Review: Volkswagen Polo

Sturdy and reliable, excellent for a first car

26 Jun 15 Tim Barnes-Clay

Pros

  • Generous room in the cabin

  • Lots of engine choices

  • Great interior quality

Cons

  • Firm low-speed ride

  • Expensive for a supermini

  • Smaller engines underperform

Our expert rating

Volkswagen's Polo has been around since 1975 and it's still a highly sought-after supermini.

Drivers still find it very appealing thanks to its many talents. It simply delivers everything that a small car in this segment should.

Performance

The VW Polo is best in diesel guise, as the strong pulling engine suits the car's unperturbed character. Flying past slower traffic is rewarding. The five-speed gearbox fitted to, for example, a 2005 model onwards, is light and a little on the notchy side.

Engine

Ride and handling

For a small motor, the VW Polo rides very well. If you drive the VW with too much gusto the car’s soft suspension makes things become a tad wobbly on the corners. Although the steering is nicely weighted, it doesn’t have a lot of feel, persuading you to slow down – which isn’t a bad thing.

The car’s soft suspension does have its benefits by hiding road defects, though larger potholes get felt in the cabin.

Interior of Polo

Interior space

The Polo is one of the largest superminis in its segment and, even with the car’s high seating position, has generous headroom. There is excellent legroom in the front, although there is less for rear seat passengers. On the other hand, with a high roofline, gaining access to the back of the Volkswagen is easy.

Cabin storage isn’t too bad either, due to cubby compartments of different shapes and sizes, including a decent sized glove box. The boot is nicely shaped as well and loading up pushchairs, shopping or holiday suitcases, is simple due to a low loading lip.

Boot of car

What to know before you buy

Regardless of the VW Polo’s solid temperament, it does have one common issue. A spectacular drop in performance and a warning light on the dashboard can be caused by an ignition coil malfunction on petrol models.

It is not expensive to put right, but it can be a hassle as parts can be hard to locate. A good, hardy test drive should reveal this problem. If the Polo behaves erratically or the car has problems running smoothly, it could be showing signs of ignition coil failure.

Alternative cars

The Ford Fiesta is the VW Polo’s archenemy. It doesn’t have the premier badge appeal of the Polo, and it is not as handsome, but it is far more of a driver’s car. The Vauxhall Corsa is also a worthy opponent due to its low price and popularity on the used market. It doesn’t steer or handle as well as the Fiesta, though.

The older Peugeot 206 and more modern 207 and 208 models have strong diesel engines and are good to drive, while the Nissan Micra’s individual styling, build quality and reliability make it a good contender, too.

Polo and Fiesta

Overall verdict

The Polo excels against many of its rivals because it is well screwed together and benefits from the high-quality image of its bigger siblings - the Golf and Passat. The VW’s cabin is tough and used models will stand up to many more miles of wear and tear. The Polo also makes an exceptional first car.

The switchgear and controls are simple to use and the car’s good visibility just adds to its easy-to-drive nature. What's more, if you buy a VW Polo with an economical diesel engine, this will keep running costs low. Also, if you look after your Polo, its reputation and good residual values should make it painless to sell on when the time comes.

Expert review

Performance

Reliability

Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money

Overall