Company Car Today

The big test

The most comprehensive
new product test in fleet

Always one of the classier superminis, the new Polo comes into a small car sector bursting with hot new models. How does it compare to the best?

The Big Test - Volkswagen Polo - Image Gallery - Image 8

On the road

On the road

The Volkswagen Polo has always been the sensible and grown-up choice among superminis. The Ford Fiesta is the one that’s most fun to drive, while the Citroen C3 or the new Nissan Micra – our CCT100 Supermini of the Year – both look funkier. But the new Polo is, as ever, the classier and more premium take on a small car, with VW majoring on its reputation for quality and comfort.

That’s set to continue with this sixth generation of a car that can already claim more than 14 million sales worldwide. VW has focused on giving its latest supermini more safety, space, technology and comfort, in only a five-door hatchback bodyshell. That’s because the sector has moved away from three-doors, with the Polo following on from the likes of the Nissan Micra, Renault Clio and others in dropping the less practical alternative.

Two diesels and four petrol engines make up the launch line-up, with a 200hp GTi hot hatch Polo also in the pipeline. The biggest seller will be the most efficient petrol model: the 1.0-litre 95hp TSI SE driven here which manages a CO2 output of 101g/km. The range starts with the 65hp and 75hp versions of the 1.0, while there is also a 115hp TSI engine as well as the 80hp and 95hp 1.6-litre diesels. The lesser-powered diesel is the most efficient model in the range at 97g/km and an official combined 76.3mpg. However, given the looming four-band BIK penalty, the 1.0-litre petrol is a no-brainer for company use, unless you’re doing an astronomical annual mileage – in which case you should probably be in something bigger than a Polo in the first place.

That’s not to say the Polo struggles with high mileage, in any way, because it really doesn’t. It feels like a bigger car, and as long as you don’t need to regularly carry four people or large amounts of luggage it almost clouds the argument for the larger Golf. The new car has grown, with the wheelbase up by 94mm over the previous Polo’s, and it’s both wider and taller than the fourth-generation Golf that was sold here until 2003. In addition, the boot is up from a relatively paltry 280 litres to a more generous 351, which makes a real difference to the Polo’s ability to serve as the lead car in a household.

Despite the new Polo sporting typically VW evolutionary styling, it is an all-new car rather than a revision, and the sleeker and narrower nose and headlights give away the new one much more than the rear end design manages. VW describes the new look as more dynamic thanks to more use of styling creases, but it’s not an earth-shattering departure. Still, this makes sense given the car’s previous success, and the way the brand has evolved models such as the Golf, and the shorter overhangs are designed to give it a more dynamic appearance.

The inside is more of a change, with a new horizontal axis for the central infotainment and dashboard information screens that has also involved shifting the centre air vents downwards, which is radical for Volkswagen. The interior is suitably high-quality, especially across the dashboard, although it’s noticeable that there are cheaper plastics evident further down the cabin. Nevertheless, stowage is good, including big door bins, and there’s enough rear space for adults.

The Big Test - Volkswagen Polo - Rear image
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The Polo was Volkswagen’s second-best selling car in the UK last year, behind only the Golf in the manufacturer’s line-up. It was also the UK’s number three supermini, beaten by the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa, and the seventh most popular car in the country overall.

The new car is the sixth generation of a nameplate that dates back to 1975, and this latest model is the first to be offered with no three-door option. This continues a trend seen with other manufacturers, which are offering their superminis with only a more practical five-door bodystyle.

The Polo started life in 1975 as a rebadged version of the Audi 50, with more than 500,000 finding homes. The second-generation car – the three-door estate shape (pictured) – was launched in 1981; it took the Polo past one million sales in 1983, and on to a second million in 1986.

The third generation of 1994 introduced the basic styling that can be traced through to present day, although the fourth generation (2002-2009) reverted to the round headlights seen in the first two models. The fifth iteration of the Polo ran from 2009 until last year, and is the only version to have been named European Car of the Year.

The Big Test - Volkswagen Polo - In Context

What they said

What They Said

"For us in the UK, Polo is second only to Golf in sales. Unsurprisingly, in this segment retail is more dominant than fleet (the opposite of how things are for Golf) but, nonetheless, the new car holds more appeal for business users than ever."

"It is now larger, with class-leading space. It is also at the cutting edge of technology and connectivity, and is the only car in its class to offer the option of fully digital, high-resolution instruments. Its TSI engines are dynamic and fuel efficient and therefore, combined with strong RVs, contribute to very low whole-life costs."

Michael O’Shea, head of fleet, Volkswagen UK


The Big Test - Volkswagen Polo - What They Said - Michael O’Shea, head of fleet, Volkswagen UK

Comparatively speaking

The Big Test - Volkswagen Polo - Comparatively Speaking Chart

Need to know

The Big Test - Volkswagen Polo - Need to Know Chart


Three things we like...

The Big Test - Volkswagen Polo - Three things we like - The front-end styling, while not dramatic, is sleeker and sharper

The front-end styling, while not dramatic, is sleeker and sharper

The Big Test - Volkswagen Polo - Three things we like - The little LED running lights don’t look much, but show up brightly

The little LED running lights don’t look much, but show up brightly

The Big Test - Volkswagen Polo - Three things we like - Interior quality is classy - the bits higher up and in your eyeline at least

Interior quality is classy - the bits higher up and in your eyeline at least

...And one we don't

The Big Test - Volkswagen Polo - And one we don't - The rear-end styling is the area where there’s the least difference over the old car

The rear-end styling is the area where there’s the least difference over the old car



Drive  8/10

The Polo is an all-rounder, and the driving quality almost passes you by thanks to its bigger-car competence and feel.

Efficiency  7/10

A shade over the 100g/km mark for this version, but in the right area overall for emissions. 

Practicality  7/10

Passenger and boot space are both reasonable without being top of the class, although the cabin does have a decent amount of stowage.

Equipment  7/10

The trim levels offer sensible walk-ups in terms of price and spec, although some option prices are a touch more premium than rivals’.

Looks  7/10

Typically for Volkswagen, the new Polo is very much an evolution and takes a second glance to spot that it’s all new. At least everyone recognises it as a Polo though.

Comfort and refinement 9/10

The archetypal grown-up small car; the Polo is capable of handling miles, and life, like a bigger model. 

Cabin  9/10

Excellent quality, especially in higher-up areas of the cabin. Some cheaper plastics are evident in the door bins and other lower areas.

Infotainment  8/10

Looks good and is functional, but the VW Group needs to cure the postcode entry on the satnav system to avoid pointless extra inputs for UK addresses. 

Whole life costs  9/10

There’s less than a penny between several excellent players in this market, and the Polo is right at the sharp end despite a higher price than most. Decent SMR cost, too.

CCT opinion  8/10

The grown-up choice. Not the most exciting to drive, but feels higher-quality than most rivals.


Typically Volkswagen in the approach of gentle improvement, the new Polo is better than its predecessor in every way, and a classy option.