Volkswagen Polo’s appeal powered up by new engines and technology
- Credit: VW
It's what you don't see that makes the hi-tech new Volkswagen Polo stand out, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
A woman pulled alongside as I was getting into the Volkswagen Polo and asked if it was the new model. She was looking to buy one but said it didn't look any different.
I explained that, apart from a mild makeover – basically bumpers, lights and front grille – it's bits you don't see that takes the Polo forward with new, more efficient engines, more safety equipment and technology.
The previous Polo was still a good-looking supermini that sold well so if it ain't broke don't fix it.
It all makes the Polo, one of the best quality offerings in the sector, feel even more grown-up with big-car equipment and attributes.
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The new engines offers the same power from smaller capacities which means lower emissions and better economy. At launch, there are 60 and 75PS 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol units from the up! city car, a pair of 1.2-litre TSI four-cylinder turbo petrol units, rated at 90 and 110PS, a 1.4-litre TSI, which cuts from four to two cylinders under light engine loads and has a 10PS power hike to 150PS, and two new three-cylinder 1.4-litre turbo diesels with outputs of 75 and 90PS.
The 60PS 1.0-litre, which in SE trim is forecast to be the best-seller, is a willing worker given its small capacity, pulling from low engine speeds, revving freely yet quietly and feeling brisker than the figures suggest.
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It's fine for urban driving and the occasional longer journey but it you are going to be out and about on the open road more then opt for the 75PS version or, for £620 more than that, go for the 90PS 1.2-litre TSI. It's much more lively and really quite good fun to drive on twisty country roads if you keep it on the boil with the five-speed manual gearbox – a seven-speed DSG automatic is optional with the TSI turbo petrol engines.
By comparison, the diesel is lumpy with a distinctive three-cylinder throb at low revs but will suit those wanting high-mileage, high-economy motoring. The diesel I drove also had a fierce clutch so stalled readily until I was used to it.
On the equipment and technology front, the new Polo range benefits from even more safety kit with the electronic stability control now joined by:
A hill-hold function stops it rolling back when pulling away uphill and is standard across the range.
Automatic post-collision braking system as standard brakes the car after a collision to reduce kinetic engery and minimise the risk or effect of a second impact.
Adaptive cruise control with front assist and automatic city emergency which brakes to stop or slow the car under 18mph – a £500 option from SE but not with 1.0-litre engines.
Driver alert system which analyses steering and driving behaviour and warns of tiredness. It's standard on the 1.4 TSI BlueGT and a £25 option on other models.
The latest modular infotainment systems with DAB digital radio and SD card reader. The touchscreen senses when your finger is near and you swipe it as you do with smartphones. All models have Bluetooth connectivity and a USB media link and satellite navigation is a £700 option from SE.
MirrorLink, a £150 option from SE, allows certain Android smartphone apps to be displayed and controlled on the infotainment screen. Volkswagen will offer apps, for example, which mix navigation with vehicle data while others include internet radio and news services.
The Polo is still one of the best-driving superminis with well-mannered, confident handling and the lighter-engined petrol models are particularly rewarding on twisty roads. The cosseting, comfortable ride – a combination of supple suspension and sensibly-sized wheels and tyres – puts many bigger cars to shame.
This supermini will seat four adults in acceptable comfort, five at a push, with decent boot space too, especially with the variable height load floor standard on SE and above.
The cabin is well finished – if a little sombre with a lot of grey trim – with quality materials and soft-touch plastics where it matters, while the fuss-free fascia is just so user-friendly.
Offered in S, SE, SE Design, SEL and BlueGT, Volkswagen has made this popular, sought-after supermini even better – it's not so much a small car but, when it comes to the driving experience, equipment and technology, a scaled-down big car.