Most Polo buyers will opt for the 1.0-litre TSI turbo petrol engines – and the 95hp version is expected to account for 75% of all Polo sales. Three-quarters of the Polo’s customers surely can’t be wrong?
And they’re not. This engine, though not overwhelmingly refined, has all the performance most people will ever need, delivered with reasonable fuel economy and agreeable levels of emissions. It would have been nice if VW had stumped up for a six-speed gearbox instead of the basic five-speed, but that probably keeps the purchase cost down and you can always opt for the seven-speed DSG if you want to improve on it. A solid choice.
The 115hp 1.0-litre TSI certainly packs extra punch, so remains worth considering. But if we wanted more out of a Polo we’d save up even more pennies and buy the 1.5 TSI with 150hp – it’s a lovely engine with real zip and character.
Most Polo buyers won’t bother with diesel, and we wouldn’t either.
Volkswagen Polos we've tested:
VW Polo GTI (Tested December 2017 by CJ Hubbard)
If supermini hot hatches were graded entirely on the physical size of their engine, this VW Polo GTI would immediately be onto a winner. In a market where downsizing still reigns supreme, the latest hot Polo – on sale in the UK from 2018 – has actually gone up in capacity from an already generous 1.8 litres to a fulsome 2.0 litres.
Power output is also increased, rising from 192hp to 200hp. The 6.7 second 0-62mph time is the same as before, however, as is the six-speed DSG automatic transmission fitted as standard from launch; a six-speed manual gearbox version will be offered, but a little later on, saving money and 20kg in weight.
Best news of all, though, is that VW promises the Polo GTI is ‘even more GTI’ this time around. What does that mean? We’ve driven it on road and track to find out.
A proper junior GTI
That 2.0-litre TSI turbo engine is not only 33% larger than the 1.5-litre motor in the latest version of key pocket rocket rival, the Ford Fiesta ST, it’s also basically the same powerplant as the one fitted in the Golf GTI.
Obviously, it has a bit less power in the smaller car, but VW is consciously aiming to bring the Polo closer to its big brother in both performance and personality terms. In fact, the man in charge of the Polo GTI’s handling development team was also responsible for the recent Golf GTI Clubsport – one of the most potent and focused hot hatches of the last few years.
But don’t panic. This doesn’t mean this new Polo GTI has gone all hardcore, and is no longer comfortable enough to take on a trip to the shops. Quite the opposite – VW’s goal was to make it more fun to drive without compromising the regular Polo’s enhanced maturity.
That’s a fine line to tread, but one that VW has managed successfully in the Golf GTI for decades…
What is the VW Polo GTI like to drive?
The example we’ve been driving was fitted with both the six-speed DSG transmission and the optional Sport Select suspension, which gives you a choice of fixed Normal and Sport settings.
The suspension upgrade works very well – as does the chassis in general. While the car isn’t as flingable as the old Fiesta ST, which is likely to remain a supermini hot hatch benchmark for many years to come, the Polo GTI is now much sharper and biddable than it was, with lots of grip and a friendly, flattering temperament.
The steering isn’t overly communicative and, with 320Nm of torque available from very low revs, you can overwhelm the driven front tyres if you’re too enthusiastic with the accelerator in tighter bends. But there’s certainly enough accuracy to make swift, enjoyable progress which is fun without being overly taxing for the driver.
Comfort levels are more than acceptable in the Normal suspension setting – and we were driving a car fitted with optional 18-inch wheels, enormous for a supermini – while Sport tightens things up just enough to improve cornering speeds on the smooth surfaces of a race track.
The Polo GTI also feels very balanced between its front and rear axles, making such cornering speed relatively easy and unintimidating to access.
We do think the engine note could be more exciting – though many buyers will probably approve of its unobtrusiveness – and did find the DSG transmission ever so slightly frustrating, largely because it doesn’t ever give you proper manual control.
Combined with the genuinely manual gearbox coming later in 2018, we strongly suspect the Polo GTI will be something of a quiet riot. As tested here it’s very good, but seems to be missing that final polish.
Does the VW Polo GTI get any unique styling features?
Approached from behind, the latest Polo GTI arguably looks a little too plain – there’s a small roof spoiler and modest twin-exit exhaust, both easy to miss. Around the front, however, there are lots of red accents to go with the mildly beefed-up bumpers and sideskirts.
You also get 17-inch alloy wheels as standard. Our experience suggests that upgrading to the 18-inch wheels shouldn’t cause you any major back issues, but we are yet to try these with the standard suspension, which reputedly sits between the Normal and Sport settings of the optional Sport Select system on this test car.
On the inside there are sports seats with VW’s GTI traditional tartan fabric, and other minor sporting touches.
Given the immense overall interior improvement on this generation of Polo compared to the last one, these rather pale into insignificance compared to the glorious swathes of colour now available inside – not to mention the beautifully integrated infotainment screen and digital instrument cluster, which comes as standard on the higher specification GTI Plus model.
Wait – there are two Polo GTI trim levels now?
Yes. The regular GTI and the GTI Plus, with the latter getting a load of extra standard kit in exchange for an additional £1,500.
Going for the Plus adds full-LED headlights, the Active Info Display digital dials mention above, tinted rear windows, keyless entry and ignition, and adaptive cruise control. Which is good value for the money.
That said, the £21,140 standard GTI is hardly shy of equipment, so you’ll won’t feel short-changed going for that version.
Both come in at under £300 per month on a 48-month PCP finance contract with a 10% deposit (£261 for the GTI, £286 for the GTI Plus), and both models claim the same 47.9mpg and 134g/km CO2 efficiency.
The Parkers Verdict
Job done for Volkswagen, as far as we’re concerned. This Polo GTI is easily the best yet, and does indeed pull off the tricky balancing act required to deliver a genuinely fun driving experience and a car that is easy to live with day-to-day.
Taking full advantage of the base model’s generally improved quality, and with solid value for money pricing, as an all-round ownership proposition we think it’s going to be tough to beat.
VW Polo SEL 1.0 115PS TSI DSG
(Tested January 2018 by James Dennison)
For those who like their Polos peppered with standard equipment, the high-spec SEL model is the place to be. Featuring dual-zone climate control, all-round parking sensors, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen (with sat-nav, Car-Net and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto), Front Assist (including autonomous emergency braking) and 16-inch alloy wheels as standard, equipment levels are impressively high.
Classy, but slightly bland cabin
Options fitted to this specific car include:
- Pre-crash preventative occupation protection – if the vehicle detects that an accident is imminent the front seats belts will tighten, the electric windows will close and the brakes will be preconditioned in order to deliver the maximum stopping power
- A wireless smartphone charger
- The Winter Pack – including heated front seats, headlight washers, heated windscreen washer jets and low washer fluid warning light
- LED headlights – including automatic beam adjustment according to range and 3D-effect rear tail lights
- Adaptive cruise control
All of this makes for a classy, nicely laid-out interior that is only bettered by the Audi A1 for quality. The infotainment screen is easy-to-operate, as are the rest of the controls in the cabin. It’s not a particularly fun or characterful environment, however, with rivals such as the MINI hatch comfortably beating the Polo in this respect.
Perky 115hp three-cylinder engine
Out on the road the 115hp 1.0-litre three-cylinder TSI engine is the sweet spot in the range, offering plentiful performance, refinement and fuel economy. Work it hard and the off-beat thrum of a three-cylinder engine permeates into the cabin, although seldom sounds coarse or overly intrusive.
In town or on the motorway, the engine has a surprising amount of guts for such a small unit, and is just as happy buzzing around urban areas as it is on the M1. Accelerating to 62mph from a standstill takes 9.5 seconds, while fuel economy claims an average of 58.9mpg.
The seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox is one of the best in the supermini class and works well with the 1.0-litre engine. It shifts down into the power band (the engine speed at which maximum power is delivered) quickly when needed, otherwise producing smooth and well-timed changes – even if it can be a little hesitant pulling away from junctions.
Good ride, predictable handling
Comfort levels with the standard suspension and 16-inch alloy wheels are up there with the best in class, providing a nicely damped ride and reasonably small amounts of road and wind noise. The handling is positive and predictable, if not especially exciting – not that this will put off most buyers.
The Parkers Verdict
If you’ve got your heart set on a Volkswagen Polo, both the SEL spec and 115hp engine are highlights in the range. The latter boasts plenty of standard kit (and wheels small enough to keep the ride supple), while the latter offers up enough poke for town and motorway driving. Opt for the DSG gearbox and you’ll have one of the best automatic transmissions going in a car of this size, too.
VW Polo supermini history
- 2017 – Sixth-generation Volkswagen Polo launched. All-new versus its predecessor, it’s based on a new platform, comes packed with technology, and is larger and roomier, too.
- 1.0-litre 95hp petrol by far the most popular choice
- Be sure to shop around for the best deals
- Avoid going too mad with options and colours
Those 1.0-litre petrol Polos should be in good supply, so don’t be afraid to haggle.
This is a popular model, so most dealers won’t be desperate for sales, but they should still be motivated to secure your cash – if you don’t think you’re getting value for money at one showroom, try another; there are plenty of VW franchises around.
Diesel may be trickier. On the one hand, you may get a good deal because so few are sold, on the other the rarity is likely to add to the inconvenience, and dealer group stock won’t be subject to the same economies of scale.
Above average residual values should translate into attractive finance packages – just remember to check you’re not paying extortionate levels of APR if you plan to buy the car at the end of the finance period. Check the Parkers Deal Watch pages for the latest offers.
How should I spec my VW Polo?
Specification-wise, the value sweet-spot is likely to be SE – with a good balance of price and standard equipment. Avoid getting too carried away with outlandish colour combos if you want to ensure a strong second-hand price later on.
VW generally tries to keep individual option pricing down on this model – but this can tempt you into adding lots of things, which will obviously drive the price much higher. Try to concentrate on items that will make a difference to future buyers as well; we like the Sport Select adaptive suspension but weren’t blown away by the Active Info Display.
Buying a used VW Polo
- 1.0-litre petrols should be easy to find
- Check faster models for signs of abuse
- Look carefully for parking damage
Want a 1.0-litre petrol? Then you’ll be spoilt for choice – so don’t accept any rubbish. The Polo sells in large numbers, and to a wide variety of people; it’s down to you find a good second-hand example but the Parkers Car History Check and the Parkers valuation service can help make sure you’re onto a winner.
All the usual rules apply here. Check the service history, including whether the car is on fixed or variable intervals, as this will give you some insight into how it’s been driven. Many Polos will be used mainly around town, so look for parking damage and scuffed wheels.
Inspect more powerful models – the 1.5-litre TSI and 2.0-litre GTI in particular – for excessive tyre wear and worn out brakes, as this may provide clues as to how they’ve been treated.
Is the interior in good condition? Models with lighter-coloured plastics and seats may require deep cleaning. Check that all the on-board technology still works.
Selling your VW Polo supermini
- The best cars will sell fastest
- Good preparation can help ensure yours is one of these
- Be thorough and honest when advertising
With lots of used Polos out there you need to make your advert stand out.
Detail everything you can about the car – including service history and fitted options – take high quality photographs in good light and price sensibly. The Parkers car valuation service can help you here.
Get minor damage repaired, including any marks on the wheels, and make sure the interior is looking its best.