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Motion & Emotion

Facelifted Polo Remains A Very Grown-Up Small Car

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The new Polo’s design vacillates between VW’s older, more straightforward design language and the newer, sweeping mono-brow style first seen on the Mk8 Golf, which means the sharper headlights and larger taillights sit a little uncomfortably on the more restrained bodywork.

VW has also revised the trim lines and increased the standard equipment. Excluding the GTI, there are now only three: Life, Style and R-Line. The cheapest Polo, costing £17,885, is now a Life with a naturally aspirated 1.0-litre 79bhp engine, but you want at least the 94bhp turbocharged version for £18,825, which can be mated to either a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic or a five-speed manual gearbox. There is also a DSG-only version with 108 hp, which is available exclusively as an R-Line model and costs £23,355.

Regardless of which version you choose, this is one of the most expensive non-hybrid superminis. So it’s only logical that VW expects 60% of UK Polos to come with the 94bhp engine and 75% to have the Life trim. Fortunately, our test car is both.

What’s it like?

Four years ago, the Polo’s great strength was its roominess, and that has not changed. It is still one of the roomiest superminis. In the rear, only a Skoda Fabia or a Honda Jazz are roomier, and its 351-litre boot is similar in size to that of the Ibiza, albeit smaller than that of the Renault Clio and the Fabia.

The 94-horsepower engine can be a little grumpy at low revs, but it revs smoothly and would be perfectly adequate were it not for the high gearing of the five-speed manual gearbox, which means it needs quite a lot of revs to make good progress. Pleasingly, this seems to have little effect on fuel consumption, and it reaches 50 mph with ease. It’s handling on the motorway is so good that it would be acceptable in a higher class car.

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Polo’s most significant upgrade comes in the standard equipment. There are now traditional LED headlights, an 8.0-inch multimedia screen, a fully digital instrument cluster and a multifunction steering wheel. The instrument cluster is clean and modern, but half the available space remains dark unless you pay £300 more for the Digital Cockpit Pro.

All Polos also come with adaptive cruise control and a driving assistant. That’s pretty rare in a small car and rarer still that both work well. At the same time, the equipment is surprisingly spartan. Things like automatic climate control and keyless entry are only on the options list.

Normally we’d criticise the multimedia screen for still being made up of the old system, but in VW’s case, the old system is generally more responsive and has more shortcuts, which is a good thing. Navigation, however, is not standard. When you press the ‘Nav’ button in a base trim car, a message appears saying that you can add this feature in the Volkswagen shop. However, there is wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and in most cases, Waze and Google Maps are superior to the built-in navigation systems.

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But while the Polo’s sibling, the Seat Ibiza, received a significant interior upgrade when it was facelifted earlier this year, the Polo is pretty much unchanged, meaning it’s just as plain and boring inside as before. The materials are good, if nothing special, and the ergonomics, seating comfort and build quality are beyond reproach. But in a Clio or even a Fabia or Dacia Sandero, at least there’s a splash of colour here, an exciting texture there, something to liven things up.

Should I Buy One?

One of VW’s main strengths has always been that its cars were well designed and well built but unremarkable in every way.

This has been somewhat lost with the more technologically complex models like the Golf and the ID 3. So it’s pleasing that the Polo sticks to the old philosophy, but a little more joie de vivre would not hurt.

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