Quiet, roomy, comfortable, impressively equipped as standard
Interior quality lacking in parts, not as fun to drive as some rivals
What is it?
It’s the third best-selling car of 2021 in the UK, just shy of its bigger brother, the VW Golf, but some way behind its arch rival, the Ford Fiesta. Still, the chase is on, which is why Volkswagen has recently revealed a mid-life facelift with a fresh look, new trim levels and “big car” tech. Ooh, fancy.
But it’s also a hugely important car to the Volkswagen Group. First introduced to the UK in 1975 and now in its sixth generation, over 18 million have been produced globally, while roughly every one in six VWs sold in the UK in 2020 was a Polo. This car – the current iteration having been with us since 2017 – matters.
Go on then, what’s new?
Well, it looks a little more Golf-y now, truth be told. There’s a new front light strip, LED daytime running lights and headlights as standard, plus optionally available adaptive matrix technology. Round the back the Polo lettering has been shifted centrally under the VW badge, and there are new-shape taillights.
Looks pretty smart though, wouldn’t you say? It’s available in three trim levels, and, like the Golf (and other VW stablemates), follows a simple Y-shape structure. Kicking things off is the Polo Life (expected to account for around 75 per cent of Polo sales), which starts at £17,885, before moving up into a two-pronged structure of comfort-oriented Style and sportily designed R-Line specifications, both priced from £20,785 OTR. The high-performance Polo GTi, meanwhile, will set you back from £26,430.
Please tell us it hasn’t nicked the Mk8 Golf’s infotainment set-up, too…
Good and bad news here. The updated Polo gets VW’s latest infotainment system with either 8.0-inch or optional 9.2-inch touchscreen, complete with touch sensitive buttons and knobs either side to control the volume and map zoom. The graphics are good, the touchscreen is responsive and it’s easy to navigate your way around, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported as standard.
The climate controls are also entirely separate, sitting lower down the dash. Hurrah! But… while this consists of easy-to-use buttons and knobs in Life trim, in the upper two trim levels it’s replaced by a – you guessed it – touch button panel instead. ARGH. It’s unintuitive, frustrating to use, and worse than the ‘lesser’ system. Said panel (with auto aircon) is optionally available to Life buyers, but best avoided.
Still, it’s otherwise pleasing enough inside. Even in lowest spec you get an 8.0-inch Digital Cockpit (10.25-inch in upper spec), along with handy features such as two front and two rear USB sockets, power-folding, adjustable and heated door mirrors, and automatic rain-sensing wipers as standard. Space is a little tight in the rear, especially if front-seat passengers are six footers, but it’s comfortable enough for shorter folk, while the boot is more than adequate. More on the interior tab.
What about powertrains?
Four engine and gearbox configurations are available, all 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engines, ranging in power output from 79bhp to 108bhp.
The nat-asp former is only available in entry-level Life trim, combined with a five-speed manual gearbox. Mid-range is the 93bhp turbocharged TSI, mated to a five-speed manual or seven-speed DSG ‘box, the former of which we’ve been testing. We’ve been suitably impressed, too – it’s quiet, refined and relaxing to drive, and just as home around town as it is on the motorway, if not as engaging as its arch nemesis the Ford Fiesta. Head over to the driving tab for the details.
Top-of-the-tree is the 108bhp TSI, available exclusively with the seven-speed DSG ‘box. Aside from the GTi it’s the most rapid Polo in the range, taking 10.4 seconds to reach 62 mph – some five seconds faster than the nat-asp engine.
If you’re looking for bang for your buck, the 93bhp engine combined with the five-speed manual gearbox is the most frugal and eco-conscious, offering 54.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 118g/km. Warranty, meanwhile, three years or 60,000 miles. Head over to the buying tab for the full lowdown.
What's the verdict?
The sixth-generation Polo is arguably as good as it’s ever been, with a recent mid-life facelift adding both more style and substance. Well-built, impressively comfortable, and hugely practical, it ticks a lot of boxes, making it an attractive option for a lot of people, as its current standing in the year-to-date best sellers suggests.
Though it’s arguably not as fun to drive as some of its competitors – namely the Fiesta – it offers a safe-bet combination of pleasing performance and on-road refinement, with its 1.0-litre turbocharged engine up to the task of most family requirements. Put simply, it’s a sensible choice, and one you’ll likely not regret.