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Overall verdict

The Top Gear car review: Volkswagen Polo

Overall verdict
It's a sizeable leap, and enough to shove the Polo up to the upper reaches of the supermini order.


Quiet, roomy, comfortable. Can be had with lots of high-tech options, and colourful trim.


Some of those options try too hard to be 'yoof'.


What is it?

So you want a Volkswagen hatch that’s smaller than the Golf – but only slightly. And one that’s less Golf-ish than the Golf. Here, just for you, is the new Polo.

It’s comfortably bigger than before. That’s without a rise in weight, which is good work. Length and wheelbase have grown enough to make it one of the roomiest superminis this side of a Honda Jazz. It’s available as a five-door only. No more three-door, not even for the GTI. Yes, there will be a GTI, with a full-fat 200bhp.

The growth is emphasised by new visual trickery: the shallow grille’s outline runs around the headlights to emphasise the width. All the styling is busier, interrupted by several sharp creases including a complicated pressing that begins in the space behind the front wheel and runs aft through the door handles to the tail. What happened to VW’s old measured simplicity?

Inside, too, the shapes are all crease-edged and angular. It’s ridiculously reminiscent of the new Seat Ibiza. The size too is as per the Seat, and so are nearly all the powertrains and equipment. Which raises the uncomfortable question, has the VW Group gone back to its old ways of giving its different brands very similar cars?

About 95 percent of the Polos sold in Britain will be petrol: there are non-turbo 1.0-litre three-cylinders, turbo 1.0 triples (replacing the old 1.2 fours), and later on a 1.5-litre turbo making a handy 150bhp. Above that will slot the 2.0-litre GTI. The diesel is a 1.6, which is a decent drive but will be ignored because the payback period is too long in small cars.

Versus the old Polo, you’ll have gathered pretty well every component is new. Although not new to the world in general, because we’ve seen it in the Ibiza. The platform is internally known as MQB A0. Just because it’s called MQB doesn’t mean it’s exactly Golf, by the way. Common across the whole MQB landscape is the way all the parts fit together, as well as the interchangeable powertrains, infotainment and climate control and so on.

But not common with the Golf is that the smaller cars – Polo, Ibiza, a new Fabia and Audi A1 plus some upcoming crossovers –  have a shorter, narrower floor, as well as lighter suspension parts better suited to small cars.

VW is proud of the technology on offer. The Polo can be optioned up with an eight-inch central infotainment screen, radar cruise control (but no lane keeping, which some rivals do now have), rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitor, switchable dampers, park assist that does the steering and braking, various connectivity options including detailed traffic info and a wi-fi hotspot, and LED headlamps. But actually the only class-unique thing is a TFT ‘active info’ display to replace the instrument cluster.

Highlights from the range

Title 0–62 CO2 MPG BHP Price
The fastest
2.0 TSI GTI 5dr DSG
6.7s 138g/km 200 £21,740
The cheapest
1.0 EVO 80 S 5dr
15.4s 106g/km 61.4 80 £15,185
The greenest
1.6 TDI 95 SEL 5dr
11.2s 97g/km 95 £20,210