The Volkswagen Polo, a Volkswagen bellwether since 1975. And that’s the history lesson done. Six generations later the Polo has grown wider and longer to accommodate new safety, crash structures and technology. That being said, it remains a compact hatch in the traditional sense in that it is relatively compact. But it’s looking better than ever, Volkswagen clearly employes some of the best designers around and they delivered with the Polo’s exterior proportions which are spot on. From A-pillar to the c-pillar to the beltline the Polo looks appealing. The exterior design language is where the MK6 Polo reaches its zenith because the rest of the package is disappointing. The biggest disappointment, to begin with, is the price. With an entry-level cost of £17,000 one assumes that Volkswagen is willingly passing the burden of their dieselgate fraud onto consumers by good old fashion cost-cutting while charging more for less. Thanks, VW.
Step into the driver’s seat and you immediately feel the cost-cutting. The seats feel cheap, the entire car is unashamedly made from hard plastics and it isn’t particularly well put together. The Volkswagen Polo feels like sitting in a plastic bucket purchased from Alliexpress stuffed with modern technology also acquired from Alliexpress. Indeed the whole VW Polo experience feels like a car from 10 years ago, but with Bluetooth 5.0 and Apple CarPlay. This car has won WhichCar? awards and VW uses these awards as marketing propoganda.
The awards are meaningless because the Polo has no meaning other than being an expensive plastic bucket. The plastic bucket is available in 4 trims, the top of the range R-Line costs £19k. One engine is offered, the 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder TSi petrol engine is available in three power derivatives 80PS and 95PS and 110PS, the latter being reserved to top-spec trims. The Polo comes with a standard 5-speed manual gearbox and can be optioned with a 7-speed DSG, the latter being standard for top-spec model variants. Power is sent to the front wheels. And that’s it.
Standard equipment is fairly good, however, the entry-level Match on test rides on 15-inch alloys and gives the appearance that the Polo is wearing shoes that are one size too small. It has the modern conveniences sorted with electric windows and Bluetooth, App-Connect, and a decent-sized infotainment system. It even has cruise control as standard, but I would rather be imprisoned than travel long distances in the Polo. It’s roomy enough upfront, but a tight squeeze for rear passengers. Overall it’s practical enough partly due to the rear hatch opening which provides easy access.
So then, the Polo. It must have some redeeming features, the ride and handling is going to be great and the and the engine is going to be a potent little 3-cylinder right? Wrong. The entry-level Polo Match felt like a sub-entry level car. More Proton than Polo. On the motorway, the ride is on the harsh side and the cabin is filled with tyre, wind and engine noise. The engine seems to have breathing difficulties at idle and vibrates unnecessarily. It just gives the impression of a lack of refinement. The handling and steering are OK but you expect that in a small car with a harsh ride and a small low-mass engine upfront.
But handling dynamics isn’t everything these days, at £17,000 the entry-level Polo Match should excel in all areas. It’s a car, not a kart. If you want fine handling buy a sports car, you are not going to find it in an entry-level Polo. And at this point I do not care about the economy, why should I ever trust what VW says when it comes to MPG. The Polo is not offered with a diesel option because for 25 years VW said its diesel engines were the cleanest ever made until their lies and lawsuits caught up with them.
The Volkswagen Polo Match is a disappointing car on many levels. No awards can merit the abject misery the Polo has become. And on a final note Volkswagen, you do know that motoring journalists will tell you whatever you desire to hear because motoring journalists have become jesters appealing to your courtiers. The Volkswagen Polo is an example of fiction over reality. If you want a decent car worth the price then buy the Mini Hatch, it’s far superior in every way to the Polo… except on practicality.