It’s a sad fact of life that as we get older we tend to, well, expand. To put on a few pounds and spread out a bit more than we once did.
While some of us see this as a badge of shame, for Volkswagen’s new Polo it’s something to be celebrated.
Much of the talk surrounding the new car is about its growth and the “big car” characteristics and features that it brings.
For a start, it’s now virtually the same size as a Mk4 Golf. Its biggest rivals have undergone similar expansion over recent years but looking at this Mk6 model alongside its 1975 forefather the mind boggles slightly at how large even our superminis have become.
VW Polo SE
Price: £15,930 (£19.045 as tested)
Engine: 1.0-litre, three-
cylinder, turbo petrol
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Top speed: 116mph
0-62mph: 10.8 seconds
CO2 emissions: 101g/km
Still, the good news is that Polo’s middle-age spread really does bring many of the big car benefits VW promise.
From the moment you slip behind the wheel it gives the feeling of security and solidity we’ve come to expect. There’s plenty of room for even the tallest driver to fit and, as with all VWs, the range of adjustment means anyone should be able to get comfortable at the wheel. If you’ve got that tall driver up front then rear passengers might start to grumble but there’s more room in the rear than in Ford’s Fiesta – the Polo’s number one rival. And the boot’s grown a whopping 25 per cent to a more than healthy 351 litres.
That big car feel continues once you get going. On the road it feels composed and refined whether you’re in town, on a rural B road or a major motorway. The Fiesta has long been hailed for blending a great ride with equally good handling but this latest Polo has definitely caught up a lot. It offers an excellent balance between comfort and an engaging drive. The steering has just the right weight and directness and the Polo can boast quick turn in and strong body control. But it remains nicely damped to soak up potholes and bumps in the road.
It all bodes well for the 200hp GTI that’s due later this year.
That will use a turbocharged four-cylinder 2.0-litre but for now the Polo is available with a choice of five petrol and two diesel engines.
The 94bhp 1.0-litre turbo is expected to be the best seller. Its 94bhp is matched by 129lb/ft of torque and official economy and CO2 figures of 61.4mpg and 101g/km. On the whole it’s a good engine and good choice for the car. Under heavy loads the three-cylinder nature makes itself heard but otherwise it’s pleasingly quiet and smooth.
The only problem is that if you want to make good progress you’ll probably have it under heavy load quite a bit. At low revs there’s very little happening and it needs worked hard to access what is actually pretty decent performance. The same can’t be said for the non-turbo 64bhp version, which feels woefully underpowered in this day and age.
If you feel that you need a bit more oomph, the 114bhp version will give it, along with the option of a seven-speed DGS transmission or six-speed manual in place of lower-powered cars’ five-speed.
Another “big car” feature VW are keen to highlight on the Polo is the level of technology. This supermini can be specified with the likes of adaptive cruise control, blind spot assist, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control and the second generation of the 10.5-inch Active Info Display configurable instruments. It also gets an eight-inch media system as standard, slotting into a redesigned dashboard that can be picked out in a range of bright colours as part of VW’s efforts to offer more personalisation to buyers.
There are 14 exterior and seven interior colours to choose from and the effect works well, adding a splash of character to the interior.
The Polo comes in seven trim levels. Basic S, which starts at £13,885, gets that eight-inch composite media display, air con, auto headlights and front assist city braking while the predicted best-selling SE adds welcome features such as 15-inch alloys, multifunction trip computer and the Car-Net smartphone connectivity suite. Push the boat out with the higher trims and you can have pretty much any gadget you desire, but it comes at a cost, with the top-end R-Line hitting £20,280 before options.
The Polo has long been hailed for delivering a big car feel in a small car package and this latest model continues to do so, even if it is beginning to stretch the idea of a small car. Refinement and comfort are among the best in class, as are the levels of technology available. The fact that it rides and handles better than ever is just an added bonus.