Volkswagen's supermini tested on Irish roads
Pros: Frugal petrol engine, well equipped, comfortable drive
Cons: Underpowered, 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 for 2018 with revised styling to bring it in line with the rest of Volkswagen’s range, more space for passengers inside and slick new optional tech, so it is more grown-up than before. Although the Polo is undoubtedly one of the most popular superminis on the market, it has increasing competition from the likes of the new Nissan Micra and Ford Fiesta. We spent a week driving the new Polo on Irish roads following its official Irish launch to see how it has changed.
What is it like?
A question that popped up frequently during our test 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 much more grown-up looking from the outside with a new 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 when you step inside, thanks to a longer wheelbase and an updated dashboard design. We had 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 right now. In fact, the new Polo has more boot space than you will find in a Ford Focus!
The Polo trumps most of its supermini rivals in terms of interior quality. We love the new glass-faced eight-inch touch screen display which is standard from Comfortline specification upwards, and it’s a joy to use with seamless connectivity to smartphones. The system offers a host of functionality including voice and app connect, which will appeal to the tech lovers. Volkswagen’s Active Info Display is also available as an optional extra, adding a slick 10.25-inch digital driver’s display, but it is a pricy addition.
There’s an engine to suit every occasion with three petrol options, two diesels and of course the performance-orientated GTI engine. We drove the least powerful engine in the range, the three cylinder 1.0-litre MPI petrol with 65 horsepower. It’s far from thrilling to drive, with drawn out 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 driving.
The 1.0-litre MPI engine is incredibly economical however and well-suited to urban driving, while it’s also refined once up to speed. We managed 5.5l/100km in economy during a week of much varied driving, while 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 Volkswagen 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 16-inch alloy wheels on 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 make the options list.
Prices for the new Volkswagen Polo start from €16,795 in base specification Trendline trim, which is like 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 dominance in the supermini segment looks set to continue 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 amongst 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 and would instead opt for the turbocharged 1.0-litre TSI. We were impressed by the Polo’s all-rounding capabilities however and find it is increasingly bridging the gap.
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