Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI SE review

Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI SE review

Volkswagen’s Polo supermini has always been the sensible choice for those wanting a sturdy, refined small car and with a sharp face-lift that hints at the sporty Scirocco. With a raft of new Euro 6 compliant engines, it’s even more a ‘baby’ version of the Golf.

A new infotainment system with the ability to mirror apps off a smart phone brings the car right up to date. Pick the right model for you and it will be a great purchase. Resale values are strong despite only a three year warranty.

Review by Russell Bray


Volkswagen’s revised new Polo features a huge number of new engines, both petrol and diesel, some in two different states of tune. The entry level petrol 1-litre three-cylinder units come with 59 or 74 bhp for example. With the former it’s okay round town but you daren’t overtake a lorry on a main road. The best of the petrol bunch is the 1.2 litre with 89 or 109 bhp. With 89 bhp at 4,800 rpm the direct injection engine in the test car actually emits less CO2 than the 74 bhp motor and only one gram more than the 59 bhp. Acceleration from rest to 62 mph takes a much more lively 10.8 seconds, in place of 16.7 seconds for the lower powered 1-litre. The four valves per cylinder, four-cylinder engine is quite a sweet unit but you still have to work it though on hills and motorway inclines. Thanks to turbo charging, the engine produces maximum torque of 118 lbs ft at just 1,400 rpm. The Polo will wind up to a top speed of 114 mph.


You always feel safe in a Polo even tackling corners with gusto, but a lack of feedback through the steering wheel, despite a new electro-hydraulic set-up, and softish suspension which allows quite a lot of body roll in bends, means a Ford Fiesta would put a bigger smile on the face of a keen driver. The steering is precise enough though. The low speed ride is a bit stiff legged and jittery but out of town it smoothes out nicely. The standard 15 in wheels on the SE give a smoother ride than the larger 16 in ones on the Design test car. Tyre and road noise doesn’t seem to worry German makes, perhaps because of their ultra smooth roads; but the Polo could be quieter on some surfaces. Most of the time though the Polo behaves and feels as if its a larger model.


New headlights, tail lights and front grille have given the revise VW Polo a sharper, new look that has hints of the stylish Scirocco coupe. SE Design, as tested, adds black gloss exterior details, front fog lights, tinted rear lights and windows and 16 in alloy wheels. The Polo is available with three or five doors. Head and legroom is good in the front but legroom a bit tight in the rear. A high door line makes the rear seats feel rather closed in. Boot space at 280 litres boot is pretty good, but not as spacious as Honda’s soon to be replaced Jazz. A removable boot floor provides a handy hidey-hole for valuables. There is also a full size spare wheel rather than a squirt and hope can of spray sealant. Fold down the split rear seats, which are standard across the range, increases carrying volume to 952 litres. Length 3972 mm; width 1682 mm.


Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI SE interior

Great front seats (‘sport’ ones on the SE Design); but you only get height adjustment on SE spec and above. There’s lots of adjustment with the steering column too. Clear, logical instruments and controls, plus a quality colour touch screen, distinguish the Polo from its more fashion led supermini rivals. The cup holders are deep and practical and there’s a useful tray for your phone and oddments ahead of sockets for a 12V power supply and USB connection. Rear seat access is easy on five-door versions of the Polo but there’s not a great deal of legroom in the back if you have lanky teenagers in the family, though headroom is good. Regarding the feel of the transmission, the five-speed manual gear change has a pleasant and precise action.


Petrol S and SE models emit 106 to 108 gCO2/km on the test cycle (107 g/km for the SE Design version tested). This is reduced to 94 g/km for the 1-litre TSI BlueMotion (not yet driven). The test car is in road tax band B which means no first year road tax and then £20 a year under the current tax rates. The official combined figure for the test car is 60.1 MPG. My best fuel consumption was 51.5 MPG with an average speed of 39 mph over an 83 mile journey. On a 150 mile trip that included a big slice of motorway, consumption was 49.7 MPG. For insurance, the car is group 11. Main service intervals are 24 months at 20,000 miles with an intermediate one at 10,000 miles.


All the new engines in the Polo meet Euro 6 anti-pollution regulations (for what they are worth) and, Volkswagen claim, boost fuel consumption by up to 20%. Independent research by Emission Analytics and others would temper these claims – see previous news items on real world emissions and Real MPG. That said, the emissions and fuel economy are relatively good with automatic engine stop-start systems likely to save fuel by 5-10 per cent in congested traffic. Braking energy regeneration are also part of the car’s efficiency package. Our life cycle analysis of all the major emissions leads to the model tested having a NGC Rating of 31.


There’s a lot of technology new to the Polo this time around. Standard kit includes a 5 in touch screen, Bluetooth mobile phone connection, DAB digital radio and a USB port. Air conditioning is standard except on S models. Move up the range and there’s a 6.5 in screen and a CD player in the glove box. SE models gain 15 in alloy wheels, a chrome radiator intake and a leather rimmed multi-function steering wheel. All versions benefit from electronic skid control, traction control, brake assist and post-collision braking to reduce secondary impacts. Options include satellite navigation (on SE models and above), adaptive cruise control, parking sensors and driver fatigue sensor.


Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI SE rear

Model tested: Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI SE Design
Body-style: 5-door supermini
Engine/CO2: gCO2/km 89bhp 1297cc four-cylinder turbocharged petrol / 107 g/km
Trim grades: S, SE, SE Design and SEL

On-road price: Petrol models from £11,300; Test car £15,510
Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 STARS

Click here for more info about this model range »

Russell Bray

Author:Russell Bray
Date Updated:16th Jul 2015

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