Volkswagen Polo hatchback review
“Spacious, handsome and good to drive, with sophisticated equipment and options, the Volkswagen Polo impresses”
- Sophisticated options
- Strong driving experience
- Steering lacks feel
- No three-door model
- Expensive to buy
Is the Volkswagen Polo a good car?
The latest Volkswagen Polo is a premium, plush and practical supermini that’s eager to tempt buyers away from the larger Golf. An update in 2021 refreshed the design and added the latest VW Group technology, plus there’s a range of efficient engines offering a refined driving experience. The Polo’s only real drawback is the presence of the larger and mechanically similar Skoda Fabia, which is cheaper to buy and surprisingly feels even more luxurious, despite lacking an upmarket badge.
Volkswagen Polo range
The Volkswagen Polo is so well recognised it hardly needs an introduction. If you’re in the market for a Ford Fiesta, Audi A1, Peugeot 208 or Renault Clio – or any other supermini for that matter – you’re bound to have at least thought about a Polo. It’s quite often the standard that other superminis try to aim for.
The current Polo is larger and more technologically sophisticated than its predecessor. The boot is 25% bigger than before, for example, while VW’s ‘Digital Cockpit’ (a configurable digital dial cluster) is standard on all models. This latest Polo was one of the first superminis to have such technology and it certainly adds to the car’s appeal. Adaptive cruise control, a self-parking system and a panoramic sunroof are also available, bringing systems and features from the class above.
While still recognisable as a Polo and hardly a radical design departure, the current car looks distinctly different from its predecessor, calling to mind the larger, plusher Golf with its intricate headlight design and geometric rear.
A midlife update for the Polo in late 2021 introduced an array of updates. These included a sleeker exterior design, incorporating new LED headlights, an LED light bar on the front grill, new rear lights with a similar look to the latest Golf and the electric Volkswagen ID.3, and reshaped bumpers. Inside, every Polo now has the Digital Cockpit, along with extra connectivity technology including music streaming and internet capabilities.
The Polo is offered with a good selection of engines to suit most buyers. We suggest side-stepping the 79bhp 1.0-litre petrol unless cheap insurance is a priority – it feels a little underpowered and VW’s 94bhp 1.0-litre turbocharged TSI petrol is so zesty and characterful, and not much more expensive by comparison.
A 108bhp version of this engine is also offered on high-spec models, while the updated Polo GTI gets a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol producing 204bhp. Those after a diesel will now have to look elsewhere or at pre-facelift used models, while a DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox is offered as an option on the two most potent 1.0-litre TSI engines.
The Polo's mid-life update also included a revised trim level lineup. Even the basic Life trim cars comes with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and LED headlights, as well as an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen and VW’s digital cockpit dial cluster. The Style and R-Line trims share a higher list of standard equipment with sat nav, adaptive cruise control and more safety technology, while the R-Line model has some of the sporty trappings of a Polo GTI without the high insurance bills or running costs.
As an ownership prospect, expect the Polo to impress, particularly in our favourite spec: the 94bhp 1.0-litre TSI petrol with a manual gearbox in Style trim. Choosing the Style model means you get various visual upgrades and extras like two-zone climate control (which is unfortunately operated via finicky touch-sensitive sliders), Matrix LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors and the larger 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit Pro dial display.
Strong standard safety equipment helped the Polo achieve a five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating, and Volkswagen owners tend to remain very loyal to the marque. Reliability is no better than average, though, with 15.2% of VW owners who participated in our 2021 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey reporting at least one fault with their cars during the first year of ownership.