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First drive: 2018 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.

First drive: 2018 Volkswagen Polo
The MkVI Volkswagen Polo is here and it's bigger than ever; classier, too.

   



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2018 Volkswagen Polo

4 4 4 4 4

The new Volkswagen Polo MkVI: it's proficient, it's urbane, it's bigger and better and a bit bolder than before - come on, were you really expecting anything else? One of the B-segment's heavy hitters has just come out swinging, with the Ford Fiesta and closely-related SEAT Ibiza rivals firmly in its sights as it battles for class honours.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI DSG
Pricing: tbc; expected to start from around 13,000
Engine: 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, seven-speed DSG auto
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 105g/km (VED 140 annually)
Combined economy: 61.4mpg
Top speed: 116mph
0-62mph: 10.8 seconds
Power: 95hp at 5,000- to 5,500rpm
Torque: 175Nm at 2,000- to 3,500rpm

What's this?

An example of the B-segment's leading lights, this is the all-new Volkswagen Polo, evolving into its sixth generation more than 40 years after it first launched. It's done the standard modern car thing and gone and got bigger, growing 81mm overall in length and gaining another 92mm in the wheelbase, culminating in a hatchback that has more legroom for the rear-seat passengers and more headroom for everyone (14mm in the front and 21mm in the rear - good news as the 2018 Polo is 7mm lower overall than the MkV), while the clever Wolfsburg engineers have managed to cram another 71 litres of storage space into a sizeable boot that now can hold 351 litres of luggage.

That's the practical stuff; on the aesthetic front, the MkVI looks like the old Polo has bred with the current Golf. Certain aspects of the car are trademark Polo, like the smooth light clusters at the back and the dropped number plate in the rear bumper, while others could be some sort of special version of the Golf 7.5 - specifically that front end, with the broad grille segueing neatly into the slim headlights. Further details of the Polo are strong, clear lines on its flanks and bonnet, and overall, we think it's a fine-looking contrivance, if not the most exciting thing to behold. It's also one of those cars that needs to be in a higher specification to look really 'money', as the smaller wheels of the simpler versions do its bulkier lines no favours.

Slipping into the interior, here it's the usual Volkswagen tale in which it feels a significant cut above the others in the segment, new and improved Ford Fiesta and SEAT Ibiza included. The vertical centre stack of the MkV has been replaced by a wide fascia that focuses on the horizontal, to which end there's a high-resolution, eight-inch touchscreen for the infotainment on every UK model (in Germany, base models get a 6.5-inch display, so this is a plus for us Brits). It makes for a lovely focal point in a cabin that is also enlivened by 'dashpads', fillets of trim that can be painted one of eight colours, to go with the 14 body finishes and the 11 options for your seat trim, leading to plenty of personalisation choice and a splash of interest in an otherwise conservative cockpit. Go for the Beats trim and the gaudy red-and-white dash combination, used on other Beats VWs, comes into play.

Aside from the individual choices, though, this is a first-rate interior - with one exception. The plastic used on the door cards is brittle to the touch and, if you press the moulding lower down near the door handle, the whole thing flexes. It also leads to an uncomfortable juxtaposition of Volkswagen premium-ness and the wider group component-sharing cost-cutting at the base of the A-pillar, as the plush, soft-touch dash-top nestles up to the scratchy door card. Most odd, and most unlike the German company to put such a cut-price material in so prominent a position. Other than that, it's full marks for the Polo: superb driving position, wonderful haptics for the main switchgear and controls, fine visibility out in all directions and a wealth of toys on the upper models, including the possibility of having Adaptive Cruise Control, variable dampers and the lovely Active Info Display digital instrument cluster.

What we can't say is how much all this will cost, although Volkswagens are never what you would call conspicuous bargains. Order books open in October and first cars should be delivered in January 2018, so Volkswagen UK will not yet confirm exact prices or specifications. It's likely we'll get S, SE, SEL, Beats and R-Line trim lines, while the 200hp GTI is already confirmed for mid-2018. Engines are a host of three-cylinder petrol units, the non-turbo MPIs offering weedy outputs of 65- or 75hp, while the forced induction TSIs have healthier 95- and 115hp figures. There's a 1.6-litre TDI, with 80- or 95hp, and then the 1.5-litre Evo with 150hp and cylinder-on-demand capability. In all likelihood, the UK won't even bother offering the MPI cars and the diesels really aren't necessary on superminis like this, so the 95hp TSI in SE trim and with a manual transmission is expected to be the sweet spot in terms of sales. Prices should start at 13,000, comparable with the Ibiza, Fiesta and the Nissan Micra, but the SE TSI will be more like 15,500 without options and, spec-for-spec, it's probably going to have a solid premium over and above a comparable Ibiza, which is mechanically identical.

How does it drive?

The car we tested most at launch, a Polo 1.0 TSI 95hp DSG, gets the job done, with the minimum of fuss and histrionics. Same old, same old from Volkswagen, then, especially with this particular model, but this is by no means attempting to damn the 2018 version with faint praise. The MQB A0 chassis is a sound basis for dynamics and the Polo, in this instance equipped with the adjustable dampers, proved very capable. There's a nice, keen front axle, controlled by steering that's surprisingly communicative and pleasingly precise, with the minimum of understeer, a resolutely tied-down rear end and strong body control for a car of this class.

It's better to drive quicker than the preceding Polos as a result, but it's still not quite as vivacious as the latest Ibiza and Fiesta competitors, even though the Ford has lost some of its ultimate driving sparkle in its own transition to the MkVII. Nevertheless, there's enough here to make us look forward to the GTI hot hatch Volkswagen and the Polo 1.0 95hp is more than capable of maintaining lots of speed in the corners - which is good, because this engine is about as low as you want to go on power for the big Polo. Volkswagen might say it is lighter than the old car, but a 1,180kg kerb weight as tested is not impressive for something with such a small displacement motor up front and 95hp now feels like it is struggling to shift the hatchback's hefty frame.

Push the throttle all the way down and the noise rises considerably as the DSG kicks down - the otherwise charismatic TSI even becomes a trifle coarse beyond 5,000rpm - but the acceleration doesn't match the soundtrack. We're couching this in terms of mid-level, B-segment engines, too; it's not like we're expecting 0-62mph in seven seconds from the Polo TSI. But it does feel a little lethargic with this motor, which means we'd advocate stepping up to the 115hp model instead. Oh, and avoid the 1.6 TDI - a drive in a manual 80hp version of the diesel proved that its superior torque level was not enough to counteract generally glacial performance.

No matter, though - because the Polo's party trick remains its impeccable refinement. Slot those dampers into soft mode (we're guessing the passively sprung cars will be similar in set-up to this) and the Volkswagen oozes along even the worst road surfaces; this, even though the car we drove was on large 215/45 R17 tyres. Below 4,000rpm you simply don't register the engine's activity, while both wind and tyre noise are suppressed exquisitely well. Light, superbly judged controls also make placing the Polo on the road a cinch and it excels whether it's bobbling about town or cruising along an open road at a steady 50mph. Driven in this eminently more sensible (and realistic) fashion, the new Polo is a magnificent machine.

Verdict

You know exactly what you're going to get with a Volkswagen Polo - presumably why they're so popular, as 14 million of the things have been sold globally out of VW's total production of 150 million cars. Sturdy, safe, dependable, composed and accomplished in almost all disciplines, it's the familiar Polo fare, but just that little bit tastier than before, thanks to a more engaging chassis, an improved interior and the charismatic three-cylinder drivetrain for the latest generation.

It won't be particularly cheap once UK prices are announced, it won't ever drive in quite the same spirited fashion as a Ford Fiesta or a SEAT Ibiza, and it won't ever stop traffic at 50 paces with its arresting bodywork, but there's no doubt the brilliant Volkswagen Polo is up there challenging at the top of the B-segment, in its rightful place. It should be on the 'best superminis' shortlist of anyone even remotely sane, no questions asked, and it's obvious the MkVI will fly out of showrooms in just the same manner its predecessors have.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 1 Sep 2017



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2018 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.2018 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.2018 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.2018 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.2018 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.

2018 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.2018 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.2018 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.2018 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.2018 Volkswagen Polo. Image by Volkswagen.








 

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