If the Ford Fiesta is seen as the fun choice in the supermini class, it’s certainly fair to stick the refinement and comfort crowns on the Polo’s head. It boasts a supple ride for a small car, edging out its competitors with Golf-like composure. Volkswagen’s engineers have coaxed a comfortable character out of the Polo compared to the SEAT Ibiza – a car also using the MQB A0 architecture.
Unsurprisingly, it can still develop a rough edge on potholed roads or over nasty ridges in the tarmac, particularly with larger wheels fitted, but the overall the ride quality is very high, and basic models on 15-inch wheels ride very well indeed.
On A-roads and motorways, the Polo feels a much larger car than it actually is. Refined power units only assist in this regard, while wind and road noise levels are impressive, too.
The trade-off is that some rivals are more fun when the road begins to narrow and twist. The steering itself on regular versions is sharp and direct enough, but devoid of feel. It’s the same deal with the pedal box and gearshift on manual models, revealing that the Polo is focused towards being as easy and as relaxing to drive as possible, rather than on providing outright fun. There is a balance between comfort and capability, but the bias is towards the former.
It does mean that the Polo works well in town, however. The good low speed ride paired to the direct, lightweight steering means that it shouldn’t be too terrible a place to be stuck in stop-start traffic.
As standard most Polo versions are equipped with a five-speed manual gearbox, with a six-speed transmission on the most powerful variant of the 1.0-litre TSI three-cylinder unit. The basic engine is an older 1.0-litre MPI three-cylinder petrol without a turbocharger, developing 64bhp and only available on the entry level Polo S.
A sprightlier version of this engine with 74bhp also exists. The newer, turbocharged TSI 1.0-litre is available with either 94bhp or 113bhp, the latter equipped with a six-speed gearbox. These cars are available with a seven-speed DSG transmission as an optional extra.
Diesel options consist of a 1.6-litre TDI four-cylinder with two power outputs, both linked to a five-speed manual gearbox. On Beats and SE Polos, the unit develops 79bhp, while it gets a bit more power under the bonnet of the SEL car, with 94bhp on offer.
At the top end of the line-up, the new Polo GTI uses a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder motor lifted from the Golf GTI. However, power is capped at 197bhp and 320Nm of torque. The hot Polo is only available with a six-speed DSG gearbox for now, but a manual version is coming. Sports Select suspension is on the options list, serving up two-mode switchable, though not adaptive damping.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
The entry level, 64bhp, 95Nm MPI engine option can’t really overcome the sluggish performance suggested by its on-paper figures. Taking 15.5 seconds to reach 62mph, it feels a little out of its depth on motorways and dual carriageways, and you won’t want to rely on it for overtaking purposes. It’s probably a similar story with the 74bhp option, which takes 14.9 seconds to hit 62mph from standstill and is only marginally quicker, chalking up a top speed of 106mph to the 64bhp car’s 102mph official figure.
In almost every case, we’d recommend stumping up a bit more cash for one of the newer, more powerful 1.0-litre TSI units. In either 94bhp or 113bhp guise it delivers a dollop of refined performance, while the turbocharger means torque swells to 175Nm – there’s much more grunt to lean on and it’s easier to find when dropping down a gear to overtake.
It’s a peppy unit, but it’s impressively quiet at motorway speeds too. The 94bhp TSI car does 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds and tops out at 116mph. The 113bhp, six-speed car ducks under ten seconds to record 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds, with top speed clocked at 124mph.
We’d recommend leaving the seven-speed DSG automatic out of the equation, and stick with the slick and easy standard fit manuals. We haven’t sampled a diesel, though the 1.6-litre TDI offering under the bonnet is a proven unit. Diesel sales are expected to account for only a tiny fraction of Polos leaving showrooms, however.
As for the GTI, the familiar 2.0-litre motor serves up 197bhp and 320Nm of torque from just 1,500rpm, so there’s plenty of performance low down in the rev range, a competitive 6.7-second 0-62mph time and 147mph top speed. However, it does feel like it’s been reined-in so as not to step on its more powerful (and more expensive) Golf GTI sibling’s toes. In the DSG version, the step between second and third means the powertrain doesn’t feel as snappy as it might with a manual box, either.