Overall rating: 4/5
Volkswagen facelifts the Polo but forgets to restyle it extensively; instead the 'new' Polo benefits from sizeable efficiency and technology advances. We bagged an early drive in the likely best-selling 1.0-litre petrol version.
In the Metal:
As facelifts go the 'new' Volkswagen Polo's is as subtle as they come, with only the most committed of Polo fans likely to spot the changes to the car's lights and grille. There are no sheet metal changes, and given that the chiselled looks of the Polo still look fresh today Volkswagen's conservatism is understandable.
The same is true inside, as the layout, fit and finish change little; only the addition of a five-inch colour touchscreen on the entry-level cars - and a 6.5-inch version on the higher trim levels - marks out the new model. That screen is central to the Polo's revamp, it offering connectivity options that are new to the small car class, so all models feature Bluetooth connectivity, USB, aux-in and SD card ports, as well as DAB radio. We are awaiting confirmation on all of that from Volkswagen Ireland, but that's how it's specified elsewhere in Europe.
Revisions under the Polo's unchanged bonnet see economy and emissions improvement of up to 21 per cent, and on top of that every engine in the range now meets EU6 pollution standards. The line-up of engines for Ireland has yet to be confirmed, but the total range available elsewhere is made up of a pair of three-cylinder entry-level choices of 60- and 75hp, a turbocharged 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine with 90 or 110hp, a 1.4 TSI with 150hp in the BlueGT model and a 1.4-litre TDI turbodiesel that delivers either 75- or 90hp. Volkswagen expects the biggest seller to be the 60hp petrol engine, but for all its impressive smoothness and willingness to rev it's an engine best restricted to the city limits - out of town it is out of its depth.
A solution is offered by the 75hp example of the same engine, which, although producing the same 95Nm torque figure and largely similar on-paper performance, feels significantly more muscular than its lesser-powered relation. Where you're searching for gears and revs in the 60hp model, the 75hp car is more relaxing to drive, which is no bad thing given the rather vague movement of the five-speed manual gearbox.
Despite its three-cylinder layout there's little or no vibration or noise in the Polo's cabin, it remaining the paragon of supermini refinement. That's true at speed too, where wind and road noise remain as suppressed as in a luxury car. The Polo's appeal as a driving machine is not about outright dynamics or steering precision, but good comfort and ease.
The steering is light, though devoid of any real feel, and the suspension's leanings towards comfort mean some movement in the bends. It's all controlled enough though, and the result is a fine ride on poorer road surfaces.
What you get for your Money:
The standard equipment list now includes Hill Hold and Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, which brakes the car after a collision to reduce the severity of the accident. The touch-screen that's so central to the changes in the Polo can be added to with satnav or MirrorLink - a system that apes the output of your smartphone on the Polo's screen. Optionally you can add a driver monitoring Driver Alert System and Adaptive Cruise Control with Front City Assist and Emergency Braking.
The range will be expanded later in the year with a new 190hp Polo GTI, offered with both manual and DSG automatic transmissions. The BlueMotion model line-up will be doubled, with both TDI diesel and TSI petrol offerings. The TDI model emits just 82g/km and has an official combined economy figure of 91.1mpg. Again, Irish availability of these new variants has yet to be announced.
It might look little different, but the economy, equipment and safety gains are impressive, so the Volkswagen Polo offering is a more complete, more connected package than ever. Just be sure to spend the small bit more on the 75hp version over the 60hp car, as it makes a huge difference on the road.