Volkswagen brings us an all-new, sixth-generation Polo, now based on the 'MQB A0' chassis already utilised by the latest SEAT Ibiza. This means the German supermini, always one of the most cultured cars in its class, is bigger and grander than ever before, featuring a spacious and attractive cabin, as well as a large boot. It's also more refined than ever and so, the Polo MkVI is immediately a very, very strong contender in the B-segment.
In the Metal:
Featuring Volkswagen's latest edgy design lines, the new Polo is defined by a series of bold strakes that run front to rear on the car. The most notable is the one through the doors, of course, but there's a similar crease down at the sills and the bonnet has a couple of sharp contours too, all of which help the Polo to look handsome and fresh, if rather obviously an evolution of Polos past. At the front is a wide grille and integrated headlights, giving the supermini a face that is reminiscent of its big brother Golf, and at the back smoothed-off light clusters and a dropped number plate are traditional Polo hallmarks.
However, while we like the appearance of the Polo (yet we simultaneously accept that it's never going to be the most dramatic or pretty thing in a class that includes the Nissan Micra, Peugeot 208 and closely-related SEAT Ibiza), we also cannot get over how big a car it looks. Sure, there will be plenty of memes and Photoshopped images floating about that compare this MkVI with the diminutive MkI version of the 1970s to really emphasise the weight gain, but we wouldn't go even that far back; at first glance, this Polo looks about as big as a Golf MkV, a car of the early 21st century. It's not bloated or needlessly gargantuan, you understand, but it seems like a physically imposing machine for the segment.
This has benefits, however, certainly in terms of interior space, as the wheelbase has stretched by more than 90mm over its predecessor and as a result there's additional legroom in the back for adults, plus extra headroom too - increases of 14mm front and 21mm rear are worthy, especially as the Polo is lower overall than its MkV forebear. The boot has also swelled 71 litres from the old car to a huge 351 litres here, comfortably covering, for instance, its chief Ford Fiesta rival, which only holds 292 litres.
And, as this is a Volkswagen, the cabin is lovely. But it's not flawless. The plastic used on the tops of the door cards is hard to the touch and feels flimsy, making for an awkward juxtaposition at the base of the A-pillars where the soft-touch dash-top abuts this material. Nevertheless, the driving position is good, the layout of the console is thoroughly intuitive, the weighting of the major controls and switchgear is fantastic and all models get a new fascia design that has an emphasis on the horizontal lines, dominated by an eight-inch touchscreen for the infotainment. Furthermore, there are large panels of interior trim that can be painted in eight different colours, to complement the 14 exterior body finishes, giving the Polo a youthful, zesty appeal.
The turbocharged 1.0-litre triple TSI as tested here is only offered in 95hp guise. Also available is a 1.6-litre four-cylinder TDI diesel, in two grades of 80- and 95hp.
Other than this selection, a 2.0-litre GTI hot hatch will join the ranks later, with 200hp and Fiesta ST-rivalling performance. All Polos are front-wheel drive and there's an easy-to-understand rule to the gearboxes: if the VW has less than 100hp, it gets a five-speed manual as standard; more than 100hp and a seven-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic transmission is fitted, the exception being the forthcoming GTI, which will use a six-speeder instead.
So, bagging the keys to a 1.0-litre TSI 95hp with a DSG transmission, we're driving a Polo that's pretty representative of the new breed. And, in a perhaps entirely predictable but nevertheless most welcome outcome, what you have here is a thoroughly classy supermini that drives better than it ever has before, albeit not quite as sharply as its latest Fiesta or Ibiza rivals. The MQB A0 chassis is a fine platform for dynamics and the Polo displays little in the way of body roll or understeer, with keen turn-in and a well tied-down rear axle, plus decently communicative, precise steering and an admirable set of brakes. It doesn't exactly feel sprightly in the corners, though, and nor is it on the straights with this 95hp three-cylinder engine and DSG gearbox, where performance is just about adequate for open-road motoring. It's not deathly slow, but, as you push the throttle to the bulkhead to try and elicit any meaningful acceleration, it does make you wonder what the 65hp version will feel like...
Never mind the lack of straight-line fireworks, though, because the Polo's forte - as it ever has been - is top-notch refinement. On 215/45 R17 alloys, the ride is never anything but plush, even around some of the streets of Hamburg, absolutely every single one of which is currently in a state of being dug up by roadworks crews. And out on rural roads, the Volkswagen adopts a hushed, unruffled demeanour as it cruises along, with no significant wind, tyre or engine noise to report. Naturally, the Polo is an absolute cinch to drive about in conurbations, because its primary driver interfaces are all so deft of touch that placing the hatchback on the road is a game of millimetric precision. It's a typically highly polished display from the Polo, all told.
What you get for your Money:
Prices start at €16,795 for the Polo, which is a step up from the old car - though the new one is five-door only. There are Trendline and Comfortline specifications, bolstered by an optional Technology Upgrade on both. The Polo Trendline gets Front Assist with city emergency braking as standard, plus Hill Start Assist, Pedestrian Monitoring, LED daytime running lights, a tyre pressure monitoring system and a speed limiter and Bluetooth telephony. The Trendline model is available with 3.9 per cent APR PCP finance with monthly payments from €199.
Thanks to a 1.9 per cent APR, the Polo Comfortline starts at the same monthly rate. It adds a multifunction steering wheel, 15-inch alloys, cruise control, an upgraded touchscreen infotainment system and air conditioning, among others. Adaptive Cruise Control, dual-zone climate control, Park Distance Control, LED head- and taillights and Volkswagen's digital instrument cluster called Active Info Display are all offered, meaning the Polo has some big-car luxuries to fall back on if your pockets are deep enough.
Petrol power options are the naturally aspirated 1.0-litre engine in 65- or 75hp guises, the 95hp 1.0 TSI DSG as tested here and the range-topping Polo GTI, powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine making 200hp. The latter costs from €32,395 with a six-speed DSG transmission.
We kind of knew what we were going to get with the Volkswagen Polo MkVI before we drove it - cool, calm competence in all regards and a feeling that we could be looking at the new supermini class leader. So, we're not disappointed with the reality, then, as the Polo is all of the above and decent to drive in a spirited fashion too. While outright purchase prices are high, the key thing here is low finance rates. Hence, we have no doubt this new version will be fast adding to the population of 14 million Polos that have already been sold worldwide. It's an excellent machine.