Review: Safe, spacious and confident to drive, Volkswagen’s newly refreshed favourite stays in Polo position
Anyone who regularly squeezes in and out of tiny car-park spaces could be forgiven for thinking the spaces have gotten smaller over time. The effort involved to avoid a dent or a scratch is enough to send your blood pressure soaring, while getting out of the car requires the dexterity of a contortionist.
But in reality, it’s our cars that are getting bigger — a trend that has been happening for the past few decades. And it’s not just behemoth SUVs that are a challenge to park; every class of car is growing wider and longer.
A case in point is this week’s test car, the new Volkswagen Polo — a car that has grown in size with each new version and now even dwarfs the first-generation Golf. At first glance, it’s hard to spot what is new about the Polo — and VW’s approach of evolution rather than revolution is evident — but look closely and the LED lights are new, and it has a refreshed front look.
Slip behind the wheel and it’s all very familiar — everything is laid out sensibly and has a quality feel. The Digital Cockpit is simple to use and essentially merges the digital instruments and the infotainment system into a single unit. It can be controlled by the buttons on the unit itself or by the controls on the multi-function steering wheel, and the intuitiveness and ease of use only add to the appeal of the car.
Thanks to the creeping waistline, the Polo is surprisingly spacious, with plenty of room up front for passenger and driver, and even rear passengers don’t pull the short straw.
The decent-sized boot is capable of swallowing 355 litres and the seats fold down 60/40 so there is very little you can’t cram in.
One engine is on offer, a 1.0-litre petrol engine that provides enough grunt to get it up to speed on the motorway. On the road, the Polo strikes a good balance between comfort and performance. It feels confident and grips the road nicely.
Available in three trims, Life, Style and R-Line, the starting price for the Polo is €22,770, so it puts it on the pricier end of the scale when compared to rivals including the Ford Fiesta (€20,022), Opel Corsa (€20,495), Skoda Fabia (€19,150), Peugeot 208 (€22,370), Renault Clio (€21,445) and Nissan Micra (€20,445). Our test car came in the R-Line trim and, with optimal extras, resulted in an overall price of €26,150.
The real benefit to piling on the pounds comes in terms of safety — the Polo achieved the maximum five stars when it was tested by the Euro NCAP and scored well across all four areas, including the protection of adult occupants, children and vulnerable road users, and standard assist systems.
The Volkswagen Polo has long been a favourite with Irish buyers and it’s not hard to see why. What it lacks in style, it more than compensates for with a solid build and smart interior.
Our cars may be getting bigger to keep us safer, but we also expect more from them. This is where the Polo particularly shines, so while it may be more expensive than rivals, you do get a lot for your money. It’s just a pity VW don’t throw in a rearview camera as standard.
Star rating: 4/5
Under the bonnet
Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI R-Line
Starting Price: €22,770
Engine: 1.0-litre petrol
Transmission: 5-speed manual
CO2/Motor Tax: 119g/km/€190
Economy: 5.2-5.7 litres/100km