The VW Polo has had a facelift… or we’re led to believe it has, because the differences are so tiny that even VW employees were struggling to explain the alterations to us. Apparently, the front bumper has been tweaked, and so has the rear.
Anyway, there’s bigger news under the skin, where we find some new engines: a 1.0-litre petrol (with either 59bhp or 74bhp) to replace the old 1.2; and a 1.4 TDI to replace the old 1.6 and 1.2. The bigger sellers will be the petrols, but those meagre power outputs are combined with an equally pitiful 71lb ft of torque – there are no turbos to boost the power here – and so it’s safe to say the Polo isn’t swift: 0–62mph in 15.5secs for the lesser one, with sluggish in-gear ‘punch’. The engine has been borrowed from the smaller Up city car, and, in 59bhp form at least, it struggles to haul the tubbier Polo along. Long uphill stretches on a motorway are a rev-the-nuts-off- it-in-third experience, and don’t even think about overtaking anything feistier than an asthmatic donkey.
But, pay just £525 more, and you get the 74bhp version. And while it’s still hardly rapid – 0–62mph in 14.3 seconds – it feels much quicker and motorway hills aren’t such a struggle. You’d get away with fourth. In fact, motorway journeys full stop aren’t a chore (assuming you’re not in a hurry), because the 3cyl engine is so refined at speed.
Fuel economy figures are improved over the old 1.2, so that even the slightly thirstier 74bhp version manages 58.9mpg and 108g/km CO2. That’s 13 per cent better than the discontinued engine, for a 5bhp increase in power.
Elsewhere, VW has fitted a larger gen-2 touchscreen that comes with MirrorLink. Only working with Android phones at the moment, the car’s touchscreen mirrors your smartphone’s, even to the point of swipe controls, so you can use the car to control apps on the move. However, there are still legal boundaries – no Netflix on your M25 commute. It works well, but it doesn’t feel like the future yet – more like an early adopter set-up.
Still, it’s fresh tech in a car that has always hovered at the conservative end of the market. Do any of the alterations transform the Polo? No, but it’s an efficient, refined and well-built car. If that’s what you need from your supermini, you won’t go wrong.
999cc, 3cyl petrol, FWD, 74bhp, 71lb ft 58.9mpg, 108g/km CO2 0–62mph in 14.3secs, 107mph 1055kg £13,590