Car Test   R0232
May 2002
  VW Polo
Printer Friendly Page Featured Model 1.2SE
TWO YEARS AFTER THE SKODA FABIA SHOT to prominence, VW has launched its version of that concept Ė plus the SEAT Ibiza as the more overtly sporting of what is now a three-card hand.
   The Polo is clearly destined to be the posh relative Ė with higher prices to match Ė but all draw on VW Groupís range of engines, overlapping at some points.
   This three-cylinder petrol version is also used in the Ibiza, whereas Skoda sticks to its own Czech four-pot design for its base model (see rivals table).
   Close affinity with its extremely frugal diesel counterpart, with balancer-shafts in its sump to keep it smooth, results in outstanding flexibility at one end of its rev range with uncanny refinement when going faster. Indeed, only the tachometer gives away how fast itís revving; itís hard to believe, otherwise.
   So it came as a real disappointment to discover that in performance and fuel economy, itís a real letdown. The new modelís 160kg weight increase could be a significant factor, so one canít assume that engines carried over from the previous Polo will do as well.
   Neither should sheer space be a reason for preferring a Polo against current rivals; although the car is usefully more accommodating to rear occupants, load space (especially height) is no improvement on the previous Polo.
   Yet when you start looking at interior detailing, you have to be impressed by the quality of the trim and fittings. The front seats are anatomically superior to most (including the Fabiaís), with lots of adjusters.
   The intermediate S version is the best-value proposition Ė the E lacks a split/fold back seat and a sunroof, with the excellent semi-automatic air-con missing too. However, you really donít have to shell out the extra £800 for this SE version to get a reasonable inventory of standard kit.
   Thereís a curious mixture of paucity with generosity evident even in the SE, however; a gas strut-assisted bonnet, yet no door sill protectors; lined oddments spaces yet no carpet beneath the back seat cushion (as Skoda provides). Yet when it comes to safety features, every new Polo is up there with the best of them.
   On the move, the standard suspension gives a nicely judged compromise between a smooth ride and alert handling, with ideally weighted steering; the sports suspension gives more ultimate grip, but feels more flurried on poorer surfaces Ė moving its road manners closer to the Ibizaís in fact.
  considering size, price and rivals
Overtaking Ability
Fuel Economy
Safety Euro NCAP
Security, theft of
theft from
  • neat pen holder in centre console
  • all-plastic wipers easy to remove/reblade
  • damped roof grab handles
  • adjustable-for-size cup holder
  • back seat folding leaves a stepped floor
  • lots of unprotected paint on door sills
  • rear head restraints obstruct vision
  • useless tell-tales for aircon
This new Polo exudes an aura of reassurance and civility. However, such quality doesnít come on the cheap and even the S version is pitched in price a notch or two higher than equivalent-engined rivals, whichever power plant you settle on. Despite its delightful manners, this smallest, cheapest engine seems to be an illogical choice, in view of the figures we obtained. Perhaps true economy and satisfaction lie in the diesel equivalent Ė at £1250 extra.

engine 1198cc, 3-cylinder, petrol; 65bhp at 5400rpm, 83 lb ft at 3000rpm; belt-driven single overhead camshaft, 6 valves   transmission 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive; 18.4 mph/1000rpm in 5th, 15.3 in 4th
suspension front: independent damper/struts, integral coil springs. Rear: torsion beam (dead) axle, coil springs, trailing arms   steering electro-hydraulic power assistance; 2.9 turns lock-to-lock; 10.2m diameter turning circle between kerbs (14.55m for one turn of the wheel)
brakes ventilated discs front, drums rear, with standard anti-lock control (ABS)   wheels/tyres 5in steel with 165/70R14T tyres (optional 6in alloy with 185/50R15 tyres on test car); full-size steel spare with both

size and type supermini (premium-priced) 3- and 5- door   trim levels E, S, SE, Sport
engines petrol: 3cyl/1.2 litre/65bhp, 4/1.4/75 at launch. (To follow: 3/1.2/55bhp, 4/1.4with direct injection/85, 4/1.4/100;
diesel: 3/1.4/75; 4/1.9/100, 4/1.9/64
  drive front-wheel drive, 5-speed manual (4 speed stepped automatic with 1.4/75bhp petrol version optional)
notable features galvanised body - over half of high-strength steel, under-body plastic trim panel, 4 airbags/ABS standard, electro-hydraulic power steering, semi-automatic air con ("climatic") on S upwards

HOW THE POLO 1.2 COMPARES engine (cyl/cc/bhp) revs at 70mph (rpm) 30-70 through gears (sec) 30-70mph in 4th/5th gears (sec) fuel (mpg/CO2) brakes from 50mph (kg/m) maximum legroom - front (cm) typical leg/kneeroom - rear (cm) steering turns/circle (m) overall length (cm)
VW Polo 1.2 3/1198/65 3800 17.3 23.5/30.6 41/144 18/26 108 96/71 2.9/10.2 390
Toyota Yaris 1.0 4/998/68 3850 14.8 23.3/32.5 47/137 12/26.5 105 102/70 3.3/10.3 362
Renault Clio 1.2 8v 4/1149/60 3600 18.8 23.5/34.0 45/143 12/27 107 94/64 2.8/10.9 381
Hyundai Amica 4/999/55 3740 17.6 26.5/35.0 46/151 17/29 99 101/62 3.0/9.6 350
Skoda Fabia 1.4 8v 4/1397/68 3310 15.3 21.5/31.8 40/173 27/24.5 109 100/72 2.8/10.2 396

Excellent front seat support, clear (though inaccurate) displays and AC/recirc buttons too easy to leave on. Clever but complicated door mirrors; automatic temperature control for heater works well.
Poised handling, precise well-judged steering, yet a supple ride, as well - unlike new Ibiza's. An excellent all-rounder in the way it confers driver enjoyment and relaxed progress.
Uncannily quiet as well as smooth, this new Polo cossets with its tranquil ways and supportive front seats. However, some jerky "torque reversal" if you lift the accelerator abruptly in traffic.

Flexible at town speed, remarkably quiet on the open road, superb gearchange - only its vital statistics let it down. The old 60bhp 1.4 Polo was livelier than this
  acceleration in seconds through gears* 4th gear 5th gear
  20-40mph 4.6 11.0 15.1
  30-50mph 6.1 10.7 14.7
  40-60mph 8.0 10.8 14.8
  50-70mph 11.2 12.8 15.9
  30-70mph 17.3 23.5 30.6
  max speed in each gear (* using 5750rpm for best acceleration)
     gear      1st*      2nd*      3rd*      4th*      5th
     speed (mph)      26      46      65      88      98

Very disappointing result - it's a significantly heavier car than the old Polo and thirstier with it. However, it qualifies for low taxation - even if the Chancellor gets more at the pumps!
  type of use (air conditioning off) AA test (mpg) 
    urban (17mph average/heavy traffic) 29
    suburban (27mph average/6.4 miles from cold start) 38
    motorway (70mph cruising) 36.5
    cross-country (brisk driving/20 miles from cold start) 43
    rural (gentle driving/20 miles from cold start) 50
    overall mpg 41
    realistic tank capacity/range 38/340
    official mpg (urban/extra urban/combined) 36.7/55.4/47.1
    CO2 emissions 144g/km
    car tax band B

Good brakes - even without the optional brake-assist that comes with electronic cornering stabilization. Secondary safety is class-leading, with four airbags, Isofix child seat mounts and a convertible rear (child) seat.
  results for 2002 model year
  from 50mph (with standard ABS)
front impact     75%
side impact     89%
overall     82%
overall safety rating    
pedestrian rating    
pedal load     stopping distance
unhurried 10kg     31m
sudden 18kg     26m best stop
+4kg ie 22kg     26.5m
fade resistance/consistency    
Euro NCAP = European New Car Assessment Programme: independent crash safety tests evaluating protection for occupants and pedestrians in an offset frontal collision, side impacts and pedestrian strike conditions
click here for more NCAP details/test results etc.

Like new rivals, Polo has grown (inside and out) but still not as roomy in the back as a Fabia. Rear cushion removes to cope with long items and rear load sill not as prominent as before.
  in centimetres (3-door hatch)
  length 390
  width - including mirrors 191
    - mirrors folded 174
  height (no roof bars) 147
  load sill height (inside/outside) 20/68
  turns lock-to-lock 2.9
  turning circle (metres) 10.2
  easy to park/garage?
  front - legroom 86-108
    - headroom 95-102s
  rear - typical legroom 96
    - typical kneeroom 71
    - headroom 96
  load area(all seats in use)
  load space
(litres/cu ft)
  load length 57-123
  load length to facia 250
  load width 91-98
  load height (to shelf/to top of aperture) 53 85
s without sunroof

central locking  
remote control  
remote window closing  
alarm (perimeter + interior)+   
static self locking   
two-stage unlocking   
attack-resistant glass   
AA load area security rating
=standard    =option    =not available
+ standard on SE/sport
NCSR - "theft of"
NCSR - "theft from"
NCSR = New Car Security Ratings: a 1 to 5 star system which rates anti-theft protection, both of the car itself and the theft of valuables from within the car
Visit for more details
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