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New VW Polo 2017 review – Volkswagen's supermini is a breath of fresh air

Launching a car into the crowded supermini sector is tough at the best of times but when you’re introducing the sixth generation of a car that has been consistently rated as one of the best in class the pressure to get it perfect is intense.

As with the previous five generations of Polo this latest model has a broad appeal. Like all superminis it is aimed at those covering more local journeys who need a sensible compact car on a sensible compact budget.

In reality this means a wide cross-section of the population, from the young and single through second cars for families to retirees.

Volkswagen doesn’t give official predictions for sales but points to the historic performance of the Polo as an indicator of how the latest version will do when it goes on sale next month, the first cars being delivered to customers at the end of the year.

Last year VW sold 50,000 Polos in the UK and despite the up-and-coming introduction of the Polo-based T-Roc supermini crossover and the dropping of the three-door model, it expects sales to remain stable.

What VW does predict is that the bestselling model will be the 95bhp 1.0-litre petrol with a manual gearbox in SE trim.

This car alone is expected to account for three quarters of all new Polos leaving showrooms. Following the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” maxim the new Polo’s styling is very much evolutionary over the fifth generation car.

It is easily recognisable as a Polo and won’t offend old or new buyers.

The lines are sharper and the car itself is lower, wider and longer than before, which improves the solid stance Polos have become known for.

Overall it is a clean, stylish supermini that exudes confidence rather than charisma.

Although the final engine line-up has yet to be decided there will be at least three turbo-petrols and a single turbo-diesel in the initial range.

The petrols consist of two versions of a three-cylinder 1.0-litre with 95bhp or 115bhp alongside a 150bhp 1.5-litre using VW’s clever new fuel-saving cylinder deactivation technology. 

Volkswagen Polo PR

Volkswagen Polo Price range: est £13,500-£21,000

This car alone is expected to account for three quarters of all new Polos leaving showrooms

A 200bhp 2.0-litre petrol in GTI guise will join the range in 2018 and, at the other end of the range, a low-powered 1.0-litre is likely to join the line-up at some point too.

For the moment there will also be just a single turbo-diesel, a 1.6-litre with 95bhp. VW has yet to issue official performance or economy figures for most of the engines the Polo will be available with. However the 95bhp 1.0-litre engine has a claimed 0 to 60mph time of 10.8 seconds and a top speed of 117mph.

While the 95bhp car is easily quick enough for everyday use the 115bhp version, which has a six-speed gearbox rather than the five-speed of the lower-powered car, feels noticeably quicker accelerating from standstill and also in-gear.

Any potential owner doing regular motorway journeys would be advised to go for the 115bhp version.

Volkswagen Polo PR

Volkswagen Polo Power: 0 to 60mph in 7.8 seconds, with a 140mph top speed

As with the performance figures, of the engines confirmed for the UK only data about the 95bhp 1.0 is available. For this engine VW claims an official fuel economy of 64.2mpg and emissions of 101g/km.

First impressions of the Polo on the standard suspension aren’t as great as you may hope.

The new Polo’s ride is on the stiff side which means the car feels just a touch jiggly on anything other than smooth roads.

This detracts from what would otherwise be a car that feels solid on the tarmac.

However the stiff suspension means there’s minimal body roll and the car feels composed when cornering. Choose the optional adaptive suspension though and the car is much improved.

That legendary VW solid feel returns and all but the worst imperfections in the road surface are absorbed well.

The steering is accurate and light but like almost all rivals it is somewhat devoid of any feedback about exactly what’s going on between the tyres and the road. It means that the car never really feels that much fun. Refinement is up with the class best in the three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrols and the 1.6-litre diesel.

The thrum from the petrol engine is only intrusive if you work it hard. The interior of the new Polo is a breath of fresh air in Volkswagen terms.

Volkswagen PoloPR

Volkswagen Polo CO2 emissions: est 89-130g/km

The dashboard can be specified in a range of colours that both brighten and simplify the cabin. All cars will also come with an eight-inch colour infotainment screen which gives the Polo the look and feel of a car from the class above. While the car’s construction is good, some of the materials used away from the dashboard feel noticeably less expensive.

As the car is wider and longer than before there’s also much greater interior space.

The rear seats will easily take two 6ft adults without any difficulties from leg or headroom.

The boot has been increased in size to 351 litres, up from 280 in the previous generation Polo.

It must be noted that much of this space is below the boot floor in what was the spare wheel well. VW is claiming a first with the introduction of an optional digital display for the instruments.

It’s similar to the system first seen on high-end Audis.

This means several different display modes are possible and these are also customisable by the driver. However the standard instruments are some of the clearest and simplest on the market and it may be worth saving your money for the adaptive suspension.

Overall the new Polo is an excellent car. It gets everything a supermini should do right.

But overall, it fails to stand out from the crowd.

Volkswagen Polo PR

Volkswagen Polo Average fuel economy: 80.1mpg


Model: Volkswagen Polo 

On sale: Next month 

Price range: est £13,500-£21,000

Engine range: Turbo-petrol – 1.0, 1.0 115bhp, 1.5-litre; Turbo-diesel – 1.6-litre

Power: 0 to 60mph in 7.8 seconds, 140mph top speed (1.5)

Average fuel economy: 80.1mpg (1.6TD)

CO2 emissions: est 89-130g/km

Rivals: Citroen C3, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai i20, Nissan Micra, Peugeot 208, Renault Clio, Toyota Yaris, Vauxhall Corsa

Rating: 8/10

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