VW Polo - a refreshing change

The Volkswagen Polo has grown up, writes Richard M Hammond. Traditionally the diminutive cheeky chappie in the German manufacturer's range, the supermini mainstay has had its position usurped by the even cheekier Fox.

The Volkswagen Polo has grown up, writes Richard M Hammond. Traditionally the diminutive cheeky chappie in the German manufacturer's range, the supermini mainstay has had its position usurped by the even cheekier Fox.

Although lighter than its predecessor, the fifth generation Polo has bulked up in response - 5.5cm longer and 3.2cm wider do not look like a great deal on paper, but the additional dimensions are enough to make a considerable difference to the model's visual presence. The fact that it's half a centimetre shorter than the old Polo exaggerates the effect.

But the Polo hasn't merely grown in stature; it's developed a more mature appearance as well. From a distance it can easily be mistaken for latest incarnation of the Golf.

It's not the only model in its class to have come of age recently. The Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, Seat Ibiza, Honda Jazz and Mazda have all got bigger, safer and smarter.


You may also want to watch:


A new Citroen C3 rage is imminent and the Alfa Romeo Mito has injected some luxury into the market. The Polo's shift towards a more sophisticated form is a timely one then, and backed by substance, too. Most notable of the new introductions is the latest seven-speed variant of Audi's DSG twin-clutch transmission.

Available only with the 84bhp, 1.4-litre petrol engine, the extra cog is intended to allow for a lower first gear ratio and a higher seventh gear ratio, thus improving acceleration from stand-still plus fuel economy and refinement on the motorway.

Most Read

Crucially, the seven-speed DSG unit is lighter and more compact than the six-speed unit, so there's no penalty for carrying it. Designed to work with less powerful engines such as the Polo's 1.4 petrol, the unit saves on weight as its dry clutches require a no cooling and so a miniscule proportion of the six-speed's oil. It also requires less power to activate its seamless changes, leading to combined fuel consumption of 48.7mpg.

Performance is very reasonable too, certainly seeming sprightlier than the 11.9 second zero to 62mph sprint the figures suggest. The lower ratio first gear clearly does the trick, and it's not until the Polo starts to pick up speed that the small capacity engine has to work hard.

The relatively large 16-inch alloy wheels of the range-topping SEL model are also influential. As well as looking particularly handsome, they result in a pleasantly firm ride quality that suits the model's nippy town character without detracting from the motorway ride. Agile, grippy and responsive, the Polo's chassis and steering respond well to an enthusiastic approach.

The tidy centre console of the SEL is the first in a Polo to feature the excellent multi-media and navigation interface, complete with iPod and USB inputs. Stylish cloth upholstery and a sporty three-spoke steering wheel add to the appeal, while the front seats are exceptionally comfortable and supportive. Initially available in five-door form only, it's a practical four-seater with the potential to carry three children in the rear. Boot space is very reasonable, with a large and light hatch and folding rear seats. As a young drivers' car, small family car or second car the model has all bases covered.

VOLKSWAGEN POLO SEL 1.4 DSG

Model: Volkswagen Polo SEL 1.4 seven-speed DSG, three-door �14,960; five-door �15,560.

Engine: 1.4-litre petrol unit developing 84bhp and 97lb/ft of torque.

Transmission: Seven-speed automatic transmission, driving front wheels.

Performance: Maximum speed 110mph, 0-62mph 11.9 seconds.

CO2 emissions: 135g/km.

Economy: 48.7mpg.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter