2 December 2014

The new VW Polo – petrol & diesel showdown

A few weeks ago, the nice people at Volkswagen invited me to North Yorkshire to drive some of their cars. I was particularly keen to grab the keys to at least one petrol and one diesel variant of their new Polo, to put them through their paces for Carrot’s customers.

This latest 5th generation Polo hit dealerships in July with a mildly redesigned front and rear and a new range of engines which meet stricter emissions rules set by people in Europe. Volkswagen has also stuffed the new Polo with loads of brilliant safety and infotainment systems.

Other versions are available but I got to drive a 1-litre petrol with 60PS (brake horse power) and a 1.4-litre diesel with 75PS, both in SE trim, back-to-back. Each test car was priced just under £15,000, the 3-door diesel costing a couple of hundred pounds more than the 5-door petrol.
On the inside

The build quality felt very high and the latest Polo will no doubt stand up to ferrying around your mates, sports gear or whatever/whoever else you normally have on board. The Polo has an expensive vibe, which is pretty cool. All models are fitted with DAB digital radio and Bluetooth phone connection, AUX, USB and SD inputs for your iPod, and hill-hold, which makes driving a doddle. The SE trim comes with a lovely 6.5-inch colour touchscreen. It’s also a safe car, with automatic post-collision braking, ESP, traction control and driver and passenger airbags.

How it drives

I was very impressed by the dynamics of the latest Polo, which handled extremely well and turned out to be a fun car to drive. It tucked into tight bends nicely and felt agile at all speeds. The ride in town was refined, with a slick gearbox which was a joy to use. I really gelled with the Polo but still think the Suzuki Swift Sport is hard to beat for driving excitement. I reckon the Polo gives the Ford Fiesta a run for its money, though.

The dinky petrol engine had a thrum sound to it, which encouraged me to push it enthusiastically, putting a little grin on my face. Acceleration is pretty slow so if you don’t enjoy having to work the gears energetically and put your foot down to get the best out of a car, maybe this model’s not for you. On my 10-mile(ish) test route, I averaged 47.7mpg in the 1-litre petrol Polo, which was a fair bit less than the published combined figure of 60.1mpg, but my emphasis was on having fun.

From the off, the 1.4-litre 75PS diesel Polo with its increased torque (‘grunt’) felt much punchier, making the 1-litre petrol choice seem a little flat in comparison. It was nice to have the extra power and it wasn’t spoiled by a clattery engine noise. I drove the same route in the same style and averaged 56.3mpg in the diesel model. Whether you choose a petrol or diesel Polo depends on how many miles you drive each year and whether your driving is mainly around town or includes a fair few motorways or long trips.

New Volkswagen Polo 2014 interior

A few facts ‘n’ figures

Polo prices start from £11,100 for an ‘S’ trim and go upto £17,710 for a BlueGT model, which comes with snazzy 17″ wheels, some clever technology to make it driver better, a leather steering wheel and a subtle bodykit. The 1-litre 60PS petrol model I drove is in insurance group 7E-8E, with band B road tax of £20 per year. The 1.4-litre 75PS diesel I tested is in insurance group 13E-14E but hey, you don’t have to pay any road tax!

In conclusion

If you like your supermini to be wacky, you’re probably better off considering customisable options like the Vauxhall Adam, Fiat 500 and Peugeot 108. If, on the other hand, you appreciate quality, solidity, refinement and something a bit more grown-up, the latest Polo seems a very good effort, judging by my brief encounter with it today.

Thanks once again to all the Volkswagen team for their hospitality.

Oliver Hammond

Written by Oliver Hammond

Oliver is an established freelance motoring writer, published journalist and automotive copywriter based in Manchester. He regularly reviews cars and covers events and launches as editor of petroleumvitae.com and his articles appear in various magazines each month. No relation to Richard from Top Gear, he’s got a weakness for luxo-barges, proper 4x4s and oddball cars.