Bigger, leaner Polo will make you rethink a Golf.
Interesting thing, sibling rivalry. In the best of cases, it sees siblings work harder and harder to continually outdo each other. While not healthy, it definitely invites success.
What’s interesting about the brewing rivalry between Volkswagen’s hatchbacks is that one was such a success that the other was fielded to fill the void left behind. That was the original brief for the Polo, taking up the mantle from the matured, grown-up Golf. However, it seems that more than 40-years later, the Polo too has grown up, which might make the bigger Golf a little uncomfortable.
No, the Polo isn’t now as expensive as a Golf. But it’s gained quite a number of tricks over the years. It’s as smart as a Golf, it’s got a boot as big as a Golf, and it’s now about as comfortable and refined inside as a Golf.
So why do you need a Golf, or anything else from that segment, when you can get a smartened-up Polo?
Available in 75TSI Trendline and 85TSI Comfortline trims, both powered by 1.0-litre three-pot turbo-petrols (but in different states of tune), read our review to see why we think that the new Volkswagen Polo might just be the Golf’s worst nightmare.
“… efforts to academically perfect the Polo have robbed it of some of its charm, which could affect its showroom appeal among buyers seeking more visual wow. Looks can be deceiving though…” — WhichCar
The Volkswagen Polo has never really been considered to be the style maverick in the segment, though arguably, that’s perhaps why they’ve sold some 14-million of them over the years. The Polo is very much a big car in a small package, which is why in its latest iteration, it carries big-car maturity despite its diminutive packaging.
Perhaps in doing so, the Polo is now a better proposition than ever before. With a well-proportioned design, the Polo is inoffensive, though it’s also not exactly inspiring either. The face is clearly a Volkswagen even if glare made you miss the badge, while the LED daytime running lights that are stacked into the foglights are a nice touch.
The sides are relatively unremarkable, save for a bit of surfacing that helps to break up the surface, while the rear rather cutely integrates P-shaped graphics into the design. Overall, you know that Volkswagen did their best to ensure that the Polo’s design was simplistic enough to be recognisable, but with enough complexity to look sophisticated. They’ve done a rather good job, really.
Engine & Drivetrain
“Speaking of engine, there’s a choice of two rather charming three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbo-petrol units that generate more power than the Polo’s previous engines while also sipping a bit less fuel.” — Motoring
The 6th-generation Volkswagen Polo is presently available with just two engines. Both mills are 1.0-litre with just three cylinders, and both are equipped with turbochargers.
The entry-level engine is a 70kW/175Nm mill that is dubbed the 70TSI (no prizes for guessing why). This engine is rather refined and very frugal, and is a great companion when driving in town. Out on the open road it lacks a little bit of puff, though we’d argue that you can just drive a little slower, and then everything goes back to being comfortable again.
Comfortline models make use of an 85kW/200Nm turbo-triple, and boy you can feel the extra poke. With the automatic gearbox, the 85TSI Polo gets up to speed quickly and effortlessly, thanks to the car’s reduced weight. No turbo lag here either, with the auto-box always keeping the engine on song.
Fuel consumption for the two are rated at 4.8L/100km and 5.0L/100km on premium 95RON, but real-world testing will see figures of between 6.0L/100km-6.5L/100km for both mills.
“The Polo is a great place in which to spend time, for the driver.” — WhatCar? UK
Frankly, over the last generation of cars, the ‘interior’ portion of a Volkswagen review could just be copied over. The designs utilised were so uniform and and unimaginative that, while well-engineered and ergonomically-pleasing, you could fall asleep. At least, if you did, you’d be able to find the air conditioner controls with your eyes closed.
We’re happy to report that the ergonomics of the Polo remain brilliant, and the tactility of all the materials employed remains fabulous. However, the company has managed to inject a little flair into the proceedings. So there’s now coloured panels inside, a great big infotainment screen, and clean lines all around. It’s rather pretty actually.
Space is something that the Polo offers generously too. There’s plenty of room in the front row and lots of space for odds and ends. In the rear, you’ll find enough room for a couple of adults, or three at a stretch. Child seats can be fitted back here too, though just a pair.
Boot room is impressive too. The space behind the rear seats is rated at 351L/100km, which is actually on par with hatchbacks a size bigger. See why we think the Golf should be scared?
Behind The Wheel
“The people behind the car talk endlessly of the space and the tech, and rather less of the underlying mechanical engineering. Small wonder, because it’s pretty straightforward.” — TopGear UK
Built on Volkswagen’s MQB platform, the new Polo actually employs a rather simple suspension setup. So up front you’ll find MacPherson struts, and a torsion beam at the rear. The use of MQB means the frame is more rigid than before, and paired to the bigger footprint that the Polo has now, it’s definitely a small car that feels big.
Truly, from behind the wheel, the Polo feels really planted, solid, and refined. Wind and tyre noise is well-suppressed, and the ride is rather plush. The steering also conveys a sense of confidence, even at motorway speeds, an quality that we have no doubt will lead the segment. Further, the supportive seats throughout means that long distances can be covered without the usual kind of aches and pain that used to be associated to travel in a compact car.
However, this is a Volkswagen Polo, the kind of car that will most likely spend its time in town. Here, the Polo shines, with its well-damped suspension soaking up urban lumps and ruts better than a lot of its competitors. Further, the choice of turbo-triple mills means that performance is punchy and well-suited for town work. You’ll find that jabbing at the throttle to exploit a gap in traffic is very easy in the Polo, just don’t do so too often or you might piss people off.
Safety & Technology
“The premium feel is undermined by the absence of push-button start or climate control, even as options.” — WhichCar
The Volkswagen Polo is actually rather well equipped, even from the entry level model. You’ll find things like an 8-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system, keyless entry, cruise control, and electric mirrors. Get a Comfortline model, and you’ll get niceties like alloy wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, a smattering of chrome around the outside, and the 85TSI engine.
Limited-run Launch Edition models, for $100 more, gain 16-inch alloys, tinted windows, tinted foglights and taillights too, as well as wireless charging.
ANCAP rated the Polo at a full 5-stars, and rightfully so. There are six airbags dotted around the cabin, a reversing camera, AEB, and parking sensors all as standard. There’s even a tyre-pressure monitoring system, hill start assist (great for those eyeing a manual), and traction control too.
If that’s not enough, $1400 can add a Driver Assistance Package, which throws in things like rear cross-traffic alert (with braking function), adaptive cruise control (on a compact car!), blind spot monitoring, and park-assist.
There’s no satellite navigation on offer though, no matter how much you pay. Thankfully, the smartphone mirroring that is standard across the range means that you can easily pair your phone up and use a navigation app instead.
The Volkswagen Polo has grown up quite a lot, much more than we reasonably expected it to. We knew that it would be a bit bigger and a bit better, but we didn’t imagine it would be so much bigger and so much better than the model it replaces. Truly the Polo is a threat not only to class competitors like the Mazda 2, Kia Rio, and Honda Jazz, but also to cars a size larger. The Kia Cerato hatch, Mazda 3, and even the Honda Civic will have to be on their guard too, as the Polo packs enough punch to embarrass quite a number of them.
The Polo not only drives like a bigger car, with impressive refinement and surprising solidity on the road, but it’s legitimately big enough where it matters to upset bigger segments. The boot is large, and there’s enough room for four adults to sit comfortably. What more would you need?
The shame here its that the Polo is upstaged somewhat by cars like the Mazda 2, that offer more tech for the money. Indeed, niceties like keyless-go and LED headlights might seem minor, but in the highly-competitive compact hatch segment, little things like these matter. At least the Polo makes up for it with a full 5-star ANCAP rating, and big-car features like adaptive cruise control.
Is the Polo the best in class? We’ll stop short of saying that, we think. The omission of certain features will undoubtedly rankle some buyers, but we will say that the sixth-generation is very nearly there.
Motoring — 79/100 — “Teeming with class-leading safety and infotainment technology, the new sixth-generation Volkswagen Polo has arrived in Australia and has so much appeal, it hurts. Bigger, safer, smarter, and based on the same MQB platform as the Golf & Tiguan, Volkswagen’s 2018 Polo looks like it’s setting another benchmark in the class.”
CarAdvice — 8.4/10 — “The new Volkswagen Polo isn’t the most exciting city car to behold, or steer through corners. But if it's substance and depth you desire, then nothing in the class can match it. A city car for grown-ups.”
CarsGuide — 3.0/5.0 — “By far, the biggest and most lasting impression from my initial time with the Polo is that it feels like a whole lot of car for the money, even in base-model guise. There is a feeling of quality in (most of) the cabin and in the drive experience, and its improved ability to ferry people or cargo will surely put it on more customers’ radars than ever before.”
WhatCar? — 5.0/5.0 — “The Polo offers good interior quality, great infotainment, and a comfortable ride. Only the price slightly lets it down.”
The Telegraph, UK — 9.0/10 — “The latest VW Polo might not be as much fun to drive as the ford Fiesta, but in every other area, it’s a seriously impressive car. Spacious, comfortable, very well-equipped, this is not only the best Polo to date, but one of the best superminis there has ever been, by far.”
Autocar, UK — 4.5/5.0 — “The Volkswagen Polo brings ‘big car’ space, class, kit, and finish like never before.”
TopGear, UK — 7.0/10 — “[The Volkswagen Polo is] a comprehensive little supermini. Feels like a smaller Golf, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”