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The Top Gear car review:Volkswagen Polo
For:Nice looking, superbly made and with cracking engines
Against:It is a trifle expensive, not the most dynamic of superminis
1.2 TSI SE 5dr
It’s a GTI with a Bluemotion badge. We drive the Polo that reckons it can do it all
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What we say:
A comprehensive little supermini. Feels like a smaller Golf, and there's nothing wrong with that
What is it?
One of the supermini staples, bigger than an Up and smaller than a Golf, but the same workmanlike style of VW-tastic hatchness. Comes in three or five-door flavours, updated in this latest generation with sharper, more linear bumpers, slightly re-designed headlights and various bits of chrome, with an interior heavily influenced by the Golf. Not revolutionary, but also almost impossible to be offended by.
It offers a range of engines, stretching from a forthcoming Polo GTI with 192bhp, to a more prosaic 60bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder ‘S’.
This is a car that scores high averages, but doesn’t blind you with one exceptional USP. The handling is solid and safe, and in the SEL model and upwards, gets an EDL electronic locking differential that tidies up the power on greasy roundabouts. You can have fun in a Polo, but it’s not as tactile or quite as natural as the wonderful Ford Fiesta. Steering and brakes are all perfectly sorted, and the seating position spot-on. You’ll have to head towards the 110bhp 1.2-litre 4cyl engine for anything resembling amusing driving dynamics though – the smaller engines struggle a bit when you escape from town. DSG ‘boxes are brilliant, but cost extra.
On the inside
Borrowing heavily from big-brother Golf, the Polo feels pared back and slightly bare compared to some of the competition, but once you’ve spent some time in the cabin, you begin to appreciate the sober calm. The infotainment is basically a mini-version of the swipeable multi-media in the Golf, and works brilliantly.
SE trim gets the good bits like air-conditioning, remote central locking, electric rear windows (on five-door versions) and stereo controls on the steering wheel. It also gets a larger touch-screen, which is worth it (although sat nav, which some will assume it includes as standard, does cost extra). Generally, the Polo is a nice place to be, rather than one that blows your socks off.
The S with the basic engine starts at £11,250, but it’s breathless unless you’re extremely town-centric and only manages 60.1mpg – not huge in this sector these days. The BlueGT is an intriguing 150bhp GTI alternative at £17,710, which offers 60.1mpg thanks to cylinder shutdown tech (it runs as a twin under light throttle loads), though you’ll have to migrate to SE grade to get 83.1mpg from the 1.4 TDI with 75bhp. Impressive, although many will find the TSI petrol engines deliver perfectly adequate economy without the diesel’s rattle. Insurance is relatively high for the sector, but residuals are also rock-solid. Compared to some pretty talented rivals, the Polo is the best all-rounder – it might not amaze you, but it will impress.