In a bid to remind small car buyers about the excellent Polo, Volkswagen has fitted a sporty body kit and a set of tasty alloys to the bestselling petrol version, transforming it from modest runabout to rally car replica in one fell swoop. Will it attract the right kind of attention?
Inside & Out: 5/5
Really, this is the only category that matters for this particular test car. Volkswagen has added a sports styling kit to the exterior that includes front and rear skirts, a roof spoiler at the back, deep side skirts, a chrome finisher on the exhaust and the piece de la resistance, dark grey 17-inch 'motorsport' alloys wrapped in suitable low profile rubber. It's quite a transformation and in white it looks more than a little like the Polo R WRC rally cars that are currently in development. Being hypercritical it could do with a suspension drop at the rear, but regardless, it looks fantastic.
The interior is quite ordinary in comparison, but like all Polos is of high quality and offers comfortable spacious room for four adults. A leather wheel is the tactile highlight, though Volkswagen's switchgear still leads the charge in this small car class.
Engine & Transmission: 3/5
Leaving aside the fact that this Polo's performance doesn't live up to the promise of the exterior, the three-cylinder petrol engine can still be a bit of fun - especially around town. It's willing enough and has loads of personality, though some won't like the offbeat noise it makes. At low speeds it's more refined and the five-speed manual gearbox is light and easy to use.
Ride & Handling: 4/5
Perhaps it's a placebo effect, but this Polo certainly feels more alert than the regular car. That could be down to the stiffer, lower profile tyre sidewalls, but we certainly felt that the agile handling lived up to the sporty styling. And while the wider tyres may detract from ride comfort a tad, it's not by a significant enough margin to stay away from them. The Polo is quite competent and safe on the motorway, but it's no longer the quietest car in its class - especially with this engine.
Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: 3/5
For many, the Volkswagen badge will be worth the premium to pay over many brands on the market, but looked at logically the Polo is not the best value small car around. The Trendline model comes with 15-inch alloys as standard, along with remote central locking, ESP stability control, front fog lights, a leather steering wheel and gear knob and electric front windows. Notable omissions include air conditioning and Bluetooth.
The sports styling kit will be worth the extra for many buyers, though we suspect they'd want a little more go than on offer from this engine.
Finally, while Band B tax is still very affordable, many of the Polo's rivals are in Band A at this price point.