What Is It?
It’s Volkswagen’s second-longest-serving nameplate after the venerable Golf – yes, it’s the Volkswagen Polo. Now into its 6th generation but, perhaps more pertinently, its 47th year, the Polo is a classy, high-quality supermini that competes in an incredibly competitive class alongside the likes of the Ford Fiesta, the Vauxhall Corsa (the UK’s best-selling car of all in 2021), the Peugeot 208, the Renault Clio and, naturally, its own ‘in-group’ relations in the form of the SEAT Ibiza, the Skoda Fabia and the Audi A1.
What’s Good About It?
Like many a Volkswagen that has come before it, the Polo Mk6’s strongest suit is its interior quality. It’s not just the sturdiness of all the fixtures and fittings, which are reassuring in both their heft and construction, but also the technology too. All Polos apart from the very base-spec models have a 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit Pro instrument cluster, as well as an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment set-up; even entry-level Life Polos have an 8-inch display in front of the driver. Further, a ‘dashpad’ bit of trim which sits in the centre of the fascia breaks up the expanses of black that the Polo would otherwise have, while – in the range-topping GTI hot-hatch performance model – it can also be painted in a bright colour like Kings Red for maximum sporty effect. You can find out more about customisation options in our Volkswagen Polo colour guide.
What Could Be Better?
In general, the Polo is not the most daring car to look at, in any aspect – be that exterior styling or interior flourishes. It is what it is: a staid, sensible car and not the most visually appealing thing you can buy. However, many people prefer discretion and the Polo will win fans precisely because it is so sedately designed.
That aforementioned flagship GTI also deserves a mention here. It has a powerful 2.0-litre engine with 207hp and can do 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds, so it’s very quick, and it certainly looks good inside and out – as hot hatchbacks go, it’s a solid choice. But some key rivals, such as the Hyundai i20 N and the Ford Fiesta ST, are both cheaper to lease and also much more fun to drive.
What’s It Like To Drive?
The Polo’s supremely refined demeanour makes it a strong choice in a segment where few cars feel as elegant and poised as this German car does. Even the GTI is luxurious and quiet when on the move at high speeds, but the regular models – with their smaller wheels and softer suspension – are brilliant to travel long distances in.
Every Polo bar the GTI is equipped with a 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder petrol engine. This is sold either without a turbo, for an ‘MPI’ designation, or fitted with a small, light-pressure turbo, called ’TSI’. You definitely want to go for the latter, if you can: while the MPI’s peak output of 80hp is not far off the 2 TSI figures of either 95- or 110hp, it has significantly less torque, which means you have to push the engine harder to gain speed. The 2 TSI models deliver either 175- or 200Nm of the stuff, which makes keeping up with general traffic flow effortless.
There’s a choice of gearboxes, too, with the 80 MPI and 95 TSI fitted with a 5-speed manual as standard. On the 95 TSI alone, you can opt for a 7-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission for an extra fee, while this same DSG ‘box is the standard (and therefore only) equipment available on the 110hp TSI.
Whichever turbocharged ‘regular’ Polo model you pick, though, will be a delight to live with. It’ll be capable and composed on the motorway, like a VW Passat, and yet it will be nippy and responsive in town, like a VW Up. The sense of solidity the car infers means it’s not hard to see the link between the Polo and the larger Golf, and in general few cars in this sector are going to be as amenable as a nicely specified Volkswagen Polo. It’s a very all-round-talented little supermini.
How Practical Is It?
Any Polo, whether a 1.0-litre mainstream model or the hot GTI, will be a useful companion in life. The standard 351-1125-litre boot space places the Volkswagen towards the upper end of the class in this regard, although bear in mind the sportier exhaust system underneath the GTI’s cargo-area floor robs it of some room (305 to 1079 litres overall). Room in the second row is plentiful, too, as the Polo is physically one of the longest cars in this segment, and access is easy to those seats because the Polo is only sold as a 5-door model these days – the 3-door Polo has long since bit the dust.
Furthermore, all Polos have huge door pockets, a generous glovebox, 2 cupholders aligned longitudinally on the transmission tunnel, and an array of other useful storage compartments – one of our favourites being the tidy integration of the optional wireless smartphone charging pad, neatly sequestered in a lidded cubby ahead of the gear lever.
Better still, the Polo hasn’t succumbed to the same issue as its Mk8 Golf big brother – namely, that the Polo’s climate controls are still presented on a separate, physical control panel, rather than being part of the touchscreen infotainment above.
How Much Will It Cost Me?
The Volkswagen Polo can be leased from as little as £206pcm with Vanarama, while every model in the range bar the 207hp GTI will cost you less than £300 per month. In short, despite its unerring quality, it is not as expensive as you might think to get behind the Polo’s wheel.
Equipment is also decent across the board, too, as basic Life cars come with 15-inch alloys, automatic lights and wipers, LED head- and tail lights, the 8-inch Digital Cockpit and 8-inch infotainment system (incorporating Android Auto and Apple CarPlay), manual air conditioning, cruise control with a speed limiter, and a robust array of advanced driver assist systems (ADAS), among much more.
It might be worth stepping up to a Style, though, as VW is mighty generous with the kit here – including 16-inch alloys, Matrix LED headlights, Sports Comfort seats, the larger 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit Pro, navigation capability for the infotainment system, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, and an enhanced suite of ADAS technology. The R-Line is sporty in appearance inside and out, while the GTI gets its own high-specification list of goodies – as befits a car with a £27,805 asking price.
In terms of running costs, any 1.0-litre Polo will do between 50.4- and 54.3mpg economy officially, depending on output and gearbox type, with corresponding CO2 numbers of between 118-128g/km. The bigger-engined Polo GTI, meanwhile, records still-commendable data of 41.5mpg and 155g/km – we tested one for a week and more than 420 miles, and saw an overall 33.2mpg from mixed-roads driving, with a best of 40mpg on a middle-distance motorway run. Not bad for a petrol-powered car capable of 149mph flat out.
Anything Else I Should Know?
How many Polos do you think Volkswagen had built by the time of the Mk6 facelift (marked out by wider rear lamp clusters which bleed into the bootlid) at the end of 2021? It was probably more than you imagine, because, in the course of 46 years of production to that point, VW had managed to make more than 18 million of the things. That’s right: EIGHTEEN MILLION.
What Alternatives Should I Look At?
Ever a strong seller in this country, the Fiesta is more exciting to drive but perhaps less high-quality throughout.
Gigantic improvements in this for its third generation’s launch in 2020 – and the hot i20 N is exceptional.
Really pleasant cabin and a class-leading boot are the Clio’s strengths. This is now into its fifth generation.
The Vanarama Verdict: 8/10
While not the most exciting car to drive in this class – especially as a GTI – the Volkswagen Polo Mk6 is nevertheless 1 of the first superminis you should be looking at, because it has an impeccable interior and the sort of overall refinement levels you’d expect of something costing twice the price.
3 Things To Remember About The Volkswagen Polo:
Incredibly sturdy build
The supermini sector’s refined choice
GTI could do with more fizz