First Drive: Volkswagen Polo
What is it?
The Volkswagen Polo is a household name – well established and well thought of as a solid, dependable small hatch.
With the most recent facelift came an overhaul of engines, going from a 1.4-litre petrol engine to a new, cleaner three cylinder 1.0-litre. However, while economical, the 59bhp that the new engine produced was a too little to give the car any real zip. To address that, there's the format that we're testing here – the same 1.0-litre engine, but with more power, now up to 108bhp.
What's under the bonnet?
As previously mentioned, a 1.0-litre, 108bhp turbocharged engine powers this Polo. Thanks to the turbo, the torque figures is impressively high for such a small capacity engine – 147lb ft – whilst fuel economy is an astonishing 65.7mpg. This is all transferred to a manual gearbox, which, thankfully, includes a sixth gear, meaning that the little engine doesn't feel strained on the motorway. Featuring Volkswagen's BlueMotion technology, the Polo has stop start technology in its arsenal, alongside battery regeneration which recuperates energy during braking to keep the battery levels topped up.
What's the spec like?
It is first best to mention the elephant in the room – the Polo's price tag. Coming in at a hefty £17,590, the Polo is by no means a cheap run around. That said, avid button pressers would undoubtedly feel at home in the cabin. The R-Line specification means that inside, there's 'race' specification seats with microfiber side bolsters, along with a leather trimmed gear knob, handbrake grip and multifunction steering wheel. As well as this, there's a 6.5-inch colour touchscreen which controls the DAB radio played through eight speakers, Bluetooth phone and media connection and the satellite navigation. The Polo also has air conditioning, cruise control and electrically heated and powered wing mirrors.
With regards to the exterior, the Polo definitely doesn't look like a run-of-the-mill eco hatch, with the 'R-Line' styling pack including unique front and rear bumpers, LED headlights and rear tinted glass. All of these additions help the Polo stand out and look an awful lot sportier than the BlueMotion badge would usually denote.
There are certainly other cars looking to douse the Polo's fire. Of course, there's the Ford Fiesta, which punches higher and higher with each incarnation. Potential buyers could also be swayed by the likes of the Skoda Fabia which offers excellent value for money and impressive levels of equipment.
What's it like to drive?
Anyone who turns up their nose when the term '1.0-litre' is mentioned should drive this car. It completely embodies the idea of a small, fun and economical hatch, offering enough power to have fun but while still retaining good economy. We put the test car through its paces on a few hundred miles of road, varying from motorways to twisting country lanes. Being turbocharged, the engine suffers from a tiny amount of lag, but does give the sort of performance that you would expect from a much larger engine.
The little Polo handled took all the conditions we could throw at it in its stride, delivering a comfortable and surprisingly stable ride on the motorway, and providing accurate and enjoyable steering when the road turned more technical.
Road noise is raised, and at higher speeds there's a definite drone from the tyres. The engine, though economical, is mated to a rather small fuel tank, which does drain rather quickly – especially on the motorway.
Space in the cabin is excellent, with plenty of storage space and top-notch build quality. The driving position is also very good, with the driver given many levels of adjustment in order to get comfortable.
The AOL Cars Verdict
If you're looking for a small, efficient and fun to drive car – with good build quality and polished handling characteristics all in one package, you couldn't do much better than choose the Polo.
With the introduction of the new engine, the Polo is now just as comfortable on the motorway as around town – something that previous generations could only deal with by utilising a much larger engine.
The price is expensive, of course, for a small hatchback. But as one car to buy and live with, it's a very attractive proposition.
Model: Volkswagen Polo R-Line 1.0 110
Price from: £17,590
Engine: 3 cylinder turbocharged petrol
Max speed: 122mph
MPG: 64.7 (combined)