Vehicle Reviews

Volkswagen Polo - Review Of The Week

With 14 million cars sold to date, the Volkswagen Polo model line is one of the most successful in supermini history. This MK6 version is larger than before, better equipped and more personalisable. Features like a digital instrument panel and a whole raft of camera-driven safety kit also borrow much from the class above.

The oily bits under the bonnet have come in for some attention with this sixth-generation car. Petrol options are two three-cylinder 1.0-litre MPI units with 65 or 75PS, two 1.0-litre three-cylinder TSI engines with 95 or 115PS and a 1.5-litre TSI EVO engine with cylinder deactivation (ACT), with power at 150PS. At the top of the range, there's a 200PS 2.0-litre TSI turbo unit for the GTI variant. Should you prefer to go diesel, there are now two four cylinder 1.6-litre TDI engines, with either 80 or 95PS. DSG automatic transmission is optional on TSI models. Britain doesn't get the 1.0 TGI natural gas engine offered in Europe.

More important is the news that this MK6 model is the first Volkswagen supermini to be based on the group's light, stiff, sophisticated MQB Modular Transverse Matrix chassis, the one fitted to the larger Golf hatch since 2013. That's resulted in a stiffer body that should reduce body roll, at the same time as allowing the chassis to be set up in such a way that the Polo's traditionally excellent standards of ride quality can be further improved.

Volkswagen Polo - Review Of The Week

So low key is the Polo's styling that the changes made to this MK6 model may be lost on some customers. Perhaps more obvious though, is this sixth-generation design's larger size. It's now only slightly shorter than a MK4 Golf used to be and, thanks to a longer wheelbase than that car, significantly larger inside. To be specific, this MK6 Polo is 81mm longer than its predecessor, making it now over 4m long. It's now also slightly lower in stance and 69mm wider. Volkswagen thinks that the resulting stretched silhouette is 'more masculine', you decide.

In profile, the new styling is defined by an arrow-shaped 'tornado' double line, while at the front, there's a smarter grille flanked by headlamps that can be optionally ordered with full-LED beams. Inside, the vertically-orientated dashboard of the previous model has been replaced with horizontal architecture and a higher placement for the new centre-dash infotainment screen; this monitor varies in size between 6.5 and 8-inches, depending on the variant you select. An upper cross-panel flows across the dash into the doors and can be colour-personalised to suit your taste. As an option, buyers can replace the usual dash dials with Volkswagen's 'Active Info Display' TFT virtual screen gauges.

The Volkswagen Polo formula has worked well to date, but competition in the supermini sector has ramped up not by a notch or two but by a great hulking leap thanks to the arrival of cars in this class like all-new versions of the Ford Fiesta, the Citroen C3, the SEAT Ibiza and the Kia Rio. Beating models of that kind isn't as easy for Volkswagen as it used to be. The Polo previously appealed on classy minimalism but most people these days want slick electronics and a greater feeling of design input inside their small cars. Volkswagen has responded and done so with typical thoroughness.

Little about the Polo's dynamics or efficiency really represents a best in class showing. But what makes this car so good is that it's there or thereabouts in most categories but doesn't get beaten by anyone when it comes to perceived quality. That's key. That reassuring feeling that your second-largest capital purchase is money well spent ought to guarantee this car's place at the top table.

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