The Volkswagen Polo sits on a refined platform, and the 65PS model as tested promises low running costs.
Model/Engine size: Volkswagen Polo SE 1.0-litre 65PS 5-speed manual 5-door
Fuel economy combined (NEDC): 60.1 mpg
Green Car Guide rating: 7/10
By Paul Clarke
The ‘new’ Volkswagen Polo is new in a similar way that the recently updated Golf was ‘new’: from the user’s point of view, the biggest change is a refresh to the infomedia tech in the car. So should the Polo still be on your list of potential superminis to purchase?
Most people wouldn’t be able to tell any difference between the exterior of this ‘new’ model and that of the previous version. Even the interior is similar: things are basic, with small heating controls low down and in the dark: there’s no joy in here. In fact the only main item of news is upgraded infomedia and touchscreen technology.
This is a supermini, so it’s a squeeze to fit in a family of four and all their stuff, so it’s not that practical.
Our test car had a 3-cylinder, 1-litre turbo petrol engine with a 5-speed manual gearbox.
The Polo sits on a platform that delivers decent refinement, and it has a comfortable ride. However such redeeming features were completely overshadowed by one huge issue with our test car: a massive lack of power. The engine produces just 65PS, and there’s only 95 Nm of torque. This translates to a 0-62mph time 15.5 seconds, which says it all. Even though the Polo is relatively lightweight (at 1105 kg), due to the complete lack of power, there’s just no acceleration. And at low revs, before the turbo spins up, things are even worse.
The infomedia system – the main ‘new’ bit of this latest Polo – is grown-up for a supermini, although we’re not fans of touchscreens without a separate rotary controller, and in the Polo the screen is very shiny, so your fingers can easily slip when trying to press a button.
The official combined fuel economy for the Volkswagen Polo SE 1.0-litre 65PS is 60.1mpg, with CO2 emissions of 108 g/km. If you drive the Polo carefully – such as at a constant 50mph – then you may be rewarded, as we were, with fuel economy of around 65mpg. However the fact that this engine has no power, and in particular very little response at low revs, is also a problem for real-world fuel economy. In urban areas you end up having to rev the car hard to try to keep up with all the other vehicles on the road, and this kills the fuel economy. We ended up with an urban fuel economy figure of 35.5mpg. Overall, after a week, we averaged 47.5mpg. This is well short of the official 60.1mpg figure. So the Polo with this engine is too underpowered to be economical in real-world driving.
The Volkswagen Polo SE 1.0-litre 65PS costs £14,630. However our test car came with options of climate control (£415), pre-crash preventative occupant protection (£140), cruise control (£285), alloy wheels (£125), mats (£90), armrest (£135), parking sensors (£315), front fog lights (£250), and pure white paint (£340), resulting in a total price of £16,725 as tested.
Other engines are available (petrol TSI and diesel TDI), with 5 or 6-speed manual gearboxes and a 7-speed DSG transmission.
Trim levels include S, SE, SEL, R-LINE and GTI.
The Volkswagen Polo SE 1.0-litre 65PS has a very low insurance group of 1E.
The ‘new’ Polo isn’t really that different from the ‘old’ Polo. The most obvious change is upgraded infomedia technology. Which leaves us with a car that has a refined platform and a suite of safety-related technology, but regardless of such features, our test car was defined by one thing: the complete lack of power from this engine, which means that it really will be a niche choice – an ideal car for new drivers, especially those who have to have their driving monitored by a ‘black box’ from their insurance company. Although, at £16,725 as tested, it’s not the most affordable car for new drivers.
So although there may be a market for this model, the whole point of small cars is that they’re light and fun. This particular Polo is instead basic and sensible, and it therefore ends up with a Green Car Guide rating of 7 out of 10.
At a more strategic level, you’re left with the feeling that Volkswagen hasn’t really invested seriously in this latest Polo, or the recent Golf, and is instead investing in EVs. Although this doesn’t help this particular car, this has got to be a good thing for future Volkswagens.
In the meantime, we’ll have to try the new 200PS Polo GTI to hopefully get a more favourable view of what is possible from the new Polo when it’s not hampered by the 15.5 second 0-62mph time of the 65PS model, and we could even undertake a challenge to see if the GTI is more economical in real-world driving.
Fuel economy extra urban (NEDC): 68.9 mpg
Fuel economy urban (NEDC): 47.9 mpg
Test economy: 47.5 mpg
CO2 emissions (NEDC): 108 g/km
Vehicle tax rate (VED): £145 year 1, £140 year 2 onwards
Weight: 1105 kg
Benefit in Kind company car tax liability (2018/19): 20%
Insurance group: 1E
Power: 65 PS
Max speed: 102 mph
0-62 mph: 15.5 seconds
Torque: 95 Nm