Since 1975, when the first-generation Volkswagen Polo was born, the German company’s flagship supermini has gone on to rack up numerous awards, along with over 18 million sales across the globe.
It is, without a doubt, one of the most popular models of all time, and certainly up there in the top three of its class.
Now, well into its sixth generation, the Polo has adapted and evolved over the years to really be the ‘people’s car’. Bigger than ever with five different trims to pick from, and plenty of tech and safety features to keep your journeys comfortable.
But even if you’ve decided that the Volkswagen Polo is the car for you, there are still some choices to be made. So, to make life easier, we’ve looked at the Polo one by one to help you with your decision.
The term ‘entry-level’ doesn’t really scream excitement when it comes to cars. They’re economical at best and some would say, well, basic. Except the Polo Match is much more.
Spacious and impressively equipped for the most affordable trim in the range, the Match has all the iconic features of the Polo with a few style and comfort touches to boot.
On the outside, all the familiar Polo hallmarks are visible. It’s a well-made supermini, standing on 15-inch alloy wheels with chromed grille trim and glossy back door pillars.
Inside you’re greeted by an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, aircon, rear parking sensors and DAB radio. There are also nice-to-have touches throughout, such as electrically heated and adjustable door mirrors and rear tinted windows.
Performance-wise, you get the pick of three engine and gearbox configurations, all based on the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol unit. The entry-level 79bhp engine only has the option of a five-speed manual gearbox, while the next engine up – the more powerful 94bhp turbocharged variant – has the option of either a five-speed manual or seven-speed DSG transmission. Both deliver a good mix of performance and low fuel consumption.
All Polo trims boast a fair amount of space and the Match is no exception. Adjustable seats can be adapted for any driver and there’s plenty of room in the back too.
Kickstarting the range, the Match is good to drive, comfortable and spacious, well-priced and cheap to run, with some good tech thrown in too. Add the usual Volkswagen virtues of great build and reliability, and it’s really quite hard to fault.
The next trim level up, the Polo United is only a touch more expensive than the Match. And it ‘ much like the Match, but with a little extra swagger.
The Polo United comes with 15-inch Dublin wheels – black with a burnished finish, giving it a slightly more serious look. It’s also adorned with exclusive United badging both inside and out.
There are touches of sportiness dotted around too, with striking stainless-steel pedals and unique grey and blue seat upholstery and trim inlays. It feels a touch more classy than the Match.
As standard, the interior also sports an eight-inch touchscreen. However, Volkswagen has added voice control to this trim, along with a ‘Winter Pack’ – heated front seats and a warning when you’re running low on screenwash.
With United, you also benefit from Discover Navigation touchscreen infotainment, automatic headlights and wipers, as well as an auto-dim rearview mirror.
As with the Match, you have two 1.0-litre petrol engines available with five-speed manual gearboxes, and the option of seven-speed in the more powerful engine.
As the name suggests, Polo Beats is all about the music. Volkswagen partnered with Beats Audio, Dr Dre’s headphone and speaker brand, to bring a high-performance audio system to its supermini.
Perhaps geared more towards a younger audience, the Polo Beats has a sharper look sat on 16-inch ‘Torsby’ alloy wheels. Think urban design, with dual colour options of deep black pearl effect, white silver metallic and velvet red highlights against colour-coordinated seatbelts. All of which you can see from the high-end sports seats in the front.
It’s probably not for the conservative, with a total of six high-performanced speakers mounted in the cabin, including subwoofers. You’ll also be greeted by the Beats screen when you start the car.
Like its counterparts, Polo Beats is a quiet drive which makes its 300-watt, amplified sound system all the better.
As with the other Polo trims, this version features Volkswagen’s glass-fronted 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems, as well as all the kit you’d get with the United.
All sound, no substance? Well, not really. If you want a spacious runaround with great build quality and decent tech, but something that’s on the sportier side, the Polo Beats could definitely be one to consider.
This mid-range trim is a relative newcomer to the Polo family. Designed to ‘inject further value and style’ into the Polo, there are a few very subtle styling and equipment upgrades.
The Active trim features VW’s 15-inch Galway alloy wheel design, as well as bespoke Active badging that runs throughout the interior and is peppered on the exterior too. There’s even logo light projection from beneath the door mirrors.
With Active-branded cloth upholstery, the interior is bathed in ambient lighting. It also comes with heated seats and climate control for ultimate comfort.
In a similar setup to the United, the Active sports an eight-inch touchscreen with voice control and full Winter Pack. And much like the United, the Active is available with a choice of the 78bhp and turbocharged 93bhp 1.0-litre petrol engines.
We’re almost at the top of the range, but just before comes the SEL. It’s one of the most luxurious trims with large 16-inch alloy wheels, a black grille with chrome surround and a chrome-trimmed strip on the lower bumper. It’s a Polo, but with a dash more sophistication.
This trim is fitted out with the more powerful of the 1.0-litre TSI engines available at 109bhp, with 6 or 7-speed DSG automatic transmission. It can reach 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds with a top speed of 121mph, so it’s a far more energetic driving experience.
Inside, it’s a stylish and relaxed affair, with ambient lighting in the front footwell and lighting strips along the front doors and dashboard.
Mirroring the Polo Beats, you’ll find the front sports seats are height adjusted, while there’s the addition of the Discovery Navigation system and Volkswagen Media that allows you to control the infotainment system through your smartphone.
Further additions include extra storage with a compartment in the front centre armrest, speed limit display, climate control, rain sensor windscreen wipers, parking sensors at the front and rear, plus an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Finally comes the R-Line, the Polo with its sporty styling and sleek appearance, but still with Polo’s practicality and affordable running costs.
Showcasing 16-inch ‘Sebring’ Galvano Grey alloy wheels, the R-Line has unique badging throughout. Gloss black detailing, specially designed front and rear bumpers, R-Line sill plates, branded sports seats – it all goes to creating an easily distinguishable look.
Every version also is equipped with all the standard tech, air-con and front and rear parking sensors.
Which Polo is right for me?
Deciding which VW Polo is right for you comes down to your needs, personal preference and circumstances.
If you’re looking for basic driving with a level of comfort and practicality, the Match is a well-priced car that has good running costs and a reasonable amount of tech to keep you entertained.
If you want to ramp the fun up a notch, something like Polo Beats could be perfect, while still not tugging the purse strings too badly.
If you prefer a sportier, sleeker trim, either the SEL or the R-Line could be your perfect choice.
Still unsure whether the Polo is right for you?
Why not find out how the Polo rates against its big brother, the VW Golf.
Or, check out how it ranks against its competitors with our comprehensive comparison guide.