Volkswagen Polo 1.0 SE 5dr

June 2014

picture of car from the front

Subtle cosmetic changes hide more important ones under the skin

Ratings

Overall Rating 7Overall rating

Value for money Rating 8Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 8Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 8Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 8Controls and display

Comfort Rating 8Comfort

Security Rating 7Car security

Safety Rating 7Car safety


Likes

  • Cabin and boot space good for a car of this size
  • Instrument ergonomics some of the best in this class
  • High quality feel inside and out
  • On paper green credentials are impressive

Gripes

  • Three-cylinder engines lack sparkle
  • Lots of competition in this market means Polo has tough task to stand out
  • Cosmetic refresh is subtle in the extreme
  • Despite high quality, cabin lacks the imagination of certain rival offerings

Volkswagen's Polo isn't like other superminis; the mini Golf is just that, a small version of VW's hugely popular and respected family hatch. As such, refinement and quality levels are higher than the sector average, yet recent years have seen the car's asking price become increasingly more accessible. This latest refresh might look modest but a lot of effort has been expended on boosting real world performance.

A first glance the car is instantly recognisable as a Polo, but the subtle exterior changes have brought the shape up to date an in line with the larger Golf. Part of the Polo's popularity stems from its upmarket appearance, and the modest changes to the lights and trim reflect this.

Inside the changes are just as limited, with new fabrics and a switch to the Golf's large infotainment screen the most obvious improvements. The Polo remains practical and easy to use, and those trading up from and older or cheaper supermini are likely to appreciate the car's upmarket ambience.

What justifies the fuss surrounding the apparent modest refresh is a more comprehensive mechanical upgrade. In a bid to keep a lid on fuel consumption and emissions, Volkswagen has switched to three-cylinder engines for the Polo's mainstream choice of power. Both petrol (1.0) and diesel (1.2) drop a cylinder, with the larger units gaining modest tweaks to improve their respective performance.

This higher tech approach also runs to offering the Polo with a few choice items from the larger Golf, such as advanced collision avoidance systems and the aforementioned high-end infotainment system. All in all, this move does much to elevate the Polo higher in status than its closest supermini rivals in the perceived and actual quality stakes.

Our verdict on the Volkswagen Polo 1.0 SE 5dr

While many of the revision to this generation of Polo are subtle in the extreme, the combined effect further enhances the car's desirability if you're seeking a small car delivering Golf-like levels of refinement and quality. Undemanding drivers won't notice, but the switch to three-cylinder motoring has resulted in a little more engine noise than is desirable, although the upside is a rounded package delivering a genuine big car feel.

Costs
Costs rating 8

Polos are strong used car performers and the added draw of the car's economy and CO2 performance should lead to modest savings at the pump and in the wallet. Specification is also better than for previous models, which should help make the ownership experience more enjoyable too.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 8

Space in both the front and rear is good. The driver's seat, front passenger's seat and rear bench all offer good levels of comfort, practicality and space. Knee room in the rear is also better than expected. The boot is also a decent size and has a low loading lip for extra practicality, which can be boosted if you fold the rear seats.

picture of car from the rear

Refreshed Polo remains a handsome car even from the rear

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 8

The centre console controls are laid out logically and a multifunction wheel includes supplementary audio controls to keep distractions to a minimum. The focal point is a new multimedia touchscreen, which is clear and intuitive. In manual gearbox guise the shift is short and slick.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 8

In the real world the car copes well with surface imperfections and is also much quieter than your average compact hatch. The icing on the cake is the supportive nature of the Polo's seats and the ample room available for its occupants.

Car security
Security Rating 7

The standard fitment of an engine immobiliser and central locking give even the base Polo a respectable level of security, and an auto locking anti-hijack system when on the move. For added peace of mind and alarm or even a visible steering lock might prove a worthwhile investment.

Car safety
Safety Rating 7

The car comes as standard with all the usual electronic stability assistants for something boasting only a modest amount of power. In a departure from the usual modest specification of such cars, the Polo boasts an auto city brake feature and can also be had with more advanced kit from the upmarket Golf.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 7

Volkswagen's to downsize some of its engines has resulted in some useful economy and emissions gains. However, the trade-off is only a modest level of real world performance from its new three-cylinder units. In this guise the Polo is no ball of fire and much happier to take a relaxed approach to motoring, and the motors can sound gruff if pushed hard. You'll need to choose a four-cylinder engine for added pace. That aside, the car's ride, steering and composure belies its size and modest price tag.

picture of car interior

Stylish centre console now includes Golf's infotainment system

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 7

In five-door form the Polo has enough space for a small family, and it's reasonably practical with a spacious boot plus a low-loading lip. You'll have to limit what you pack for driving holidays with the children, but for daily tasks the Polo is surprisingly accommodating.

First car appeal
First car Rating 8

There's no reason why the regular Polo couldn't be suitable for a novice. It's small enough for the city and easy to drive, plus performance is modest - something that should please both parents and insurance companies.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 7

It's no surprise to learn that the Polo feels like a baby Golf. It shares a lot of refinement and, in revised form, also quite a bit of equipment with its bigger brother. There's an impressive feeling of solidity from the cabin, while Volkswagen as a brand enjoys a considerable amount of goodwill from both the media and buying public.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

The Polo can be had in three or five door form and the solid, chunky door handles help make getting in and out of the car reasonably easy. In five-door guise the car's short front doors ensure easy access and exit in tight parking spaces. It can be a little tight getting in and out of the back, though. At the rear the car's tailgate requires little effort to open.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

In a bid to position the Polo closer to the larger Golf, Volkswagen's supermini gains a crisp, clear colour touchscreen for users to access audio and, where fitted, navigation functions. Overall performance is good, with plenty of connections - MP3 player, Bluetooth - plus DAB radio for good measure alongside steering wheel controls.

picture of car in detail

Polo continues to offer above average ownership experience

Colours and trim

Exterior colour options range from bright, youthful shades to more conservative tones like grey, silver and black - all of which should ensure both young and older buyers are catered for. The car's interior is, like so many in the VW family, a subdued affair. There's lots of dark plastic to compliment the seat fabrics.

Parking

It's no surprise to learn that the Polo is easy to park and manoeuvre. Getting in and out of tight spots is never complicated, while a decent driving position is easy to find and there's great all-round visibility.

Spare wheel

A space saver wheel is supplied as standard.

 

Range information

Petrol engine options - 1.0-litre (60bhp, 75bhp); 1.2-litre (75bhp, 90bhp, 110bhp); 1.4-litre (150bhp). Diesel engine options - 1.4-litre (75bhp). Transmission options: five and six-speed manual gearbox, plus seven-speed direct shift DSG gearbox. Trim levels: S, SE, SE Design, SEL, BlueGT.

 

Alternative cars

Skoda Fabia Solid and sensible choice but not one for keen drivers

Citroen DS3 Funky DS3 likely to secure the youth vote

Renault Clio Reborn Clio is a good steer, affordable and economical

Ford Fiesta Long-time bestseller and good all-rounder boasting wide selection of kit and engines



Over 1,200 more car reviews online

All the reports since 1990 are available on this site, just search by make and model below.

Step 1 > Select make Alfa Romeo    Aston Martin    Audi    Austin    BMW    Bentley    Cadillac    Caterham    Chevrolet    Chrysler    Citroen    Daewoo    Daihatsu    Dodge    Ferrari    Fiat    Ford    Honda    Hyundai    Isuzu    Jaguar    Jeep    Kia    Lada    Lamborghini    Lancia    Land Rover    Lexus    Lotus    MG    MINI    Maserati    Mazda    Mercedes-Benz    Mitsubishi    Nissan    Perodua    Peugeot    Porsche    Proton    Renault    Rolls-Royce    Rover    SEAT    Saab    Skoda    Smart    Smart Car    Ssangyong    Subaru    Suzuki    Toyota    Vauxhall    Volkswagen    Volvo    Yugo   

 

June 2014