- UK engine choice still to be confirmed
- 1.0-litre TSI turbo petrols set to dominate
- 1.6-litre TDI turbodiesels not worth the cost
European buyers will be offered the choice of up to nine engines in the Mk6 Polo: five regular petrol engines and two diesels, plus a high-performance 2.0-litre turbo petrol GTI and eco-friendly 1.0-litre TGI motor that runs on compressed natural gas (CNG).
At the time of writing (late August 2017), the line-up for the UK is less clear cut, with VW unwilling to confirm which engines it will offer here until pricing and trim levels are officially finalised (expected in October 2017).
However, the UK is certainly likely to get both 1.0-litre TSI turbo petrol models – and these we have now driven.
What’s the VW Polo 1.0-litre TSI like to drive?
The lower-power version has a healthy 95hp and 175Nm of torque, is capable of 0-62mph in 10.8sec and a theoretical top speed of 116mph, and comes with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard. Its more powerful brother offers 115hp and a six-speed manual transmission, but only the same amount of torque, and VW has so far declined to provide any performance figures for it.
We’d expect the 115hp to be quicker on paper – and even if it’s not by much, it may well still be worth considering if you can stretch to the additional cost. For out on the road, the extra 20hp really does make a difference, delivering a more sprightly experience.
That’s not to say the 95hp model feels like a sluggard, but by comparison it does seem a little flat.
Both engines have just three cylinders, and produce a characteristic three-cylinder thrum. Power delivery and response is good once you’ve got the turbo working – ideally above 2,000rpm – but if you catch it off-boost it can take a while to get going again.
This isn’t helped by the tall gearing in the manual gearbox cars – especially the 95hp model. You can quite often find yourself merrily driving along in third when you should be in fifth as a result.
A seven-speed DSG automatic is optional on both engines. We’ve only tried it with 115hp so far, but it suits that model very well, with snappy paddleshifting helping to further enliven the driving experience.
Is the VW Polo diesel worth buying?
The UK is also likely to be offered the option of at least one of the diesel engines. Both of these are 1.6-litre TDI turbo units, with either 80hp or 95hp, an identical 250Nm of torque and a standard five-speed manual transmission.
Our sample drive suggests while the added torque is welcome, the additional engine noise is not. Only a small fraction of UK buyers are likely to fork out the extra up-front costs to purchase one.
In fact, more than 95% of Polo owners are expected to stick with petrol, and we see no reason to try change their minds. In a small car, the potential fuel savings rarely outweigh the initial cost penalty.
What about the GTI and other Polo engines?
This generation of Polo GTI is powered by a 2.0-litre TSI turbo petrol with 200hp and 320Nm of torque – a modest increase over the 1.8-litre model it replaces. Official performance figures are yet to be confirmed, and we will be driving it at a later date.
Also of note is a 1.5-litre TSI turbo petrol with 150hp, 250Nm and active cylinder deactivation to help save fuel. This is one of the highlights of the Mk7.5 Golf range, and should go even better in the smaller, lighter Polo. But it isn’t available at launch and we’re yet to drive this combination.
There is sadly no market for the Polo TGI with its 1.0-litre compressed natural gas engine in the UK, so it won’t be offered here.
- Light controls make the Polo easy to drive
- Modular platform helps deliver a big car feel
- But its handling never really sparkles
When VW unveiled this generation of Polo it promised the driving experience would be significantly more fun. Sadly we’re not convinced this has been delivered.
That’s not to say the Mk6 Polo is bad to drive – far from it – but we didn’t really have any complaints about the last one, either, and there certainly hasn’t been a massive step change improvement that will see it challenging a Ford Fiesta for giggles on your favourite B-road.
What you do get from the Polo is an impressively ‘big car’ feel for a supermini. The structure is stiffer than it was before, everything it does is well controlled, and there’s little sense that you’re barreling around on your tip toes, as you might find with some rival small cars.
For many drivers, the Polo’s measured responses will likely instill a great sense of security as a result – the steering is light, and the car is easy to control even when travelling quickly.
However, the steering is also somewhat sloppy and vague, the manual gearshift is rubbery and lacking in precision, and nothing about the way the Polo handles really inspires you to get involved.
In other words, it’s a very mature experience, but also a rather boring one – though to be fair, the equivalent generation of Fiesta has also moved in the same direction; the Ford is still sweeter than the VW, but it isn’t that exciting to drive.
Hopefully the later arrival of the 150hp 1.5 TSI and 200hp 2.0-litre GTI will bring some extra vim to the Polo experience.
For information about the optional Sport Select adaptive suspension, see the Comfort section below.
- Completely new styling direction inside
- Lots of colour and technology
- Still easy to use with excellent intelligent design
To say this Polo is a bit different inside compared to the previous one is akin to pointing out Donald Trump has a different style of presidential leadership to Barack Obama. You don’t have to be an expert to spot the obvious.
Depending on how you spec it, Mk6 Polo offers a riot of interior colour potential, with no less than eight options for the ‘dash pad’ area – the strip that crosses the dashboard – alongside a choice of complementary trim finishes and seat fabrics.
High-tech with solid ergonomics
But this is more than just a style thing. VW has consciously moved the media system onto the same level as the instrument cluster – so the driver doesn’t have to look so far away from the road to view it.
This could have been done relatively easily by fitting a standalone, tablet-mimicking screen, as most rivals have done. Instead VW has chosen to fully integrate the touchscreen into the dashboard to give the finished product a far more cohesive and intentionally future-gazing look.
And although base spec UK cars may not get a touchscreen, we understand that all UK models that do will get the full 8.0-inch device rather than the smaller 6.5-inch version offered in some markets.
Digital instruments, too
Also available as an option on the Mk6 Polo is VW’s second-generation Active Info Display – a fully digital instrument cluster that replaces the conventional dials.
This offers more viewing modes and customisation than before, and works very well. But frankly there’s little wrong with the analogue alternative, which features a particularly clear layout, and the Active Info Display is an option we’d probably ignore.
Everything works very well
Returning to the touchscreen infotainment system, it’s worth noting that we found this particularly intuitive to use – with a more attractive interface design than that of the SEAT Ibiza (which uses essentially similar hardware).
Better yet, VW hasn’t made the mistake of putting all the Polo’s secondary controls into this media system – there are still dials for the air-conditioning, for example, which is now standard on all models.
From the driver’s perspective, it’s also good to see a wide range of adjustment in the seating position and the steering column. You shouldn’t have much difficulty making yourself comfy behind the Polo’s steering wheel.
VW Polo interior quality
Material quality is good, but not what we’d describe as outstanding versus other superminis – you don’t have to look too hard to find cheaper plastics.
That said, everything you regularly touch inside the Polo are likely to feel very premium, and the variety of colours and finishes available inside remain central to this VW’s overall appeal.
- Good ride comfort for a supermini
- Sport Select option well worth considering
- Refinement not as impressive as hoped
With most buyers anticipated to opt for a three-cylinder engine – a configuration that’s naturally unbalanced and potentially noisy – you’d expect VW to have prioritised the Polo’s refinement.
To this end we were a little disappointed at the slightly irritating tone to the engine note at speed, and were surprised to detect the occasional vibration in the cabin. While this is no worse than supermini rivals, we continue to expect VW to do better, and that’s not overwhelmingly the case here.
For VW Polo comfort try Sport Select
For a small car, the Polo’s ride comfort is generally positive, but the move to a new platform has enabled VW to offer much larger wheel sizes – up to 18 inches on the GTI – and you should prepare for the occasional shock and thump if you’re seduced by the visual appeal of these bigger rims.
Regardless of wheel size, we strongly recommend the optional Sport Select suspension package if you can afford it. This features adaptive suspension with a choice of Normal and Sport settings, controlled via a driving mode selector next to the gear lever.
The Normal setting makes a Polo on 17-inch wheels ride better than a standard Polo on 16-inch wheels, which is quite some achievement. Switch to Sport and it’s a touch more fidgety, but you still forgive it versus the conventional suspension for its additional control – reducing body roll and subduing bumps in the road more quickly.
It’s almost a must-have option as far as we’re concerned.