The Volkswagen Polo hatchback has been a staple of the small car range for over 40 years and now in its sixth generation, it continues to draw people in by adapting to current stylings and trends. An ever-popular and in demand option when people are searching for first cars, its clear to see why the Polo has been a mainstay of the supermini class for as long as it has been.
Previous versions have left some feeling that its a little behind the competition in terms of styling and features, but the current Polo has moved to be much more in line with the Volkswagen Golf proving that Volkswagen know their consumers and what they want.
Volkswagen have trimmed down the engine options, added more styling options, and given a roomier interior to entice buyers to choose it over its competitors like the Ford Fiesta, or the Audi A1 if you're looking at a slightly more prestige option.
In comparison to its previous models, the new Volkswagen Polo is still recognisable, with the changes to the exterior styling less severe than what some competitors have done, such as Peugeot with the 208 or the Vauxhall Corsa.
It has lost its boxy appearance in recent years in line as many manufacturers have moved towards a more streamlined design. Volkswagen have also added a strip with IQ-LIGHT matrix LED headlights between the two headlights as an option for the Life and R-Line models whilst it's a standard on the Style and GTI trim. It's definitely one of the cooler aesthetic options available and looks great when driving at night.
The Volkswagen Polo has always been a popular choice but by bringing it more in line with the Golf, particularly when you look at the Polo GTI, makes it an irresistible option for those who love the styling but not the price tag of the Golf.
The Volkswagen Polo interior is modernised too, with a digital dash and a touchscreen infotainment system. The latter includes Android Auto and Apple Carplay through it's mobile phone interface that is standard across the range and an integrated sat-nav that is available across all trim levels (although it is an additional cost for the entry-level Life). This puts it miles ahead of other cars in the supermini class, where a digital dash is often an upsell to a higher trim level or an additional cost altogether.
For those who prioritise what they listen to as they drive, there is an option to upgrade the standard 6 speakers to Beats sound system which improves the sound quality and adds a subwoofer. An ideal upgrade for those who can't go without music streaming as they drive.
Additionally, Volkswagen offers "Air Care Climatronic"; 2 zone climate control designed to keep the cabin consistently comforting at a chosen temperature and air speed. This is available from the Style trim onwards. The Life offers manual air conditioning, which some actually prefer.
The standard interior trim is all black bar the roof which is Ceramique, a classic cream colour that's familiar to most people, but changes to black when you choose the R-Line or GTI. The Polo GTI also changes the dash inserts to red for a more striking look that is more in line with sports trims.
The Volkswagen Polo is now much sleeker than some of the previous generations, which had previously been clunky and square looking in comparison to some of its competitors like the Ford Fiesta or the Seat Ibiza. Now it is much more comparable to them but also another in the Volkswagen range, with many already viewing the Polo as a more affordable and smaller Golf.
All of the mix and match options for paint, wheels, and interior make personalising the car much easier, as well having an array of equipment to choose from at an additional cost. For example, with the Polo GTI, the leather-wrapped multi-function sports steering wheel adds shifting paddles to give a totally different feel from the lower trim models.
The latest Volkswagen Polo gives a more comfortable ride, with a little extra room. Four adults can comfortably ride in the car, but adding a fifth into the mix would likely leave those in the rear seats a little more cramped than the Golf, which is roomier still. It's a five-door only option, in line with competitors such as the Vauxhall Corsa, which has ditched the three-door option completely in favour of a more accessible option.
The rear passenger space is 41mm wider and 21mm taller than previous models, meaning that two adults would have a more comfortable journey, with more headroom and a little more space in their seats. The front seats, too, have benefitted from more headroom. Volkswagen have managed to give the driver and front passenger approximately 45mm extra headroom, and the driver also has height adjustment for both their seat and steering wheel.
Whilst these may sound like relatively small changes, it can make a big difference if you've got a full car of passengers on a longer trip.
In terms of space, the latest Polo's boot gives 351 litres of room to use, which is larger than the Ford Fiesta and comparable to the Seat Ibiza. It also has a 60:40 split in the rear seats for any times where you need additional room. Additionally, the boot floor level is adjustable meaning that they really do want you to use all of the available space if you need to. Many small cars don't offer the adjustable height option and it's not until you start to creep into SUV territory that this usually becomes available.
Front and rear parking sensors and a reverse camera are available across the range, but Volkswagen also offers the Driver Assistance Pack, which adds a couple of extra features to help make parking the easiest task on the planet.
The Lane Change Assist Side Assist (a bit of a mouthful) is a step up on blind spot detection. As you signal to change lanes the system figures out if any car in your blind spot or up to 50m behind you could be a hazard and then flashes an LED bulb in your side view mirror to alert you to the danger.
The other thing that the pack includes is Park Assist with a parking distance warning. Not quite self-driving, but the sensor recognises if your car will fit into a space as you drive past it then leaves you in control of the clutch, accelerator, and brake before driving into the space for you. Definitely not for everyone, but for those that perhaps are less able it's a step towards keeping driving accessible without the need for adaptations.
The Polo offers a variety of three cylinder petrol engines across the range, varying depending on which trim level that you opt for. The Life, for example, gives you the 1.0 litre 80PS five speed manual gearbox or the 1.0 litre 95PS as a manual or seven speed automatic gearbox. It might not sound like much of a difference but the latter options trim roughly 4 seconds off of the 0-62mph time.
The Style trim only offers the 1.0 litre 95PS five speed manual gearbox but the R-Line offers two more choices in the form of a 1.0 litre 95PS or 110PS seven speed automatic gearbox.
The GTI, as expected, jumps to a 2.0 litre 7 speed automatic gearbox and delivers over double the horsepower of most of the engines in the range at 207PS but it does drag the combined consumption down and increase the CO2 emissions drastically. However, if you're choosing this engine its likely that these aren't too much of a concern for you. For comparison, the Ford Fiesta ST only gives a 1.5 litre manual option with 200PS for a similar price.
What is notably absent is any hint at a hybrid model. Whilst Volkswagen have hybrid options for the Golf (note that the fully electric E-Golf has been discontinued in favour of the ID.3). Perhaps its the only thing missing from its current range of exclusively petrol engines.
The entry level Life trim gives a good range of standard features with highlights including; 15" alloy wheels, LED headlights, automatic headlight control with LED separate daytime running light, heat insulating glass in side and rear windows, Digital Cockpit - 8" display screen, We Connect and We Connect Plus functionality, three isofix points across the front and rear passenger seats, and rain sensor wipers.
The Style builds on this to add matrix LED headlights with automatic headlight control and dynamic cornering lighting, ambient lighting with exterior illuminated styling elements in the front grille, 16" "Palermo" alloy wheels, sports comfort front seats, and front and rear parking sensors.
The R-Line mostly differs from the Style by adding two automatic engine options: a 1.0 litre 95PS or the slightly punchier 1.0 litre 110PS, both 7 speed gearboxes. As well as this, it offers rear tinted glass from the B pillar backwards, 16" "Valencia" alloy wheels, travel assist - lane keeping system and traffic jam assist, Digital Cockpit Pro - a 10.25" high resolution dash display screen with customisable menus and information.
For those looking for the ultimate performance from their Volkswagen Polo they can opt for the GTI trim. As well as all of the aforementioned features, it hones in on performance with a larger engine and more power.
Aesthetically the Volkswagen Polo GTI offers a sleeker and sportier look with 17" black diamond cut alloys, red brake calipers on both the front and rear brake discs, sports seats in the front, and a chrome twin exhaust tailpipe. The drive itself offers sports suspension with the body lowered by approximately 15mm, and adaptive chassis control DCC including Driving Profile Selection. the Polo GTI is a well equipped option for those who aren't quite ready to spend the money that the Golf demands for its GTI trim.
Volkswagen has a reputation as having an incredibly reliable build quality, its one of the reasons why it's such a popular choice time and time again, and with a consistently high score from Euro NCAP it's easy to see that Volkswagen takes their duty to create safe cars seriously.
The current rating of 5 stars given in March 2022 is unchanged from 2020 and rates at 94% for adult occupants and 80% for children and is listed under Euro NCAP's Safest Family Cars. Incredibly reassuring for those most concerned with how the safety features actually hold up.
The adaptive cruise control system is standard equipment across all of the trim levels, and includes autonomous emergency braking for speeds up to 130mph and the lane keeping system and traffic jam assist.
For families, it's reassuring to know that all new cars are now isofix compatible and the new Polo range gives you three isofix points: two in the rear passenger seats and one in the front passenger seat. Coupled with it being a five door model means that it continues to be accessible for however you travel and whoever goes with you.
The current range starts with the Life from £18,855 but jumps to £27,805 for the GTI, before adding any optional extras. The Style and R-Line both start at £21,890, meaning that you can choose to prioritise your favourite options for the same price.
At each trim level you have options to customise paint colour, wheels, interior trim, and additional features to really make the car your own. Choosing an automatic gearbox over a manual, where available, increases the base price further.
Whilst many will be happy to pay for the Volkswagen brand and what it represents, the lower trim levels do come in at a higher cost than some of it's competitor cars such as the Seat Ibiza. However, the Polo GTI certainly stands up against its closest competitors, the Ford Fiesta ST and the Vauxhall Corsa Ultimate, justifying the cost that Volkswagen are retailing it at.
The new Volkswagen Polo definitely seems to be more comfortable in its skin than some of the previous models. It knows what it is, largely now as the Up! takes the place of Volkswagen's small car option leaving the new Polo to easily slot in between it and the Golf.
The sixth generation polo is pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a car in the supermini class. In keeping a tech heavy interior at every trim level it makes the extra spend justifiable for some who might have previously kept to another small car that was similar but cheaper and then means that Volkswagen can throw in some real extras when you head towards the higher trims (see sports seats for the Polo R-Line and red brake callipers for the Polo GTI).
Overall, the latest Polo is definitely a triumph for Volkswagen. It's Golf-esque styling and step up in tech makes it a solid option in the vast array of small cars that are available on the market, especially compared to the Renault Clio or the Seat Ibiza. With the Volkswagen badge recognised as one of quality and reliability, it's no wonder that these cars often see themselves holding a high resale value.
The new Volkswagen Polo has stepped up and proves why Volkswagen continues to be renowned globally.