What are you driving?
I think it would be fair to say that in the shape of this Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI R-Line, I'm driving The Bank. As in, the place where all the money is. Because, believe it or believe it not, this diminutive Vee-Dub clocks in with a price tag of a couple of sandwiches more than €25,000.
Twenty-five-large for a Polo. Look, I know that the Polo has, traditionally, been one of those cars that breaks down class barriers. A car as likely to be driven by a barrister as a barista, as good for a learner as it is for late-life downsizer. It's a car that, in its previous incarnations, has occasionally been described as a 'mini-Mercedes' but even so, €25k is a lot of money for what is, ultimately, a small car.
Fair enough, that price tag includes a hefty dollop of extra equipment in this particular car. You have to allow for more than €2,000 worth of extras, from a 'Technology Upgrade' that comes with folding mirrors, a 'Lights and Vison' package including automatic headlamp activation with separate daytime running lights, front and rear parking sensors, a leather wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a tilt/slide panoramic sunroof, a front centre armrest and metallic paint. All very big-car stuff, but fundamentally, let's remember, this is technically a small car. Can it really bear the weight of expectations that comes with a price tag like that?
Name its best bits
The thing is that it can do just that. As soon as you slide behind the wheel, you start to realise that the Polo is capable of playing a strong game, even at this lofty level.
The way the cabin feels is paramount in this. Overall, the styling is actually quite plain, but the way every panel, switch and lever feels under your fingertip is really quite something. The Polo has long been legendary for its hard-wearing qualities, but this is no hair-shirt experience. It looks and feels every bit as impressive as anything you'd find in a Golf, and it's way ahead of its own in-house crossover rival, the T-Cross, in that respect.
It's also surprisingly roomy, with a definite big-car feel in the back seats, and plenty of space in the 351-litre boot (which is a little too close to what you'd find in a Golf for the Golf's comfort).
It's also really lovely to drive. It lacks the incisive steering and sports-car balance of the Ford Fiesta, but it's still very sweet in the corners, with decent weight (if no actual feedback) in the steering. Even with the R-Line sports kit on board, it's not even too hard in its ride quality.
Then there's the engine. Even shorn of 20hp (we're more used to the 115hp version of this engine) the 1.0-litre TSI is an excellent unit. It's enthusiastic to drive, and we managed to get an easy 6.2 litres per 100km (just over the 45mpg barrier) in real world conditions. You'd probably get better than that with a bit more care and attention.
Finally, there's the looks. The R-Line spec adds in a very subtle body kit for the Polo, which doesn't shout too loud about any no-existent sporting ability, but does add a bit of sharpness and definition to the shape. It's very handsome.
Anything that bugs you?
Well, the price bugs us obviously. Not least because you could have all of the same stuff in a SEAT Ibiza for rather less money. In fact, for the price of this particular Polo, you could have the new Skoda Scala hatchback, which is bigger on the inside and in the boot. Other than that, though, we're struggling to think of much that annoys.
And why have you given it this rating?
Buying a VW Polo is clearly an action of common sense. It's robust, roomy, responsive and really very good indeed. This one is, arguably, way too expensive, and there's much better value to have elsewhere in the VW range. Still, in isolation, it's hugely impressive.
What do the rest of the team think?
This R-Line Polo really is a lovely little car. As Neil said, shame about the pricing, but even so, there are probably plenty urbanites in the world that need a compact car and don't mind paying for quality. That's what the Polo represents - it really has grown into a mini-Golf like never before and it's a very satisfying car to drive and, no doubt, own.
Shane O'Donoghue - Editor