Can the updated Polo lead the way in its class?
Pros: Grown-up looks, slick infotainment, practicality
Cons: Expensive in high specification, rivals more fun to drive
The new Volkswagen Polo may be a supermini, but it isn’t ‘mini’ in the true sense of the word. The Polo has been significantly updated with revised styling in keeping with Volkswagen’s latest models, more space inside and slick new optional technology too, so it is has definitely grown-up for 2018. Although the Polo is undoubtedly one of the most popular superminis on the market, it has considerable competition in the new Nissan Micra and Ford Fiesta. We spent a week driving the Polo after its official Irish launch to see how it has changed.
What is it like?
A question that popped up frequently during our time with the new Polo was “is that a Volkswagen Golf?”. The new Polo is 81mm longer with chunkier exterior styling too, so it is now the same size as a third generation Golf. It is more grown-up looking from the outside with a redesigned grille and pronounced side lines, and we drove the mid-range Comfortline model with optional 16-inch alloy wheels, extra chrome detailing and body-coloured bumpers. A range-topping Polo GTI model is also available for those seeking sportier looks and performance alike.
The new Polo feels more spacious than before inside, thanks to a longer wheelbase and an updated dashboard design. We ferried four adults in the Polo at the official launch and it coped very well with the task. The seats are supportive and comfortable, with a reasonable range of adjustment available from the driver’s seat. Boot space has increased to 351 litres, which means it is among the most practical supermini cars on the market. In fact, the new Polo has more boot space than what you will find in a Ford Focus Hatchback.
The Polo trumps most of its supermini rivals when it comes to interior quality. We love the new glass-faced eight-inch touch screen display which is standard on Comfortline models, and it’s a joy to use with seamless smartphone connectivity. The system offers a host of functionality including voice and app connect, which will appeal to tech savvy drivers. Volkswagen’s Active Info Display is also available as an option, adding a slick 10.25-inch digital driver’s display behind the steering wheel with vivid displays, but it is a pricy extra.
There’s an engine option to suit every occasion in the new Polo, with three petrol options, two diesels and of course the performance-orientated GTI. We drove the least powerful Polo in the range, the three cylinder 1.0-litre MPI petrol with 65 horsepower. It’s far from thrilling to drive, with sluggish acceleration (0-100km/h in 15.5 seconds) and slow power build-up which leaves a lot to be desired at motorway speeds. We’d opt for turbocharged 1.0-litre TSI petrol with 95 horsepower instead, as it’s much livelier and better-suited to longer distance drives.
The 1.0-litre MPI engine is incredibly economical however and well-suited to urban driving, while it’s also pretty refined once up to speed. We managed 5.5l/100km in economy during a week of varied driving and annual motor tax is listed at €190. The standard five-speed manual gearbox is precise, but there is a choice of DSG automatic transmission on higher power petrol and diesel options in the range.
The Polo is based on the firm’s new MQB AO platform, so it is more assured out on the road. It isn’t as fun to drive as the new Ford Fiesta, but we’ll forgive this as ride quality excellent and comfort is king. We found it to be suitably comfortable on Ireland’s regional roads, even with the optional16-inch alloy wheels fitted to our test car. Volkswagen claims the Polo sets new standards in its class for safety, and features such as front parking assist, a blind spot monitor and automatic post collision braking now on the options list.
Prices for the new Volkswagen Polo start from €16,795 in base Trendline trim, which is in the same ball park as the base Ford Fiesta and Opel Corsa. Standard equipment includes front and rear electric windows, electric mirrors, forward collision warning, Volkswagen connect, Hill Start Assist and various other safety features. The step up to Comfortline specification is a worthy one, as it adds a multifunction steering wheel, 15-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, cruise control and most importantly, the superb eight-inch touch screen infotainment screen.
Carzone verdict: 3.5/5
The Volkswagen Polo’s popularity will likely flourish with the arrival of the newly-updated 2018 model. The new Polo feels like the grown-up option in its class, with improved space and practicality, class-leading interior quality and slick new optional technology among its key strengths. It isn’t as fun to drive as the best-selling Ford Fiesta however, and while the 1.0-litre MPI Petrol engine is undoubtedly a frugal choice, we found it to be underpowered. Go for the turbocharged 1.0-litre TSI instead. We were impressed by the Polo’s all-rounding capabilities however.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: Volkswagen Polo Comfortline
Prices from: €16,795
Annual Road Tax: €190
Engine: 999cc three-cylinder petrol
Top Speed: 164km/h
0-100km/h: 15.5 seconds
Transmission: Five speed manual
Body style: Hatchback
Boot Space: 351 litres