A striking new Polo Match

The Volkswagen Polo looks particularly strong value in Match guise. Andy Enright takes a look.

The Volkswagen Polo looks particularly strong value in Match guise. Andy Enright takes a look.

The Volkswagen Polo Match is the pick of the Polo range if you’re insistent on value. With a choice of two petrol engines and a diesel, and offered in three or five door guise, it packs a fair slug of equipment on board for a surprisingly modest asking price. It’s a safe choice but a solid one.

The Volkswagen Polo is the ultimate safe pair of hands. It’s the small car you choose if you need it to fit in at virtually any social occasion. This social mobility has tended to come at a price, the Polo needing to rise above its SEAT and Skoda cousins in the Volkswagen group hierarchy and the value proposition hasn’t always been right on the button. This fifth-generation Polo is, in many respects, a vehicle that conforms to a specific and well-defined template but it’s also a car that teases at new markets. In Match guise, it wears a price tag that will bring it onto the shortlists of many who didn’t think a Polo was a viable choice. The caveat? You’ll probably have to live without some of the convenience features you’d find on some of its equivalently-priced rivals.

The Polo is a vehicle that has campaigned on qualities other than the way it drives. While this may sound a rather harsh appraisal, it’s part and parcel of the Polo’s role as understudy in all key regards to the Golf. The latest fifth-generation Polo is a perfectly agreeable thing to drive in most regards but if you’re looking for something standout, you’ll face a tough task. This Match model comes with a choice of three powerplants. The two petrol units comprise a 1.2-litre three-cylinder producing 60bhp and a 1.4-litre 84bhp. There’s but one diesel - a 1.2-litre 74bhp - and all cars are fitted with a five-speed manual transmission as standard. A seven-speed DSG option is also available with the 1.4-litre petrol engine which adds cost and complexity when a simple automatic would probably have been a better option for those who want to rest their left leg when driving in stop/start traffic.

Safety has been one area where the Polo scores very highly and the Match is no exception. Despite being a value model, customers get four airbags, ABS and ESP stability control. The handling is safe and predictable and the petrol engines feel honest enough. The diesel is rather vocal and can feel alarmingly limp if caught off boost. As with all Polos, wind noise and road roar at speed are very well suppressed.

Naturally, this Polo’s more generous dimensions, including an overall length that’s up by 36mm to 3,952mm, equate to a more spacious interior than the previous generation car. Passengers benefit from increased leg and headroom as well as more space in the rear to stow their luggage. There’s a 280-litre boot which increases to 952-litres when the rear seats are folded down. Volkswagen has worked on another low key but high quality cabin environment for the Polo. Soft touch plastics and subtle aluminium detailing are the order of the day but perhaps the best way to describe the cabin styling is studied austerity.

The Match model has replaced a pair of old trim levels, SE and Moda, and in time-honoured special edition fashion it adds a generous amount of additional equipment. Volkswagen claims that there’s £650 worth of extra kit which includes 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, tinted rear windows. The cabin features air conditioning, a CD stereo, multifunction computer and MDI (Multi Device Interface) with iPod connectivity. The Match also gets electric windows and a comfort pack, incorporating remote central locking and electrically adjustable exterior mirrors.

Value? At £215 less than the old Moda and SE models, the Match looks like a solid deal. Prices kick off at £11,300 for the 1.2-litre 60bhp petrol model with the five-door diesel setting you back £14,140. Yes, you can buy plenty of equivalent cars for less but none have quite the same social kudos.

It would be a fairly lousy value edition if running costs spiralled out of control and thankfully, the Polo Match keeps day to day bills in a firm headlock. The entry level 1.2-litre 60bhp model looks set to be the biggest seller and this three-cylinder unit manages 51.4mpg and emits 128g/km of carbon dioxide. Opt instead for the 84bhp 1.4-litre engine and those figures become 47.9mpg and 139g/km. Should you choose the DSG twin-clutch sequential transmission, the emissions for this model nudge down to 135g/km.

The diesel engine predictably returns the best fuel economy at 72.4mpg, but it’s a little galling that emissions are rated at 102g/km, especially if you live anywhere near London’s congestion charge zone. Buy the Polo Match with a Solutions PCP package and it also qualifies for one year’s free insurance and three years or 30,000 miles free servicing. For a younger driver that could mean quite a significant saving.

In truth, the Volkswagen Polo Match doesn’t need a big sales push to succeed. The Polo is clocking up some rather pleasant sales figures and any model that adds a little more equipment and shaves a reasonable sum off the price is going to be popular. There is something rather frustrating about the Polo, insofar as it’s a car that does nothing excellently but also does nothing badly. It just is. And people love that formula.

For a large proportion of car buyers, the fear of being seen to have chosen the wrong car drives their buying decision and it’s something they’ll never be accused of by choosing a Volkswagen Polo Match. If, on the other hand, you feel that despite handing over a modest sum you deserve something a little more special, the Polo may not satisfy. If I were writing this car’s report card, it would score B+ right across the board.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

CAR: Volkswagen Polo Match

PRICE: £11,300-£14,140

INSURANCE GROUP: 4-9

CO2 EMISSIONS: 102-139g/km

PERFORMANCE: [1.2] 0-60 15.8s / top speed 98mph

FUEL CONSUMPTION: [1.2] (combined) 51.4mpg

STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Electronic stability control, ABS with brake assist, twin front and side airbags

WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: Length/Width/Height mm 3970/1682/1462