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In-depth reviews

Volkswagen Polo review – an iconic supermini

“Spacious, handsome and good to drive, with sophisticated equipment and options, the Volkswagen Polo impresses”

Carbuyer Rating

4.2 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.0 out of 5

Read owner reviews
Price
£20,975 - £27,475

Pros

  • Spacious
  • Sophisticated options
  • Strong driving experience

Cons

  • Steering lacks feel
  • No three-door model
  • Expensive to buy

Verdict – 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 models, specs and alternatives

The Volkswagen Polo is one of the most well-recognised superminis still on sale. While some of its rivals like the Ford Fiesta have since bowed out of the small car market, the Polo lives on while offering an arguably more premium package than that car ever did. The Polo nameplate has been around for almost 50 years, and now in its sixth generation, it’s larger and more technologically advanced than ever.

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The latest Volkswagen Polo underwent a facelift in 2021 that brought a tweaked exterior design with new LED headlights with a front LED lightbar, rear lights more closely resembling those of the Volkswagen Golf and a digital gauge cluster as standard.

The best small cars and superminis 2023Top 10 best small cars and superminis 2024

For this generation, Volkswagen honed in on practicality and equipment. The Polo’s 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.

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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.

The Volkswagen Polo is offered with a few petrol engines that are small in size and economical. We recommend avoiding the standard entry-level 1.0-litre petrol with 79bhp unless cheap insurance is your main priority, because it feels sluggish and underpowered. Spring for the 1.0-litre TSI with turbocharging and a punchier 94bhp – it offers much more adequate performance for just a slightly higher asking price. There’s another version of this same engine with 113bhp as well as the Polo GTI hot hatch with 204bhp for fun and everyday usability.

The Volkswagen Polo comes in five standard trims called Life, Match, Style, R-Line and Black Edition. There’s also the GTI hot hatch and its special commemorative GTI Edition 25. The Polo is well equipped as standard, with Life getting autonomous emergency braking, LED headlights, an eight-inch infotainment screen and digital gauge cluster. Match and Style models add a higher degree of equipment, while R-Line and Black Edition get a sporty look reminiscent of the GTI’s, albeit without the higher-powered engine.

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 26% of VW owners who participated in our 2023 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey reporting at least one fault with their cars during the first year of ownership.

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Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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