiesta – the VW holding on to 10 per cent more of its new-car price.
Equipment is sparse on the basic models and the Polo S does without air-conditioning, but gets a Bluetooth phone connection, colour touchscreen, and stability control. The S A/C gets exactly the same kit, but adds air-conditioning. SE models add 15-inch alloy wheels, a more advanced touchscreen system, remote central locking and an iPod capable. SE Design models lend the Polo a more aggressive look thanks to 16-inch alloy wheels, a gloss-black radiator grille and wing mirrors, plus sports seats in the front.
SEL models add useful devices such as cruise control, plus front and rear parking sensors, while the BlueGT is the best equipped of all. It comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, an electronic differential for better handling, a BlueGT bodykit, and a driver alert warning system.
What the others say
"The VW Polo is a fantastic supermini, with smart styling, an impressive interior and great engines."
"Subtle is the word for the Volkswagen Polo's 2014 facelift, but there's plenty of new safety technology and more efficient engines."