The Volkswagen Polo has been a big hit for Volkswagen over the last 40-or-so years, it has always comfortably slotted in-between its perfectly sensible brother, the VW Golf, and whatever minuscule offering VW have presented beneath the POLO. Most notably the Lupo (1998-2005), and the rather premium, yet cheap, city car offering the VW UP! (2011 onwards).
Brits love a supermini, the Polo, the Fiesta, and the Ibiza are as British as afternoon tea, awkward asking what floor you want the lift to go to, and awkwardly smiling at someone at the officer water-dispenser. The supply and demand of the supermini market indicate it's extremely competitive, which it is. The Fiesta has sat at the top of British car sale figures for a long time, awkwardly laughing at plebeians who dare challenge it, kind of like Canadian music artist Drake, laughing at those who dare to challenge him on music streaming services.
So, the new 6th generation POLO has a lot to live up to, especially in today's trim, a 95ps 1.0 TSI VW POLO R-LINE, not quite top-spec SEL trim, but at £17,500 this new POLO is certainly no Dacia Sandero. The £17,500 price tag makes the new POLO marginally more expensive than its main rival, the Fiesta ST-Line, and its Spanish brother, the SEAT Ibiza FR.
The front-end of the VW POLO R-Line, notice the R-Line badging in the grill.
Let's start with the design and execution of the POLO, in this R-Line specification the
POLO is given a few more 'aggressive' and sporty body pieces, such as two, yes count them two fake exhausts, petrol heads cover your children's eyes. Despite this awful awful motoring trend, the POLO overall looks smart and sophisticated. The R-Line has a black rear spoiler (albeit a very small one), some R-Line badging as either side of the front wheel arches, and some sporty looking but not terribly uncomfortable bucket seats. The POLO has that robustness you expect from the VAG group, everything is screwed in properly and eeks refinement, the POLO even gets soft-touch leathery things on the facia unit and on the top of the dash. VW has definitely continued the theme of, pay a little more, get a lot more out of it. The 8-inch touchscreen ticks all the right boxes too, it has a digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and has a fast processor and sharp graphics. Tick tick and tick. I am actually impressed by the adult and serious theme of this supermini, you seem to get Golf levels of trim, refinement, and entertainment, from the class below, well done VW.
Image of the VW POLO R-Line D-shaped steering wheel. 8 inch infotainment screen, and 5-speed manual. Analogue dials in the dashboard are standard in the VW POLO, an optional digital drivers display can be optioned.
Let's face it, the POLO has always been the conservative choice in the supermini family, the R-Line brings some sporty attitude into the exterior and cabin of the car, but ultimately you know the POLO is the car you pick with your brain, not your heart.
So let's talk about that turbocharged peppy little 3 cylinders under the bonnet. On paper the engine looks and sounds utterly un-interesting, and whilst most of that is true you'd be surprised at the range of things this engine can do convincingly. The 3-cylinders petrol engine produces that distinctive 3 cylinders (budget 6 cylinder) sound and provides enough torque to exceed well in cities/towns, whilst being able to hold its own on motorways. Around 2000rpm the turbo spools up and you are yanked off the stage like an 8-year-old girl that forgot who lines at the school nativity and began roaring her eyes out. The POLO has the pulling power to make everyday driving tolerable to both you, and other drivers. The stated MPG figures aren't far off, but aren't too close either, expect 40-50 mpg around town/cities, but rather impressively I have achieved 55-60mpg at motorways speeds going around 70mph in the POLO, much closer to the VW figures, makes you wonder why anyone would buy the diesel variant of this car. In terms of 0-60mph (0-100 km/h) you're looking at around 10 seconds for this variant, comparable to the Fiesta 1.0 eco-boost. The POLO should be reasonably reliable, not as reliable as a Japanese/Korean offering, but definitely more so than its Deutschland brothers, looking at you Mercedes.
If you can splash the extra cash get the automatic DSG, or better yet get the 115ps 6-speed manual, for VW UP! GTI levels of performance and pep.
Handling is a no go here, like many modern superminis the VW POLO has extremely light and un-engaging steering, you can literally steer the POLO with your palm at any speeds, and worse yet below 20mph, you can steer the D-shaped R-Line steering wheel with your pinky finger. Ah, the joys of modern handling. From what I've read, the Fiesta is the supermini you buy if you want good handling characteristics.
Could the POLO be a great small family daily driver?
I'd be compiled to say yes, the practicality of this supermini is truly outstanding for its class. Headroom is great (5ft 11 inches), the adjustment in the steering wheel and seats are amazing, rear legroom is admirable, and the boot is truly enormous for its class at around 355 litres of space with the 60/40 seats up, and 1125L with the seats down! The POLO easily spanks the bottom of the Fiesta and other rivals when it comes to dealing with a small families needs and desires. the adjustable boot floor adds yet another of practicality to the VW POLO, so make sure you option it (yes its an option, I know). The VW POLO smashes the weekly shop and allows you to take at least 3 if not 4 of your pissed up mates as passengers if they are all on good terms that is. My only complaint is the damn non-ratcheting arm-rest, why VW, why must you insist that my armrest be so low down and so unruly.
VW POLO R-Line boot space, good enough for a cage and two dogs, and possibly a 6 pack of Stella.
Let's give the POLO a rating then, based on stars, and an overall average star rating.
Acceleration= 2/10 - not a performance car, but better than the absolute slowest.
Fun factor= 4/10 - It isn't a Toyota Yaris, but it isn't as fun or as engaging as the Fiesta, so gets marked accordingly.
Handling= 5/10 - The POLO isn't a fun drivers car, you don't feel very connected, however, it achieves its primary aim of being a refined handler for a supermini.
Design= 5/10 - This generation of POLO is arguably boring, but the R-Line specification reviewed is a little better looking. The POLO doesn't put a foot wrong but it isn't the best looking car in its class either, even the Ibiza FR looks slightly better, numerous performance supermini's out style it as well.
Legacy= 3/10 - This POLO isn't terrible, it isn't offensive, but its legacy won't be very impactful. It will be forgotten but remembered fondly by a few as a comfy and refined car.
Practicality= 6/10 - The POLO punches above its weight in this category, even beating the last generation Ford Focus, the POLO is a great choice for a small family. An estate it is not.
Fuel economy= 7/10 - Perfect scores are reserved for fully electric cars. For a 1.0 TSI engine, fuel economy numbers are strong, comparable to some diesel-fuelled cars, but not to some petrol hybrid alternatives like the Yaris, which would score an 8.
Reliability= 5/10 - VW screw things together well, so rattles should be at a minimum, according to many third-party tests, VW is bang average at reliability, and we all know about turbochargers, so....
Comfort= 6/10- It's a decent motorway cruiser and punches above its weight, the sound dampening in the car is good, and it's certainly more refined than a Fiesta.
Pricing= 5/10 - The POLO is very competitively priced by the VW accountants, expect PCP deals to be competitive (they were for me anyway), however, you will pay a little bit more for the VW badge despite the better residuals.
The VW POLO R-Line averages a:
The VW POLO is yet another supermini, one you could arguably live without, it gives you good comfort, fuel economy and refinement. In this ultra-competitive segment, it's hard to go wrong, but if you like what VW is promoting, you can't really go wrong with a Polo.
**I purchased this vehicle in November 2018**
Have you considered the 115PS VW UP! GTI? This is a seriously awesome little car, that could suit a small family. GTI branding on a VW UP! whats not to like? And at 14k, its noticeably cheaper and more fun than a VW POLO R-Line at 17k.