By Nick Jones
The fifth generation of Volkswagen’s superb little Polo sits between the fourth iteration of the model and the bigger Golf.
It’s not a size thing, because in terms of fitting it into car parking spaces there is nothing to choose between this and its older sister.
But the detailing changes give it a look more akin to later models of its larger sibling.
But it was the detail under the skin that really caught my eye... the Polo can now be had with Volkswagen’s DSG gearbox.
OK, I know that will mean more to petrolheads than most small car buyers who only want something to shuffle round city streets in, but this dual-clutch semi-automatic system has been available previously only on more luxurious motors.
My test car was the 1.4-litre, 85bhp version fitted with a seven-speed gearbox and a road price of £15,560.
This model has four cylinders, 16-valves and boasts a top speed of 110mph, with a 0-60mph time coming up in 11.9 seconds. Emissions are a very credible 135g/km, and it has an insurance group of 9E.
On the combined fuel cycle, it’ll nudge 50mpg, not bad for a petrol-engined car pushing out those 85 horses.
It also has the lovely ‘Navarre’ 16in alloy wheels fitted, with wide 215-section rubber to keep that power planted on the road.
Should you want to do your bit for the planet, the Polo Bluemotion, the model with stop/start technology, achieves a remarkable 80mpg.
On the road, this Polo is a gem and the DSG gearbox makes it feel about as quick as other marques’ 1.6-litre engines.
So it drives well, more than capable of holding its own in town, on the motorway and on twisty but fun A and B roads.
And its more spacious than previous Polos, the hole in the middle is bigger partly because the sweet outside is a bit bigger.
The gap between the wheels is 3cms wider and despite the roofline being 1cm lower there seems to be more seat space both in the front and back.
And in the boot there is now 300 litres of carrying capacity, rising to 1,000 litre when the seats are folded flat – ample for golf clubs and accoutrements.
The styling tweaks that have made the Polo more Golf-like and the revised dimensions give the car a purposeful stance.
Visually, the similarities to the Golf are quite striking, including a thin grille which widens the appearance at the front. The overall effect is clean an unfussy but despite the similarities buyers are not likely to be torn between the two stablemates.
Internally, the soft-touch plastics really stand out when set against the plastics used by the rivals. I would go so far as to say that this is one of the best interiors there is.
The Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Renault Clio are the main rivals and most of the competition carry a price advantage over the VW.
But residuals on the Polo will be better so in terms of ‘whole life costs’ it remains highly competitive.
Engine and trim level availability are the same for the three and the five-door versions so your choice will depend on which ticks the right boxes for you. I’m sure my mum wouldn’t opt for the GTI version, packing 180bhp, but needless to say I wouldn’t – given the choice – pick the 1.2-litre TSI engine.
The Polo is certainly well equipped to for a middle-of-the-range car, with all the creature comforts you’d expect; like air conditioning, leather-trimmed steering wheel, power windows and mirrors, airbags galore and a decent CD player.
One thing I would tick in the options box is the touch screen navigation/radio option which has a five-inch colour screen, is MP3 compatible, has an SD card reader and six speakers AND you can connect it to an external multimedia source, if required. It’ll add £815 for the pleasure but I think it’s worth the cost.
In conclusion, some may see this car as a shrunken Golf but it has its own identity and long may that continue.