Volkswagen Polo


Debut: 2017
Maker: Volkswagen
Predecessor: Polo Mk5 (2009)



 Published on 23 Sep 2017
All rights reserved. 


New Polo has to beat not only Ford Fiesta, but also its twin sister, Seat Ibiza.


Volkswagen sold 14 million Polos in 5 generations during the past 42 years. That might be less than half the number of Golf sold in the same period, but it is still one of the most important cars of the group. Last year, some 800,000 Polos found buyers globally, placing it at the top of the B-segment supermini chart. Entering the 6th generation, I suppose it could easily retain its sales crown. However, whether the new Polo is really the best of the class is worth debating. As we know, the latest Ford Fiesta is a great supermini, improving quality and refinement a lot without denting its class-leading dynamics. Seat Ibiza is also a 5-star contender, and probably the most worrying to Volkswagen's salespersons, as it shares a lot of genes with the new Polo yet is cheaper to buy.

Yes, both Ibiza and Polo sit on the group’s MQB A0 platform, which is a derivative of the original MQB introduced by Golf 7. Compared with the Golf, this version uses a shorter and narrower floorpan as well as lighter suspension and other components to reflect its lower kerb weight and power. Unsurprisingly, the Golf’s multi-link rear axle gives way to a simple torsion beam as in all B-segment cars bar Mini, so to save money and extract a bit more boot space. While Golf is offered with electronic adaptive dampers, its smaller sister makes do with 2-mode switchable but non-adaptive dampers.


Polo and Ibiza are not a world apart, but more like a village apart.


The Polo and Ibiza are actually twins in different clothes. They are separated by just 6mm in length, and their wheelbase are identical at 2564mm, which is long by class standard. The Ibiza is a bit wider, thanks to its broader shoulders, but interior space is virtually the same. The Polo's rear bench is truly good for two adults, thanks to the longer wheelbase and a flat roof line that adds 30mm rear headroom. By deleting the spare tire, the Volkswagen affords a generous 351 liters of luggage space, significantly more than Ibiza as well as Fiesta. This is one of the most accommodative cars in the supermini segment, although you might question the definition of “supermini” these days – it is just as large as a Golf Mk3!

Even the clothes are difficult to separate the twins. When Ferdinand Piech was in charge, Volkswagen group used different styling direction and different quality levels to distinguish the brands employing common platforms. For instance, the 2001 Seat Ibiza adopted a round theme while the 2001 VW Polo employed a square body. The Polo was also higher in material grade, fit and finish and insulation. Nowadays the group is liberating the control of its subsidiaries and allows them to take vital decisions on strategies. The Spanish division no longer lives under the shadow of the German core brand. That is why we found the new Ibiza has upgraded so much in build quality. More unfortunate to VW, both brands favour a crisped and angular design approach, and this make the two cars look very close in profile. What distinguish them are detailed surface treatment – the Seat is more straightforward, more like folding paper, while the Volkswagen has subtler surface treatment at edges and corners. Unsurprisingly, the nose and grille design of Polo has strong family resemblance to Golf, and this helps raising its image above the Spanish car. The rear end is typical no-nonsence/boring school of Volkswagen. Which car looks more attractive? It depends on your taste. Seat is more expressive, while VW is more restrained. However, when you step back and look at everything else in the class, e.g. Fiesta, Corsa, 208, Clio, C3, Jazz, Micra, i20, Rio, Mazda2, Swift… you will find the Polo and Ibiza are not a world apart, but more like a village apart.



Cabin quality is still above Ford, but the gap from Seat is virtually non-existent.


Much the same can be said to its interior. Well, the design of Volkswagen is certainly different. It employs a customizable color-coded dash panel (which matches the seat fabrics as well) for a more colorful life than the dark, cooled theme of Ibiza. The dashboard layout is also different, with the touchscreen located higher at the center console, above the air vents. Rivals like Ford, Peugeot and Mazda have their screens mounted higher still, but compared with Ibiza the Polo’s touchscreen is certainly more ergonomically sounded, easier to see and to touch. The latest infotainment system on VW is also superior, being responsive, clear and intuitive to control, which means it is the class best. Besides, on the VW you can opt for an Audi TT-style full TFT instrument which doubles as the display of sat nav map, although it is not quite as high resolution or clear because it is cheaper. The German car still offers classier electronic technology. Nevertheless, the Polo no longer leads in build quality. Earlier this year, we were amazed by how soft the plastics, how slick the controls and how tight the assembly gaps on the Ibiza’s interior. We expected its Volkswagen sister to take another leap again, but disappointingly, it is no better than the Seat. While key surfaces that are most frequently touched are soft-touch plastics, the hard, cheaper plastics at lower level, the transmission tunnel and the entire door panels are just the same as most other rivals. It is still above Ford Fiesta in cabin quality, but the gap from its sister is virtually non-existent. In fact, the interior design and black theme of Seat feels more tasteful in my eyes.

The range of engines offered by VW is also the same as Seat. This consists of 1.0 MPi 3-cylinder with 65 or 75hp (taken from VW Up), 1.0 TSI direct injection turbo triple (again from Up) with 95 or 115hp, 1.5 TSI Evo direction injection turbo four-pot with 150hp and cylinder deactivation (from Golf), and a 1.6 TDI turbo diesel that nobody cares anymore. Predictably, the 1.0 MPi is underpowered, while the 1.0TSI 115hp is much stronger and more refined, although you are likely to find Ford’s 1.0 Ecoboost a bit quieter and sweeter to rev. The 1.5 TSI is always a gem, and its 150 horsepower enables the Polo to do 0-60 in an estimated 7.5 seconds, placing it in the warm hatch category. Volkswagen's 6-speed manual is a little notchy to shift, whereas 7-speed DSG is generally good but sometimes slow to react.


It matches Ford to be the most refined cars in the class, but not as great to keen drivers.


On the road, the new Polo rides with very good refinement, thanks in part to a chassis that is about 30% higher in torsional rigidity. In standard suspension setting, it feels supple and quiet, more like a C-segment car, if body control is not as good as Ford. With Sport suspension option (stiffer and 15mm lower), it rides well enough on rough surfaces and keeps body roll better in check. The 2-mode switchable dampers are not really necessary. Is it smoother and quieter than Seat? Hard to tell, but both match Ford to be the most refined cars in the class. Unfortunately, while the Ford manages to feel sharp and engaging to drive at the same time, the Volkswagen duo does not please keen drivers as well. The steering of Polo is light and precise but offers little feel. It suits urban driving but fails to offer the communication that you need on a twisty mountain road. Likewise, the chassis setup resists understeer well and keeps movement progressively controlled. It feels composed but rarely exciting. It lacks the sharp turn-in and reactive rear end of Ford to engage its driver. In other words, it keeps the traditional virtues of Volkswagen without setting new standards.

Most worrying, its twin sister at Seat is just as capable yet a bit more characterful in styling and a little cheaper to purchase. The similarity of both cars do Volkswagen no favour. It should have been constructed out of better materials in the cabin, adopted a classier design and superior NVH suppression to reflect the value of its badge. As it does not, it is no longer the best supermini of the group.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Polo 1.0
2017
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4053 / 1751 / 1446 mm
2564 mm
Inline-3
999 cc
DOHC 12 valves, VVT
-
-
75 hp
70 lbft
5-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
185/70R14
1030 kg
106 mph (c)
14 (est)
-
Polo 1.0TSI
2017
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4053 / 1751 / 1446 mm
2564 mm
Inline-3
999 cc
DOHC 12 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
115 hp
148 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
215/45R17
1080 kg
121 mph (est)
9.0 (est)
-
Polo 1.5TSI
2017
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4053 / 1751 / 1446 mm
2564 mm
Inline-4, Miller cycle
1498 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
VTG turbo
DI, cylinder-deactivation.
150 hp
184 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
215/45R17
-
134 mph (est)
7.5 (est)
-




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