Car Test   R0251
July 2002
  VW Polo SE
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 1.4 TDi and 1.4 petrol 5 door
VW POLO, SEAT IBIZA, SKODA FABIA - they’re all variations on the same theme, sharing engines and underpinnings, but dressed to suit owners with varying priorities.
   These 1.4 Polos are more expensive than their in-house counterparts; the three-cylinder diesel is unique, in fact, although the four-pot 100bhp version is available with all three badges, as is the 75bhp-petrol version, also assessed here.
   The Polo’s biggest problem is weight - 160kg more of it in the case of the 1.4TDi, for example. As a result, both engines fail to match the acceleration or the frugality of their predecessors. Yet the TDi makes the petrol version look a wimp when pulling from low speed.
   However, both are outstanding in terms of mechanical smoothness and quietness (apart from some wind noise), with a real air of quality and refinement, both in ride comfort and visual appearance to back up these good manners.
   The Fabia has more rear passenger space; nevertheless, there’s more room to stretch your legs in the new Polo (and Ibiza) compared with their previous namesakes.
   Curiously, the new Polo has a load cover behind that restricts height and therefore load area volume. They all have a full-size spare wheel, though, and the cushions, as well as being split/fold, can easily be removed entirely, for carrying longer items.
   Up front, the new Polo’s seats offer real comfort and support, with lots of adjusters to ensure longer journey bliss. There’s an impeccable fully automatic climate-control system for £300 more than the entirely competent semi-auto arrangement (you set your own direction controls) - the latter is standard on all except the E version.
   The S is the best value in the range, but engine choice and power are restricted- unlike the Seat and Skoda equivalents, you have to resort to the stiffer-sprung Sport to enjoy the benefits of 100bhp under-bonnett.
   Yet even in the £800 costlier SE version, there’s a curious mixture of paucity and generosity: a gas-strut-assisted bonnet yet no door sill protectors; lined oddment spaces yet no carpet under the back seat cushion (as Skoda provides).
   In terms of ride and handling, there’s little to criticize, with ideally weighted, deft steering and a remarkable ability to accommodate optional alloys with low-profile tyres, without significantly spoiling ride comfort.
   It stops well, too, and safety credentials are impeccable - so long as you’re not a pedestrian. This, and good security keep insurance rates low: the S version of our 1.4 petrol is group 3.
  considering size, price and rivals (ratings are for 1.4 Tdi (Diesel)
Overtaking Ability
Fuel Economy
Safety Euro NCAP
Security, theft of
theft from
  • class-leading mechanical refinement/smoothness
  • ride comfort uncompromised by low-profile tyres
  • gas struts for bonnet and tailgate
  • weatherproof, wind-cheating underbody shield
  • door closure much nicer on five-door
  • centre vents don't aim low enough
  • steel spare wheel - full-size, though
  • left footrest too close
  • screen vents "miss" lower band of glass
  • hard-to-see tell-tales within switches
Competition is now fiercer than ever in the small hatchback sector and you’ll have to pay extra for the privilege of Polo ownership. You won’t be getting class-leading performance with a Polo 1.4, or the most interior space or adaptability. What you will enjoy, however, is a small car class act. Not only in fit and finish, but in the way that it goes down the road, responds to the controls and cossets front occupants. And when it comes to trade-in time, you’ll probably more than recoup the extra.

engine diesel: 1422cc, 3-cylinder diesel; 75bhp at 4000rpm, 144 lb ft at 2200rpm; belt-driven single overhead camshaft, 6 valves. Petrol: 1390cc, 4-cylinder petrol; 75bhp at 5000rpm, 93 lb ft at 3800rpm; belt-driven double overhead camshafts, 16 valves   transmission 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive;
diesel: 25.5mph/1000rpm in 5th, 20.0 in 4th;
petrol: 21.3mph/1000rpm in 5th, 16.8 in 4th
suspension front: independent damper/struts with integral coil springs; rear: torsion beam (dead) axle with coil springs   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, solid discs rear with standard anti-lock control (ABS)   wheels/tyres 6in alloy with 185/60R14H tyres standard on SE; 195/50R15V option on diesel; 205/45R16V on petrol; full-size (steel) spare

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, 4/1.4 with 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 1.4S COMPARE 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 1.4 TDi° 3/1422/75 2750 14.6 17.1/22.7 56.5/124 18/26 108 96/71 2.9/10.2 390
VW Polo 1.4 petrol 4/1390/75 3280 15.0 22.8/35.1 42/156 18/26 108 96/71 2.9/10.2 390
Peugeot 206 1.4 4/1360/75 3330 12.7 20.3/30.3 43/157 13/25 108 94/66 3.3/10.1 384
Citroen C3 1.6 4/1587/110 3280 10.1 17.7/25.4 41.5/155 14/26.5 108 95/69 2.8/11.4 385
Honda Jazz 1.4 4/1339/82 3480 12.7 20.3/27.1 45.5/134 14/27 107 95/74 3.6/10.1 383
Vauxhall Corsa 1.7 DTi° 4/1686/75 2850 12.7 16.3/22.8 57.5/126 14/24 106 95/70 2.9/10.3 382
  ° diesel

Aura of quality to facia and switchgear, but attractive blue-hued dial illumination not as clear as it might be. Super-slick gearshift typifies control precision, but some warning lights obscure. No reversing problems, with clever tandem mirror adjustment
Poised handling, with added grip on optional wider tyres which, cleverly, don't compromise bump suppression, either. Sport versions do, however, so avoid if you like home comforts! Ideal steering response and directional stability
Both power units are benchmarks for mechanical refinement. The visual aura of quality plus excellent front seats and the tranquil ride comfort, make the Polo the small car with big-car manners. Air con upgrade to climate control works impeccably.

Added weight makes both of these "carry-over" engines slower than in the previous Polo. Both excel in terms of smoothness and quietness, however, with superb gearchanges, too, of which you need more in the petrol version. (Performance figures are for diesel/petrol. Petrol model scores two stars for overtaking ability)
  acceleration in seconds through gears+ 4th gear 5th gear
  20-40 4.0/4.2 10.0/11.4 18.1/17.2
  30-50 5.3/5.6 7.2/11.0 13.0/16.5
  40-60 6.9/7.2 7.2/11.1 9.9/16.9
  50-70 9.3/9.4 10.0/11.8 9.7/18.6
  30-70 14.6/15.0 17.1/22.8 22.7/35.1
  max speed in each gear (+ using 4200/5500rpm for best acceleration)
     gear      1st+      2nd+      3rd+      4th+      5th
     speed (mph)      24.5/27.5      42/45      62/68.5      84/92.5      105/106

TDi loses its top-slot for overall economy (previous Polo gave 62mpg overall), but still an impressive 70mpg at best. This 1.4 petrol similar to old 60bhp version. Well-mannered refuelling on both.
(Fuel economy figures are for diesel/petrol. Petrol model scores 3 stars for fuel economy)
  type of use (air conditioning off) AA test (mpg) 
    urban (17mph average/heavy traffic) 37.5/27.5
    suburban (27mph average/6.4 miles from cold start) 50/35
    motorway (70mph cruising) 49/40.5
    cross-country (brisk driving/20 miles from cold start) 59.5/42.5
    rural (gentle driving/20 miles from cold start) 69.5/50
    overall mpg 56.5/42
    realistic tank capacity/range (petrol 360miles) 39/485
    CO2 emissions 124g/km#
    car tax band B/C
# 156 for petrol model

NCAP result reveals better side-impact protection than with Fabia, but not so kind to pedestrians. Good brakes, even without the optional emergency brake-assist that comes only with electronic cornering control.
  Results based on 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, the new Polo is roomier inside (and longer); Fabia has still more of both, however. Rear cushions remove to cope with longer items and load sill not as prominent as before. Five doors a real boon - when getting out especially.
  in centimeters (5-door hatch)
  length 390
  width - including mirrors 191
    - mirrors folded 174
  height 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 95-102^
  rear - typical legroom 96
    - typical kneeroom 71
    - headroom 96
    - hiproom 127
  load areanull
  load space(all seats in use)
(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
^ with sunroof 91-98

SE (and Sport) come with an alarm, as well as dead locks, but all versions offer good security so sector-leading insurance ratings. Group 3 for 1.45 version, for instance.
central locking*  
remote control  
remote window closing  
alarm (perimeter + interior)*   
self-locking (static)   
two-stage unlocking   
attack-resistant glass   
AA load area security rating
=standard    =option    =not available
* optional on E and S
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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