The Volkswagen Polo 1.0-litre 60 PS has a small, low-powered engine that is more at home in the Up! city car, but it works in the Polo supermini better than you would expect.
Downsizing – fitting cars with smaller engines – has been a key trend for a few years now, but you always wonder if the manufacturer has gone a step too far. The Volkswagen Polo is now available with the 1.0-litre, 60 PS petrol engine that is found in the Up! city car, and you would imagine that the car will be too heavy, and the engine too small. However we’ve had a 2-cylinder engine in a Fiat Panda, and a 1-litre engine in a Ford Focus, so perhaps Volkswagen’s engineers haven’t gone made after all…
Well, it’s a Volkswagen Polo, so you can be sure that the basic engineering is likely to be fairly sound. Because it’s a Polo, you also know that it’s going to be sensible rather than exciting, both to look at and to drive.
This model is characterised by the small 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine, which is mated to a five-speed gearbox, and of course front-wheel drive. Inside, it’s a typical Volkswagen interior – functional, well built, but hardly inspiring.
You may think that something like a 1.4-litre petrol unit should reside under the bonnet of a Polo, so when presented with a 1.0-litre engine, it’s understandable that you may have low expectations about how the car will drive.
But we’re pleased to report that this Polo drives much better than you’re likely to imagine. Apart from the attractive official economy, a key benefit of a smaller engine is that it’s lighter, which means that the car should be more agile and fun in the handling department, and this is true of this Polo. It also has an excellent ride (over most surfaces) and the steering is responsive and well-weighted rather than being over-light, as is often the case in cars designed primarily for urban use. And it’s very quiet and refined – something that didn’t use to be the case with 3-cylinder petrol engines.
So this Polo is a sensibly-sized package, and it’s light and nippy to drive around town. But surely it must be a nightmare on the motorway? Well, actually, once again it’s much better than you would think. When you’re at a constant speed, it’s absolutely fine, and also more economical than downsized engines often are in this environment. However if you need to overtake another vehicle at motorway speeds, and especially on a hill, then the car definitely struggles. The lack of power (60 PS) and torque (just 95 Nm) and the 0-62mph time of 15.5 seconds should give you a clue that this will be the case. Ideally you would have a sixth gear for motorway use to bring the revs down, but this doesn’t make sense for this combination of car and engine. At motorways speeds, when going into situations such as long, wet corners on slip roads, it’s not the most confidence-inspiring car.
We also struggled to get a perfect driving position; both the windscreen and mirrors took a long time to demist; and reverse gear is a challenge to select.
As you might expect with a car of this class, the satnav isn’t the best system. You can’t enter a postcode, it chooses some strange routes, and it highlights traffic problems that don’t exist, but the main issue is that it doesn’t seem to recognise roundabouts – it sees them as junctions, and sends you off in some strange – and incorrect – direction.
You’re likely to buy this car to enjoy transport that has trusted build quality and that has sensible packaging, with good economy/low running costs, and the Polo doesn’t disappoint. The official combined NEDC economy figure is 60.1mpg, with emissions of 106g/km CO2. We achieved some excellent real-life economy figures, such as 55mpg after a 150 mile motorway journey at 70mph, 65mpg at 60mph, and 80mpg after a long 50mph stretch on the M6. Overall after a week we averaged 47.3mpg. Cars with small downsized engines perform worst in terms of real life v official economy, so 47.3mpg v 60.1 mpg isn’t that bad.
The Volkswagen Polo 1.0-litre 60 PS is SE trim costs £13,065. Our test car had options of ‘Discover’ navigation system (£700), metallic paint (£535), and winter pack (£360), taking the total price to £14,660. This is getting a bit pricey for a 1-litre, 60 PS supermini.
BlueMotion Technology is standard on all Polos and includes a Stop/Start function and battery recuperation to recover energy lost during braking, helping to save fuel and reduce emissions.
There’s also a wide variety of other Polo variants, petrol and diesel.
The Volkswagen Polo 1.0-litre 60 PS is a sensible supermini for people who want a car that is well-built, a practical shape, and has decent economy and low running costs. It performs better with this engine than most people will imagine, and it’s also refined and agile. However ultimately it’s not the most fun car in its class to drive, or to look at, and it’s also not the cheapest. Taking all this into account the Volkswagen Polo 1.0-litre 60 PS scores a Green-Car-Guide rating of 8 out of 10.