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Volkswagen Polo Hatchback (2021 - ) review

The Volkswagen Polo is a practical supermini with big-car refinement and quality to match its premium status in the sector

Pete Tullin

Words by: Pete Tullin

Auto Trader

Additional words by: Auto Trader

Last updated on 8 January 2020 | 0 min read

The Auto Trader expert verdict:


Available new from £20,730

The Polo’s mature styling and quality cabin ooze understated elegance, its driving manners likewise making it feel from a class above. It’s spacious for a supermini too, comes with tons of standard safety tech and is available with a wide range of engines. It’s not cheap but desirability ensures strong residual values that work in your favour whether you’re leasing or buying outright.

Reasons to buy:

  • tickClassy, spacious interior
  • tickLots of creature comforts and safety kit
  • tickWide range of engines

At a glance:

Running costs for a Volkswagen Polo

The Polo isn’t a cheap car to buy, but in the long run it's a similar cost to run as its main rivals. Very solid resale values mean you'll get more for it down the line than a Ford Fiesta or Vauxhall Corsa, and it's pretty competitive in costs when it comes to servicing, repair and general maintenance. Fuel economies vary throughout the range, but once again the Polo is right up there with the best on offer in this type of small car. Leasing companies love the way the Polo holds onto its value better than any other car in the sector, which means they can afford to offer attractive PCP and leasing rates. So, if you’re renting your Polo, it will probably only cost you a few quid per month more than rivals.

Expert rating: 5/5

Reliability of a Volkswagen Polo

The Polo is built to exacting standards, which should give you plenty of confidence in how well it’ll last the course. Most of the engines and transmissions have been proven in countless models across the Volkswagen, Skoda and Seat brands. The previous Polo has an impressive score in Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index (although Volkswagen as a brand only places mid-table in the manufacturer rankings). Volkswagen also scored above the industry average in the most recent JD Power Vehicle Dependability Survey. However, the new Polo comes with a three-year/60,000-mile standard warranty, which is considerably shorter than its rivals from Toyota, Hyundai and Kia.

Expert rating: 4/5

Safety for a Volkswagen Polo

The Polo is available with plenty of cutting-edge safety kit, and lots of it comes as standard on every model. All versions get automatic emergency braking, which will intervene if you fail to act to prevent an impending accident with either cars or pedestrians. It might only work at urban speeds, but that's still very useful as statistics show that that 75% of all collisions occur at under 25mph. The Polo scored a maximum five stars in crash tests by safety organisation Euro NCAP, and offers plenty of optional safety systems, many that aren’t normally available at this end of the market. For a start, Blind-Spot Monitoring detects cars travelling either side of you, while Rear Cross Traffic Alert scans behind the car when reversing, automatically braking if it detects a potential collision. Adaptive Cruise Control matches your speed to the car in front, braking and accelerating for you. Specify this with the automatic gearbox, and it comes with a Stop and Go function, which automatically helps you keep pace and distance with slow moving traffic. There was a recall in 2018 to correct a fault that could result in inadvertent unbuckling of the nearside rear seatbelt when all three seats were occupied; all Polos should have been fitted with an updated part solving the issue and all new cars will be similarly equipped.

Expert rating: 4/5

How comfortable is the Volkswagen Polo

The Polo is a very comfortable car, and it’s also extremely refined, which means not only will it be happy doing the everyday stuff, it will also get you to the other end of the country in relaxed fashion. The steering is nicely weighted, supplying sufficient assistance to make light work of city driving and parking while also feeling secure and planted for relaxed motorway cruising. The Polo is also as quiet as many larger cars, producing extremely low levels of road- and wind-noise. While the driving position is spot-on, with a generous amount of adjustment for the steering wheel and driver's seat, the Polo’s body is punctuated by plenty of glass, so it’s light and airy inside and visibility is excellent in all directions. For a supermini, interior space is simply superb, with generous leg-, head- and elbow-room for two adults in the front, and plenty of room for another two behind, and maybe even a third if they're not too tall. The boot is a good size too and, because the hatchback aperture is wide, you should just about be able to squeeze in a baby buggy.

Expert rating: 4/5

Features of the Volkswagen Polo

The Polo is well-specced as standard, with plenty of models to fit different budgets, and numerous options if you want jazzy extras. All Polos will come with an 8.0-inch infotainment screen, DAB radio and Bluetooth and air-con, and the most popular SE trim adds a second USB port and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The SEL gets sat-nav, two-zone climate control and parking sensors while R-Line is more aesthetically driven with various sporty trimmings and different wheels. The range-topping GTI+ is the only one to get the desirable, full screen configurable dials of the Active Info Display though this, like many features, is available as a cost option on other models.

Expert rating: 4/5

Power for a Volkswagen Polo

Most Polos are powered by versions of the core 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, available in a variety of power outputs. The 95 horsepower version is a little cracker and we suspect it'll be the one most people go for. It's smooth and quiet and delivers a fair turn of pace, and is happy to rev hard without creating too much vibration. The 115 horsepower version brings extra fizz to proceedings, if you want a lively response without heading towards GTI levels. The manual gearbox is really smooth and solid to use and is available as a five- or six-speed, depending on the engine. The optional twin-clutch automatic gearbox isn't the quickest but it’s still worth having if you spend most of your life sitting in heavy traffic. Volkswagen reckons only 5% of all Polos sold will be diesels, which is a shame because the 95 horsepower, 1.6-litre TDI is a corker and the best in the range for CO2 and fuel consumption. It delivers strong performance and great flexibility, while the combination of the Polo’s relatively light weight and the engine’s strong mid-range power makes it very relaxing at motorway speeds.

Expert rating: 4/5

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