The new VW Polo: small changes make all the difference

The VW Polo doesn’t seem different, but when you drive it, the changes are obvious, particularly its engine, which is surprisingly lively compared to its wheezy 1.2l predecessor

Make: Volkswagen

Model: Polo

Year: 2014

Fuel: Petrol

Date Reviewed: June 23, 2014

Wed, Jun 25, 2014, 01:00

   

It’s very good when it comes to CO2 emissions and claimed economy. 106g/km is a figure that diesel engines once struggled to meet, and yet here is a free-revving, raspy little petrol doing its best DERV impression. Low motor tax is nice, but you’ll probably struggle to match the 5.0-litres per 100km claimed fuel consumption figure (around 55mpg). Our test wasn’t long enough to do a thorough fuel evaluation but I reckon you’ll most likely get closer to 6.0l/100km. Still not bad.

It’s in the driving that the Polo really makes its mark, though. While the understated styling and high-quality cabin have obvious appeal, it’s the way the Polo gets down the road that really endears it to us. No, it’s not as communicative as Ford’s much more enthusiastic Fiesta. It’s actually a much more relaxing drive than the Ford, with a quieter engine than Ford’s 1.0-litre EcoBoost and softer suspension. That can occasionally make the Polo feel a bit over-sprung on really bad roads, but for the rest of the time it just feels comfy, flexible and pleasant. Is the steering a bit too light for accuracy? Yes, a bit, and the gearshift doesn’t like to be rushed either, but if you plug yourself into the Polo’s style, it’s a surprisingly satisfying car to drive.

I’ve mentioned that it’s not as much fun as a Fiesta, and also loses out in the space race to the likes of the Toyota Yaris and Honda Jazz, both of which have much more rear-seat space. The Polo’s 280-litre boot is also at the lower end of the class average and might be a touch too tight for a growing family dealing with buggies and bags every day.

Lacks nth degree
There’s also the slight but noticeable sensation that the Polo just doesn’t feel quite as well engineered as a Golf. For its class, the Polo is fine excellent even, but the Golf feels like it can compete with even big premium brand cars in terms of quality, and the Polo just lacks that nth degree of quality sensation. Given VW’s stellar showing in the JD Power customer satisfaction rankings this year, though, that’s unlikely to be a serious long-term concern.

So while the Polo does still feel a touch dour and, shall we say, “vanilla” next to the more characterful look and feel of a Fiesta or a Peugeot 208, it still sends out all the right vibes of sense and sensibleness. Even squinting hard, I don’t think you’ll see that as representing any change at all.

The lowdown: VW Polo 1.0 60hp Trendline

Price: €15,595 as tested. Polo pricing starts at €14,995

Power: 60hp

Torque: 95Nm

0-100kmh: 15.5sec

Top speed: 161kmh

Claimed economy: 5.0l/100km (65mpg)

CO2 emissions: 106g/km

Motor tax: €190

Our verdict: Lacks a little in excitement, but sensible, solid and satisfying