Volkswagen Polo Review: Everything You Should Know About Volkswagen’s Cheapest Hatchback

Date Posted 22nd July 2021
Read Time 8 min read
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If you’re looking for something practical, economical, easy-to-drive and backed by world-famous build quality, the Volkswagen Polo could be the car for you. 

Here’s everything you need to know about VW’s supermini.

General overview

Since it launched in the mid-1970s, the Volkswagen Polo has built its name up as the simple supermini of choice. It’s hard trying to live up to the standards of a famous big brother, like the Golf, but this little, but solidly-built car has made its mark over the years.

Fast-forward to the current day and Volkswagen is now a premium supermini in this space, competing against the likes of Renault Clio and Ford Fiesta. In over four decades of continuous production, over 18 million Volkswagen Polos have been sold around the globe, making it, without question, one of the most popular cars of all time.

With its roomy interior, smooth drive and sophisticated technology, it’s easy to see why this small car has made a big mark.

Instantly recognisable, there’s a solid list of specification choices also available. It’s one of the few hatchbacks on the market which can be modified pretty endlessly it would seem. From headlamps to taillamps, power-systems to alloys, if you like to customise your ride, the Polo can oblige.

This is a neat little car that gets bigger every year in stature and remains a huge success for Volkswagen even over 40 years later. So let’s take a closer look at why.

Design and styling

There’s no denying that the Polo is a good looking car. Now well into its sixth generation, it has kept its characteristic boxiness, and instead of changing a successful recipe, Volkswagen has subtly redesigned it with sleek feature lines on the bonnet.

The Polo has grown up and, as is to be expected as you get older, has grown slightly taller. The wheelbase has also been lengthened and the car looks overall sleeker and fitter than ever.

LED headlights now come as standard with matrix LEDs also available as an option. Much like some of the rest of the VW family, the Polo also now sports a horizontal LED light strip along the radiator grille.

Importantly, and something that continues to set the Polo apart from its competitors, is that VW has retained its simple design and seamless flow. The latest Polo boasts the company’s new signage on the boot lid, with the iconic VW logo and Polo lettering on the underside.

In 2020, the Polo Match replaced the SE trim with 15-inch Seyene alloy wheels, redesigned fog lights and rear tinted windows. 

If you’re looking for something sportier, though, VW also has that covered. Move up to SEL or R-Line and you encounter a sleeker trim. Opt for 17-inch Pamplona Dark Adamantium wheels, distinguished R-Line bumpers and dynamic chrome-look integrated exhaust panels, and you’ve got yourself a real supermini. 

MPG, running costs & environmental impact

While the Polo may cost a smidgen more than its competitors, it may surprise you how economical it is. 

As the Polo has switched from diesel power to solely petrol, either of the 1.0-litre units are economical.

While the entry-level 1.0-litre non-turbocharged engine returns up to 51.1mpg, the 94bhp and 108bhp 1.0-litre turbocharged TSI bumps it up a little to 53.3mpg. 

Although that’s with a manual box. If you’d rather the seven-speed automatic, fuel economy will drop ever so slightly to 49.6mpg. 

While not harsh on your finances, the Polo also gets good marks when it comes to being gentle on the environment too. 

Low CO2 emissions start from 120g/km, meaning it’s a good bet for company car drivers and there won’t be any huge road tax bills to worry about either. 

Engines, drive & performance

Superminis have a lot to live up to. Expected to be fun to drive on twisty lanes, but mature and powerful enough to tackle motorways and long-distance driving. Not many of them can manage both. The Polo, however, doesn’t just manage – it shines.

Comfortable and fun to drive, thanks to a refined suspension, it tackles roads with an ease that would be mistaken for a much larger, more expensive car. While youthful and engaging to drive around inner-city areas, it’s a refined, quieter drive on the motorway. For pure handling, it’s a winner.

While you can’t get hold of the Polo with a diesel engine anymore, you still have a few options to choose from. All are three-cylinder, 1,0-litre petrol powertrains starting off with 79bhp, which sits below two 1.0-litre three-cylinder TSI engines with 94bhp and 108bhp. The TSI models are also available with 7-speed DSG automatic transmission. 

For those with longer commutes or who like to follow the call of the open road, the turbocharged petrol engines offer enough power – the 94bhp reaching 62mph in 10.8 seconds and the 108bhp shaving off over a second at 9.5 seconds. 

Interior

For a supermini, the Polo is super spacious. Nestled somewhere in between the VW Up! and the Golf, even the entry-level model commands the premium that the German company is renowned for.

The Polo’s interior is built for you to enjoy your time behind the wheel. It offers enough seat and steering wheel adjustment to get comfortable, and there’s ample legroom for anyone. Thanks to its big, square windows all around, it feels light and spacious.

One aspect that leaves all other cars in its class behind is the impressive amount of tech for a supermini. All Polos come with an eight-inch touchscreen with DAB radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Another standard feature is access to the Volkswagen Connect app, from which you can remotely check your car’s fuel level or call for assistance if you ever need it. 

As to be expected, quality is generally high with a minimalist feel. And the further up the levels you go, the plusher the interior gets. 

Practicality & boot space

As spacious as the Polo is, it’s still a hatchback, so if you’re looking for a car that suits a large family, it can’t accommodate. 

However, it does still set the standard for small cars with the amount of head and leg space it provides – even for the taller passenger.

It’s also a wider car, so can comfortably seat a couple of passengers in the rear without it feeling claustrophobic. 

Although, while it can still accommodate three in the back comfortably, it might be a little bit of a squeeze for longer journeys.

The interior is dotted around with practical storage areas, such as bottle holders in each door – both at the front and in the rear.

As expected with a hatchback, all Polo models have split-folding rear seats to give more space. And that’s if you need it, because this supermini has a truly roomy boot at 280-litre capacity, expanding to 351-litres with the rear seats put back. 

Reliability & safety

The VW Polo offers a comprehensive safety suite, headlined by its autonomous braking system (AEB) that has inbuilt pedestrian detection and driver attention alert. 

Another welcome addition is the centre airbag that’s located on the side of the rear seat backrest. In the event of an accident, this opens towards the centre, protecting both driver and passenger. 

Tick the optional safety upgrade option to benefit from other safety features such as blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and Park Assist self-parking system. 

Whether you upgrade or not, you can feel reassured, as the Polo was awarded a five-star safety rating by Euro NCAP after independent crash testing. 

Match

  • 15-inch alloy wheels 
  • Leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel
  • App-Connect
  • Multifunction Colour ‘Plus’ display
  • Parking sensors, front and rear
  • Front fog lights with static cornering function
  • Rear tinted glass

United

  • 15-inch alloy wheels
  • Voice activation
  • Heated front seats
  • Cruise control including speed limiter
  • Automatic coming/leaving home lighting function and daytime running lights
  • Discover Media Navigation with internet accessibility

Active

  • 15-inch alloy wheels
  • Electrically heated and adjustable door mirrors
  • Ambient lighting
  • Heated front seats
  • Climate control
  • Stainless steel pedals
  • Discover Media Navigation with internet accessibility

Beats

  • 16-inch alloy wheels
  • Door sill protectors with special trim design
  • Rear tinted glass 
  • ‘beats’ audio
  • Trim decals
  • Electric windows front and rear
  • Multifunction Colour ‘Plus’ display
  • Discover Media Navigation with internet accessibility

SEL

  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Preparation for “We Connect” and “We Connect Plus”
  • Front fog lights with static cornering function
  • Climate control
  • Rain sensor
  • Parking sensors, front and rear
  • Reading lights, front and rear 
  • Discover Media Navigation with internet accessibility

R-Line

  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Rear lights incorporating LED technology
  • Rear tinted glass 
  • Air conditioning
  • Electrically heated and adjustable door mirrors, foldable with lowering front passenger function
  • Radio “Ready 2 Discover” including streaming and internet

Cost & deals

The Volkswagen Polo is one of the priciest in its class, but in this instance, you pay for what you get. Even the basic entry models come with a lot of kit for your money.

For new and experienced drivers alike, the Polo is a compelling option when it comes to insurance too – particularly from its two lower output options. The 1.0-litre 79bhp engine is actually one of the cheapest cars to insure sitting in group one.

Polos are also renowned for holding their value well, too, so if and when it comes to resale, they fare much better than their competitors. 

This can make them a good car to consider on a lease deal too for lower monthly payments.

Polo Advantages

  • Build quality
  • Good to drive
  • High on tech
  • Rates well on safety

Polo Disadvantages

  • Pricier than competitors
  • Underwhelming entry-level petrol

Advantages of the Volkswagen Polo

  • Build quality
  • Good to drive
  • High on tech
  • Rates well on safety

Disadvantages of the Volkswagen Polo

  • Pricier than competitors
  • Underwhelming entry-level petrol