New Polo is serious business for Volkswagen

What’s reassuring about this sixth-generation Polo is Volkswagen’s decision to kit it out with big car safety equipment. There’s twin front and side airbags and every car gets ESP as standard along with whiplash resistive head restraints.

What’s reassuring about this sixth-generation Polo is Volkswagen’s decision to kit it out with big car safety equipment. There’s twin front and side airbags and every car gets ESP as standard along with whiplash resistive head restraints.

Actually, this new Polo is serious business for Volkswagen. The car is a cornerstone of the company’s range and bottom line. And now it’s a little bigger.

This fifth generation version isn’t just bigger, though. The car promises to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the eco-motoring stakes with a forthcoming Bluemotion variant, and mirror the improvements made in the sixth-generation Golf.

And that’s where the similarity begins. Keen to spread a little family love, Volkswagen has given the new Polo more than a dash of the Golf’s visual DNA. And where the latter’s appearance is conservative, the Polo’s character is more extrovert. It’s easier to see the similarities with the racy Scirocco, for instance.

Looks aside, there’s also no mistaking the Polo’s increase in size. Length, width and height might have increased by only a few tens of milimetres, but the end result is a car that easily straddles the line between supermini and family hatch.

And to be a family hatch you’ve got to be sensible, which is why you’re met be a traditional cabin layout when you open one of the Polo’s doors. Far from being a bad thing, it’s good to see that Volkswagen hasn’t abandoned one of its key attributes (quality) at the expense of some fashionable design pipe-dream.

The cabin ambience might still be on the sombre side, but it’s impossible to find fault with the build quality or ergonomics - everything is where you expect it to be and it all works beautifully. And this time you’ve got a fraction more space in which to admire everything, right down to the fully adjustable driving position.

It’s not just the bits you can see that have been improved, though. Volkswagen has also cleaned up its act in the engine department. The widespread improvement programme has seen the firm introduce common rail diesel engines to the Polo. The petrol engines are pretty good too, with the 1.2-litre unit expected to be the popular choice and a new turbo variant being positioned as a warm alternative until the full-on GTI breaks cover.

The common rail diesel pairing might only capture a modest number of buyers - small diesels don’t suit everyone - but refinement levels are a real and welcome leap forward. Their collective fuel-sipping properties aren’t bad plus the CO2 figures are sub-110g/km, and that’s without any expensive trickery such as stop-start and the like.

Whichever engine you choose, you’ll be rewarded with a driving experience that has evolved into something closer to that of the larger Golf than your average supermini. It’s a cliche to describe the Polo as possessing a ‘big car feel’ but that’s exactly what it has. And most of that’s down to the car riding on VW’s latest generation platform.

Ride quality is impressive for something in this class, while the Polo can be driven briskly on twisty roads without fear of it turning into a messy ‘rowing boat in a storm’ experience. The car’s steering is accurate, the brakes strong and the whole thing is a world away from what owners of previous generation cars will remember. In short, this is the behaviour of a well-rounded car.

What’s also reassuring about this sixth-generation Polo is Volkswagen’s decision to kit it out with big car safety equipment. There’s twin front and side airbags and every car gets ESP as standard along with whiplash resistive head restraints. On the comfort front, you’ll even have the option of a fancy touchscreen sat-nav and audio unit.

With the Polo, Volkswagen has done more than simply tweak its looks and send it on its way. The car was always at the mature end of the small hatch spectrum, but the performance changes should also endear it to buyers who previously dismissed the car. And it’s destined to be a more economical and inexpensive car to run.

Add all those things together and you’ve got yourself a polished, rounded, practical and enjoyable car to own and drive.

Facts at a glance:

Engine: 1.2-litre petrol unit developing 59bhp.

Transmission: five-speed manual transmission, driving the front wheels.

Performance: Maximum speed 98mph, 0-62mph 16.1 seconds.

Economy: 51.4mpg.

CO2 Rating: 128g/km.