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Driven: updated Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.

Driven: updated Volkswagen Polo
Volkswagen's evergreen B-segment hatch has just been facelifted. Can it finally step out of the Golf's shadow?

   



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Volkswagen Polo

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: neat facelift, quality interior, excellent 1.2-litre engine, refinement levels, well equipped as an SE.

Not so good: not so cheap, chassis uninvolving.

Key Facts

Model tested: Volkswagen Polo SE 1.2 TSI 90hp
Pricing: 13,580 basic; 15,315 as tested
Engine: 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
Alternatives: Ford Fiesta, SEAT Ibiza, Vauxhall Corsa
CO2 emissions: 107g/km
Combined economy: 60.1mpg
Top speed: 114mph
0-62mph: 10.8 seconds
Power: 90hp at 4,800rpm
Torque: 160Nm at 1,400- to 4,000rpm

Our view:

The Volkswagen Polo has always been overshadowed by the bigger Golf, ever since the cars arrived in 1975 and 1974 respectively. As good as successive generations of Polo have been, they've never seemed to win the same effusive praise in the B-segment as the Golf always has in the C-segment.

This is something that I personally find odd, as the Golf isn't any more entertaining a car than the Polo purely because it's larger. Both strive to offer quality, understated hatchback characteristics in their respective market sectors. And judging by this modest facelift of the 'Typ 6R' fifth-generation model, the Polo is every bit as proficient in its segment as the Golf is in the class above.

As we observed at launch in spring 2014, you need to be a huge Polo fan to spot the exterior changes Volkswagen has enacted, which amount to tweaked lights and a revised front grille. Trying not to go down the 'if it ain't broke...' route, you can see why Volkswagen has left well alone. The interior gets a few more upgrades, chief of which is a central touchscreen in all models. It is five inches in basic cars but the SE gets a 6.5-inch item as standard, to which Discover Navigation can be added for 700. Further connectivity options include standard-fit Bluetooth and USB compatibility, all to make you feel like you're driving a bigger car than you actually are.

This all works, as there are few B-segment rivals that can better the Polo's interior air of quality. There's plenty of room inside for four adults too, while it has a capacious boot. Also, if you fold the back seats down you'll be surprised how much clobber the car can carry; put it this way, a sizeable flat-pack cot-bed (in two large cardboard boxes), the accompanying mattress and seven boxed exterior lights all fitted into it.

The shining star of the car's dynamic make-up is the excellent 1.2-litre TSI engine, which has been brilliant in everything we've tried it in so far. It's tailor-made for a car that weighs just 1,107kg like the Polo, where 90hp is more than sufficient. What also makes the 1.2 TSI feel so peppy is its wide, wide torque curve, something very few small capacity blown petrols can equal. This engine, mated to a clean, precise five-speed gearbox with well-spaced ratios, means the Polo never struggles to keep up with traffic flow and can more than hold its own on fast dual carriageways and motorways. It's also well muted, sounding just off-beat enough at higher revs to be appealing without becoming harsh, and remaining whisper quiet and smooth at all other times.

However, the chassis lacks sparkle. Wolfsburg always plays it safe with its set-ups, giving cars like the Polo an excellent ride, plenty of grip, limited understeer but never any real driver involvement. The steering is a prime exponent of this dynamic caution, lacking both the weight and feel that would encourage you to press on. So while the Polo SE feels extremely grown-up and possibly every bit as capable as its big brother Golf, it still won't put a smile on your face like a Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost would.

But the car is immensely likeable nonetheless. Fitted with adaptive cruise control (500, it adds Front Assist and City Emergency Braking too) the Polo felt more than up to long motorway slogs and cross-country A-roads. Indeed, it came across as an unobtrusive and easy to live with machine, comfortable in all situations. At 15,315 for a 90hp, plain-looking hatch, it's pretty steep compared to that ridiculous bargain of the century, the Fiesta ST. On the other hand, a 140hp Fiesta Black Edition costs 15,995 and isn't anything like as plush or polished all round as the Volkswagen. And it's the Ford that is the main rival to the Polo in this class at the moment; there's less in the B-segment that can compare with Volkswagen's mature formula than there are credible rivals for the Golf in the C-segment. For that reason, we think it's finally the Polo's turn to shine.

Alternatives:

Ford Fiesta: still the more entertaining driver's car and it has a good interior, although a midlife facelift robbed it of some of its prettiness in our eyes.

SEAT Ibiza: in-house rival for the Polo has the sharp styling but its cabin can't match the Polo's, while it's not as grown-up to drive either.

Vauxhall Corsa: new version has just hit the streets and has a fantastic 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine. Far better than its predecessor.


Matt Robinson - 18 Nov 2014



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2014 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.2014 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.2014 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.2014 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.2014 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.

2014 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.2014 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.2014 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.2014 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.2014 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.



2014 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2014 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2014 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2014 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2014 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2014 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2014 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2014 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.
 

2014 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.
 






 

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