What is it?
As the adverts proclaim, this is “the new Polo”. That seems a bit of a stretch when you consider that the latest revisions to Volkswagen’s supermini include neither alterations to the exterior sheet metal nor to the lights and plastic bumpers, which are the more usual candidates for facelift revisions.
Instead, VW has concentrated on refreshing the engines and upgrading the gadgetry, and despite the lack of headlines has made a pretty good job of it.
There are now four petrol engines – the 59bhp and 74bhp 1.0-litre petrol triples from the Up, plus two versions of the 1.2-litre TSI turbo petrol four, in 89bhp and 108bhp forms.
Naturally they’re all Euro 6 compliant and carry VW’s Bluemotion badge of unobtrusive frugality, which entails the fitment of features including a stop-start system. The SE version we tested was the lower-powered of the two TSI engines, good for 60.1mpg on a combined cycle and stated to emit just 107g/km of CO2.
As well as the mechanical changes, there is also a general equipment upgrade. Our SE had a new central 6.5in screen (in the lesser models it’s only a 5.8in) that incorporates a comprehensive new infotainment system.
All Polos now come with electronic stability control, a hill-hold system and a post-collision braking system that reduces the severity of a second impact after an initial crash.
Typical big-car options include adaptive cruise, a driver alert warning system and city emergency braking, all for £500.
In fact the SE (well equipped but not luxurious) gets close to being the ideal supermini, were it not for the fact that its styling is well proportioned but extremely bland: a Polo is one of those cars that almost entirely escapes notice.
What’s it like?
On the road the revised Polo transpires to be an agile, easy driving car, with plenty of grip and accurate steering.
Fully electric power steering is now standard, instead of the electro-hydraulic of past models. It works well in the Polo though, as always seems to be the way in well-developed cars of this size. The gearchange is also great and the brakes deliver exactly the strong retardation you’d expect.
The 1.2-litre 89bhp engine performs respectably and is well matched to the SE’s standard five-speed gearbox (the higher output 1.2 TSI gets a six-speeder) except that there’s an occasional, un-VW like stagger at low revs in first and second.
Performance is adequate rather than impressive but there’s pleasant thrust just where you need it at around 4000 to 5000rpm, usually struck just when you need it during an overtake.
This car’s strongest suit, however, is its economy. Unlike many modern petrol engines, which display a cavernous gap between their official combined fuel figure and what they can actually achieve, the Polo claims 60.1mpg and is well capable of 50mpg in give-and-take driving, a very good performance for a petrol engine.
Should I buy one?
For all its virtues it’s rather a shame that the Volkswagen Polo is such an anonymous-looking vehicle. It’s not unpleasant to look at; it just never catches the eye.
VW has been styling its Polos this way for so many generations that it’s obviously “policy”. Perhaps it’s about staying out of the Golf’s way.
Still, if we were compiling priorities for the next-gen model, it would surely be to give the car looks that better embodied the rest of the Polo’s impressive strengths and achievements.
Volkswagen Polo SE 1.2-litre TSI 3dr
Price £15,315 0-62mph 10.8 sec Top speed 114mph Economy 60.1mpg CO2 107g/km Kerb weight 1107kg Engine 4cyls, 1197cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 89bhp at 4800rpm Torque 118lb ft between 1400-4000rpm Gearbox 5-spd manual
What is it?