For many years and through a few model generations I’ve regarded the Ford Fiesta as the best in class among this sector, but that crown slipped when Volkswagen introduced its latest Polo, relegating even the latest Fiesta and everything else to the second division.

You can read my comments below, but the short version is this; drive the VW Polo and your expectations of what a little car can do, will never be the same again. This little Volkswagen hasn’t just shifted the goalposts, so much as kicked them into another dimension.

VW Polo SE Driving in rain

Styling: 4/5

Inoffensive, typical hatchback looks and there is nothing to make the Polo stand out from the crowd, but I know I’m not alone in regarding it as a mini-Golf. That’s no bad thing but the Polo saves its firepower for when you start driving it.

Interior: 5/5

Top marks for the seating position and amount of room, the clarity of the instruments, the integration of the touch screen, the remarkably big boot and the bullet proof build quality.

As soon as you open the door you know you’re slipping behind the wheel of a car built to a premium standard and with the same attention to detail and last-a-lifetime materials you would find in the largest VWs, those with the £30,000-plus price tags.'

VW Polo Interior
VW Polo Multimedia screen

I approve of the touchscreen which is integrated into the fascia rather than being perched on top of it. The instruments are brilliant, nicely backlit, so you can read them instantly even in bright sunlight and the Polo has the `dial-and-digital’ display, with both the main speedo and a big digital speed display in the centre. Handy when you want to know how fast you’re going as you approach a speed limit change.

There is a lot of room in the front, a reasonable amount behind and a huge, very deep boot. Car manufacturers talk of how many litres of space it has, but I have never understood that. I prefer to use the more relevant measurement of shopping bags and I reckon that the Polo would take a week’s worth for a family with ease. A push chair too, come to think of it.

Driving: 5/5

This is the bit I love the most about the Polo. Last year I had the SEAT Ibiza, a sister car built on the same chassis, for a week and was amazed at it. No word of a lie, but I drove that to a McLaren press launch and it was the little hatchback which impressed me more…

You really should drive this car and your understanding of how well a small car can be made to ride will be transformed. I deliberately took it over some ripply bumps, some jarring ones and a few mid-corner bumps when the suspension was already loaded up and it is a thing of wonder to see and feel how the VW absorbs them all with no sign of being unsettled. If you want to get technical, its brilliance lies in the spring and damper tuning which is among the best, the most impressive I have ever come across.

The upshot of this is that you’re treated to a fantastically smooth ride and yet the Polo is utterly stable into and through a bend. I was going through tight corners, sweeping curves, roundabouts at a fair rate of knots and it just turns in, grips and goes. It handles as well as it rides.

VW Polo SE driving rear
VW Polo SE Boot Space

Allied to the chassis is the engine, in the case of my test car a 1.0 litre turbo. This is one of the modern generation of three cylinder power units and if you haven’t driven one yet, you should; they’re fantastic. Despite the tiny capacity they have bags of torque produced low down. In fact, peak torque comes at just 2,000 rpm and in top gear – fifth, there is no sixth – the engine is turning over at only 2,500 rpm at 70 mph. Imagine having the best elements of a small diesel and a small petrol engine combined and you get some idea of what these new engines are like.

I also noted and liked the light, smooth clutch travel which is good in heavy traffic when you’re crawling along, stopping and starting.

With its outstanding ride/handling package, the engine and the strong sense of being in a superbly engineered car you just cannot find anything to fault, but everything to admire, in this new Volkswagen Polo.

Verdict: 5/5

The arrival of the VW Polo and its sister cars, built on the same chassis, redefine the standards needed to succeed in this sector of the market. Never before has a small car felt so much like a bigger one in its refinement or its capabilities; you really should take one for a test.

VW Polo stand-out points:

  • Class-leading ride/handling.
  • Roomy, sophisticated interior.
  • Big boot.
  • Excellent engine range.

Test Drive Model Data:

  • VW Polo available from £11,970.
  • Car tested 1.0 T SE 95 PS. £15,930.
  • 0 to 60 seconds: 11 seconds
  • Top speed: 116 mph
  • Average mpg: 64
  • CO2: 101 g/km.
  • Warranty: three years/60,000 miles.
  • Main service intervals: 12 months.



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