Volkswagen Polo: A good all-rounder

This week’s road test

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By Tim Saunders  December 20, 2012 | Comments| Print friendly | Subscribe

Small car, low price, poor quality.

That is often the bleak prospect facing car buyers and when I bought my Ford Fiesta it was certainly the offering.

But for those of us who don’t want to re-glue trim that should have been fitted correctly in the first place, Volkswagen has long been the preferred choice. Remember the ‘80s Golf advert where a driver cannot work out where a squeak is coming from? A garage attendant realises it’s his wife’s earring and duly oils it. Then the advert tagline appears ‘If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen’. Their cars exude good quality and we would all own one if only our bank managers would allow us.

The German manufacturer’s fifth generation Polo is pleasingly no different from its larger siblings. It looks and feels bomb proof. The marvellous thing is that the Polo was already very good when it was launched in 1975 and over time it has evolved to become excellent. Ford take note. There’s no trim here that will blow off in a high wind.

This, I deduce, without even stepping inside. This latest version is a very smart looking car indeed. Remember the awkward design of the Mark 2? Thank goodness VW resigned that to history. Today’s upmarket Polo Match 1.4 85PS is a head-turner, the test model finished in bright red. Overnight the temperatures have plummeted to minus 2 and it’s covered in ice.

My heart sinks because this invariably means spending at least 15 minutes clearing the windscreens and warming the car up. I am therefore delighted to find a winter pack in the boot (the first place I visit to place my briefcase and laptop) including a scraper and de-icer. The de-icer instantly works on contact meaning that little time is wasted clearing the windows as you can see from the video at testdrives.biz. VW has fitted winter tyres, too, which gives added confidence as I make my way along treacherous roads where ignorant motorists still insist on speeding.

The little Polo feels competent and handles country lanes just as well as it does the motorway. There is a little buffeting when large vehicles overtake. It’s not the most economical car of the range but this 1.4-litre petrol still returns almost 50mpg. Those seeking greater frugality will be drawn to the Bluemotion, which will deliver over 80mpg.

Inside, good quality hardwearing fabrics cover the seats. The dashboard is solid. True to form there are no rattles or squeaks. Equipment levels are good including all round electric windows, air conditioning, rear privacy glass and alloy wheels. The electrically adjusted wing mirrors feature indicators for added safety.

Parkers, the car experts, say: “It’s refined, stylish and - depending on which engine you choose - can be incredibly frugal or delightfully quick. Much of the look and layout inside echoes that of the Golf - a high quality car itself. It works so well that many buyers should consider whether they need the extra space of a Golf when this 3/4 scale replica does a very similar job just as well.”

On the motorway it feels as quiet and refined as a larger car, while the light steering and good visibility make it ideal for driving in town. A good all-rounder.

Volkswagen Polo (‘09 on)

New price range: £10,420 - £19,165

Economy: 47mpg
0-60mph: 11.5secs
Top speed: 110mph
Power: 83bhp
Tank range: 473 miles

Watch the video at www.testdrives.biz

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Tim Saunders is the former Business and Motoring Editor of the Bournemouth Echo in the UK.

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