VW Polo 1.0 TSI 95 PS review
VW's Polo has long been one of the most sensible choices in the supermini market. However, with the previous generation model having a reputation that linked 'sensible' with 'dull' (perhaps a little unfairly), this latest version looks to recapture a bit of style and excitement. NGC tests the new Polo - though in sensible specification of course.
Review by Chris Lilly
There is a good range of engines available for Polo buyers to pick from, but the one tested here is likely to prove one of the best-sellers. It's VW's 1.0 TSI petrol engine, which in this state of tune puts out 95hp from a turbo-charged three cylinder unit. Power goes through the front wheels via a manual five-speed gearbox, and is supported by 175 Nm of torque, As such, the Polo will complete the 0-62mph sprint in 10.8 seconds, and will top out at 116mph. It's not the slowest model in the range, but it's not exactly the fastest either, and to make quick progress you will need to work both the engine and gear stick hard. The engine at least is willing enough - eager to rev - and the transmission allows for precise, slick changes too. It's certainly no hot hatch, and as such is best driven to its strengths around town or on country roads. The Polo will cruise fairly comfortably at motorway speeds, but this version of the engine can sound unrefined at speed, and those looking to rack up the miles would be better spending their pennies on a more powerful option. For day-to-day local use though, this version of the Polo does very well, and it's easy to see why VW predicts high sales for the 95hp 1.0 TSI.
Those expecting the Polo to be as fun to drive as a Ford Fiesta or Suzuki Swift had better start changing their ideas pretty sharpish. The Polo is a grown-up supermini, and one that looks to potter rather than be thrown about. Grip is good from the front tyres, and the steering is precise - helpful attributes in built up areas. There's not much feedback though and the steering is light - again, handy for around town. It doesn't make for the most enjoyable car to drive, but is a far more practical choice because of that. And the Polo GTI is available for those that want some driving thrills. The suspension resists body roll well, and is nicely damped for the rough road surfaces often found in the UK's villages, towns, and cities. As such, the Polo isn't as agile as more 'youthful' models, but it's a nice car to drive, and often feels like a car in the class above. Calling the Polo a mini-Golf may sound like I'm doing VW's engineers a disservice, but there is definitely a Golf-ish air to the driving experience - solid, safe, and highly competent - which comes under the 'praise' heading, rather than being a negative.
The Polo's designers have had to grapple with two contrasting ideas really. With the model supposed to both appeal to a younger group of buyers, yet retain its refinement that has been built up over generations of new Polos. I don't envy their task, but those creative types have managed to do a good job in my book. The Polo certainly looks more stylish than a Golf, but the design isn't as sharp as a Seat Ibiza say. It certainly retains a premium feel. The impression that the Polo as a grown-up supermini continues into interior space, with the VW a very practical proposition in its class. The cabin has been a particular focus for attention from designers, and it certainly shows. The dashboard bridges the gap between the smaller up! and larger Golf, with plenty of colour flashes available, but an air of quality to the design that many of its rivals are nowhere near matching. Space is also very good for a supermini, with room for four adults quite comfortably, and one of the most practical boots in its class.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
As touched upon above, there is a good amount of space in the Polo for occupants - even for a family to use as a regular runabout really. The seats are comfortable even over long journeys, and the driver should be able to find a good position considering the adjustments available to wheel and seat. Potential buyers expecting a high level of build quality won't be disapointed too, with controls feeling traditionally VW in design - namely reliable. The new infotainment system sights higher than the previous generation's set-up, creating a linear feature from the driver's instruments to the controls - particularly noticeable when specified with VW's Active Info Display which uses a large screen to create digital instruments rather than the fitment of analogue dials. The large 8-inch touchscreen system is standard, and it's a good one too. It can take a little while to run at start-up, but once going it offers a crisp screen, clear graphics, and easy to use controls. VW has kept shortcut buttons on either side of the screen, plus retained two dials to help make inputs more accurate while on the move. The only other controls on the centre console belong to the air conditioning system, with a few buttons surrounding the gear stick - and that's it really. The interior is high quality and nicely designed; capable of winning over buyers when they climb aboard.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
There are diesel versions of the Polo that return the greatest fuel economy figures, but with the combination of a decline in diesel's popularity, and the Polo suiting shorter, more local trips, the petrols available are going to be the best pick for most buyers. The 1.0 TSI 95hp option tested, as previously said, is likely to be a popular option in this sixth-generation Polo - a badge that has sold more than 14 million units it must be remembered. Those wanting greater refinement will require a more powerful unit, but this option is flexible enough for most, and has decent economy figures available too. Official statistics are quoted as 64.2 MPG and 101 g/km CO2. In real world driving - involving a range of conditions and driving styles - I ended up with an average of 52.3 MPG according to the trip computer. More careful driving easily saw more than 55 MPG on display, so this version of the Polo is not going to break the bank in terms of running costs. Tax is simple too, with a first year rate of £145 included in the car's OTR, and an ongoing standard rate of £140.
Overall CO2 emissions for the Polo range are low, with figures ranging between 97 g/km and 110 g/km depending on engine - and ignoring the sporty GTI variants. All models are fitted with engine stop/start and a regenerative braking system to improve fuel usage. Other elements available are VW's Driving Profile Selection, which allows for an Eco mode to be picked. This optimises engine control, throttle response, and the impact of auxiliary systems such as air conditioning on the motor to improve efficiency. On models fitted with the DSG automatic gearbox, it also changes up sooner to use less revs, and the car will coast at higher speeds too. VW's Think Blue Trainer is also fitted, giving coaching tips and feedback on economical driving with graphs and scores. According to our calculations, the VW Polo range has a Next Green Car Rating is 36.
The Polo is a well equipped model at just about any level. Entry levels S gets the eight-inch touchscreen system with DAB, Bluetooth, and USB connecivity. It also comes with automatic headlights, air conditioning, electric front windows, and a decent suite of safety systems. SE trim tested offers a good balance of equipment compared to costs, with 15-inch alloys, body coloured trim, variable boot floor, and electric rear windows on top of S models. Higher up the trim ladder, 16-inch alloys are fitted, sports or Beats styling details added, and climate control, upgraded stereo, ambient lighting, parking sensors front and rear, and keyless entry and start - all depending on which model has been picked. Wireless phone charging, adaptive cruise control, and VW's Active Info Display are all options that further boost the impression that the Polo is a more premium car that one might expect in this class.
The Polo is as good as many buyers might expect - that is to say 'very'. There are more dynamic and engaging superminis on the market, but for practicality, equipment, style, and prestige, there are few if any rivals that can touch it.
Model tested: VW Polo 1.0 TSI 95PS
Engine / CO2: 1.0 litre 95hp turbo-charged petrol / 101 g/km
Trim grades: S, SE, beats, SEL, R-Line
On-road price: From £16,310
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars