The outgoing Volkswagen Polo remains such a good car that the company could have been easily forgiven for turning it around with a few nips and tucks. However, Volkswagen has pulled out all the stops in creating its new supermini and the sixth-generation Polo is now such a complete all-round package that its elder sibling, the Golf, should be adding it to its list of rivals.
In the metal
In comparison to the last iteration, the new Polo has grown in almost every dimension. It is built on the Group's latest 'MQB A0' platform, which was first seen underpinning the SEAT Ibiza. The new Polo is not only longer and wider than before, but lower, too. Despite this, and thanks to the clever packaging arrangements that the new platform permits, the passenger space inside has increased.
The car is unmistakably Volkswagen in its exterior design, with clean, sharp lines being the order of the day. Its overall style is Teutonic in its efficiency, with the only real design flourish being the creased panel that runs from the front wing through the shoulder line and into the tail lights. The front grille proudly wears a larger VW badge than before and the lower bumper sections, depending on trim level chosen, give the car a broad stance when viewed head-on. The headlights also carry through a neat LED daytime running lamp that flows from the grille. Look at it from the front three quarters view and many would be forgiven for mistaking it for a Golf. The rear is more like the Polo we know, with smaller lights and quite an upright tailgate.
Not only has the cabin grown in space, but also in both look and feel. Volkswagen has tended to use good quality materials in the past, but the cabins often lacked any sense of warmth or flair. This aspect has been remedied this time around, with a choice of eight bright dashboard panel colours that lift the interior. Add to that the option of a new Active Info Display that replaces the traditional instrument cluster with an 11.7-inch digital screen. Besides that, keeping eye level closer to the road is the company's latest infotainment system, in this case, the optional eight-inch Discover Media with built-in satellite navigation. Standard infotainment systems start with the 6.5-inch Composition Colour unit.
The Polo's stretch in wheelbase benefits the rear passengers too, with generous amounts of legroom for the class. Volkswagen has also managed to grow the boot volume by 71 litres to a total of 351 litres. To put that into perspective, the Volkswagen Golf has only 29 litres more space in its boot.
The new Polo's maturity in the looks department is replicated in its driving dynamics. We've already reviewed the impressive 1.0-litre TSI version, and here we drive the less powerful of the two 1.6-litre diesel engines that will be offered. While even Volkswagen Ireland admits that it expects the majority of sales to be petrol-based, diesel remains a significant part of the overall market.
Despite the Polo being well-insulated, it is easy to tell that this is powered by a diesel engine. This 80hp version doesn't have the same pep as we experienced with the 1.0-litre TSI petrol model, but once it gets up to speed, there's enough torque to keep everything cruising along with minimal revs. The engine can kick up a bit of a racket as you reach higher speeds or push it that bit harder, and on longer motorway runs the lack of a sixth gear in the manual transmission is obvious.
While the engine is that bit more vocal, if you 're in a position where you have to drive a diesel then we would suggest looking towards the more powerful 95hp version for that extra bit of grunt. In fact, the diesel engine is the only reason that we aren't scoring the car more highly in this section. The Polo's on-road performance is impressive especially in its ability to soak up bumps without losing composure.
Around town, the electrically-assisted steering feels nicely weighted and has a directness to it that gives the Polo the agility that is expected from a class-leading supermini. The car's generous glass area aids all-round visibility, even though the door mirrors seem small initially. But spending any lengthy amount of time in the new Polo leaves you in no doubt that this is a car with the level of comfort and polished refinement that you didn't think could exist in this segment before.
What you get for your money
Prices start at €16,795 for the five-door only Polo, while the 1.6 TDI diesel starts at €20,195 and is offered in 80- and 95hp states of tune, the former with a five-speed manual gearbox, the latter with a seven-speed DSG automatic. 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 as option.
We shouldn't be too surprised that the new Volkswagen Polo has turned out to be such a refined car, especially given the pedigree it comes from. What is a bit of a let-down is the diesel engines that are simply lacklustre in comparison to the spritelier petrol versions. As a complete package, it is the petrol models that shine through and show that this car is not only capable of leading its class, but could well end up stealing a piece of the Volkswagen Golf's pie, especially when you consider the price difference and similar equipment that's on offer.