Review: Volkswagen Polo (2009 – 2017)
Neatly styled and easy to drive. Room for five. Most come with full size spare. High quality interior. Double folding rear seats give flat load area. Frugal 1.2 TDI BlueMotion.
Lacks the sparkle of other small hatches. Timing chain problems of 1.2 TSI increasingly common.
Volkswagen Polo (2009 – 2017): At A Glance
Small cars don't have to be exciting to be successful as the Polo proves. It's been going since 1975 and has carved out a reputation as a well built and sensible small hatchback. There's certainly nothing wrong with that and more than 10 million people worldwide seem to agree as they've bought one. The latest version - which is now the fifth generation model - follows that trend. It's not radical or groundbreaking but it is attractive, well engineered and easy to live with.
This Polo is slightly bigger than the 2005-2009 model but actually weighs less which helps economy. And in terms of styling it's far more in line with its larger relation the Golf, than was the case with the previous model.
That's especially true at the front where it's easy to mistake the two from a quick glance. It's a huge improvement inside too with a far more appealing layout and a better impressions of quality. It's also roomier, especially noticeable in terms of elbow room for those in the front.
The standard Polo was available with a wide choice of engines. Most people choose the standard 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine which comes with either 60PS or 70PS. In 2014 the Polo was facelifted and this engine was replaced by a 1.0-litre from the Volkswagen Up. It's just as powerful with 60PS or 75PS versions, yet is more economical.
A Polo is an accomplished small car. It may not be as good to drive as a Ford Fiesta or as versatile as a Honda Jazz, but it remains a great all-rounder that's well built and thanks to the Volkswagen badge, holds its value well too. It was voted European Car of the Year in 2010.
What does a Volkswagen Polo (2009 – 2017) cost?
Volkswagen Polo (2009 – 2017): What's It Like Inside?
If you've experienced the dull interior of the previous Polo you'll be pleasantly surprised by this new model. Gone are the drab plastics and plain design to be replaced by something far more pleasant and more upmarket. As with the outside, there's a strong Golf feeling to it, helped by the neat three-spoke steering wheel and a good quality stereo. It certainly has a big car feel about it.
Volkswagen uses a process called ‘slush moulding' for plastic surfaces such as the facia, which means they don't feel hard and cheap. This applies to the steering wheel and minor controls. Everything from the seat fabrics to instruments and centre console look classy plus there's a lot of nice detailing, such as the chrome trim on the air vents, door handles and gear lever surround (although you don't get this in the basic S model).
There's good cabin space, especially in the front where the driver and front passenger aren't cramped together. Instead there's plenty of height and generous legroom. Those in the back will find it surprisingly comfortable too and considering this is a small hatchback there's an impressive amount of knee room and plenty of head room too.
The rear seat folding mechanism is a paragon of simplicity too, although the clever squab hinge arrangement looks slightly flimsy. It folds down with a 60/40 split (except on S trim) plus there's a variable boot floor that can adjusted in height, although S models and the BlueMotion models don't get it, instead they have a fixed carpet which can't actually be removed - a problem if you spill something in the boot.
Standard equipment from launch (October 2009 for three-door, December 2009 for five-door):
S is the entry-level Polo and comes with ESP stability control, three rear head restraints and three-point seat belts, driver’s and front passenger’s airbags, side head/thorax airbag system, engine immobiliser, Isofix child seat preparation (for two rear child seats), central locking, driver’s seat with height adjustment, three-spoke steering wheel that is height and reach adjustable, front electric windows, 12V socket in luggage compartment, folding rear seat backrest, RCD 210 radio/MP3 compatible CD player with four speakers, front body-coloured bumpers and side sills, 5J x 14 steel wheels with 175/70 R14 tyres and a full size steel spare wheel
Moda is aimed at younger buyers and adds matt chrome inserts on air vents and door handles, electrically heated and adjustable door mirrors, front fog lights (which distinguishes the Moda from SE), remote central locking, split folding rear seat backrest 60:40 with variable load bay in bootspace, illuminated vanity mirrors
MDI (Multi Device Interface) with USB and iPod connection cables, passenger seat height adjustment, RCD 310 radio/MP3 compatible CD player, body-coloured door mirrors and door handles, radiator grille with chrome surround, rear tinted windows from B-pillar back, 6J x 15 ‘Cadiz’ alloy wheels with 195/55 R15 tyres and anti-theft wheel bolts plus a steel space saver spare wheel
SE has (in addition to the S) matt chrome inserts on the air vents and door handles, ‘Climatic’ semi-automatic air conditioning, electrically heated and adjustable door mirrors, passenger seat height adjustment, RCD 310 radio/MP3 compatible CD player, remote central locking, a split folding rear seat backrest 60:40 with variable load bay in bootspace, illuminated vanity mirrors, body-coloured door mirrors and door handles, radiator grille with chrome surround, 6J x 15 ‘Castille’ with 185/60 R15 tyres and anti-theft wheel bolts plus a steel space saver spare wheel.
SEL models gain a chrome-trimmed front air intake surround, an alarm with interior protection, carpet mats front and rear, front centre armrest with storage compartment, front fog lights, front footwell lighting, a leather trimmed three-spoke steering wheel with chrome insert, leather gearknob and handbrake grip, MDI (Multi Device Interface) with USB and iPod connection cables, a multifunction computer, tyre pressure indicator and 7J x 16 ‘Navarre’ alloy wheels with 215/45 R16 tyres and anti-theft bolts.
BlueMotion is based on the S and adds a revised engine management system and a reduced idle speed, a start/stop function, battery regeneration, BlueMotion aerodynamic styling kit (uniquely shaped bumpers and side skirts, revised grille element and an enlarged rear roof spoiler), 5½J x 15 ‘Greenland’ alloy wheels with 185/60 R15 low rolling resistance tyres and anti-theft wheel bolts, sports suspension lowered by 15 mm, multifunction computer which includes visual gear change recommendation, cruise control, front fog lights, ‘Climatic’ semi-automatic air conditioning, RCD310 radio/MP3 compatible CD player with six speakers and AUX-in socket for connection to external multimedia source, body-coloured electrically heated and adjustable door mirrors with integrated indicators, front centre armrest with storage compartment, leather trimmed three-spoke steering wheel, tyre pressure indicator, tyre repair kit in lieu of spare wheel and ‘Blue Merlin’ upholstery.
Match (from July 2011) replaces Moda and SE and gets 15-inch ‘Castille’ alloy wheels, front fog lights and heat-insulating tinted rear windows, manual air conditioning, an RCD 310 radio/CD player, multifunction computer and MDI (Multi Device Interface) with iPod connectivity, electric windows and a comfort pack, incorporating remote central locking and electrically adjustable exterior mirrors
Child seats that fit a Volkswagen Polo (2009 – 2017)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Volkswagen Polo (2009 – 2017) like to drive?
Volkswagen has used the Polo to debut its latest four-cylinder TDI diesel - a 1.6-litre that comes in two versions - one with 75PS and one with 90PS although the lower powered one was soon dropped from the line-up. It's a great diesel that responds promptly to your right foot, pulls well and never feels particularly strained.
Its refinement will be even more noticeable to those used to Volkswagen's previous generation Pumpe Duse diesels that were noisy and had a sudden power delivery. It's as economical as you'd expect too with a claimed average of 65.7mpg. The other diesel is a three-cylinder 1.2 TDI with a 75PS that's also used in the BlueMotion model.
It's not the quietest of diesel engines but the fact it's a three-cylinder engine does at least give it a bit of character. Despite its modest size the 1.2 TDI is actually very capable at motorway speeds and will pull very strongly in gear from 50mph thanks to a reasonable 180Nm of torque. Around town it's very easy to drive with a smooth power delivery, although you do find yourself having to rev it more than you'd expect if you want a bit of get up and go.
But the 1.2 TDI engine's strength is economy. The standard model averages a claimed 72.4mpg but the real efficiency star is the BlueMotion version which - according to the official figures at least - returns an incredible 80.7mpg while CO2 emissions are just 91g/km.
The majority of Polo driver's will choose a petrol. The most popular choice is the 1.2-litre with 60PS (there is also a 70PS version available) which is a three-cylinder engine that's carried over from the previous Polo. However it has been improved with reduced weight and enhanced refinement including lower noise levels.
Both versions of the 1.2-litre engine are more than adequate for the Polo and will happily keep up with motorway traffic so it's easy to see why they're popular. It's never going to win any speed records but it's cheap to run with claimed economy of 51.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 128g/km for both.
When the Polo was revised in April 2014 this engine was replaced with the 1.0-litre from the Up. There are two versions, 60PS and 75PS, but there's little to choose between them in everyday driving. It's more economical than the older 1.2 with the 60PS version averaging 60.1mpg according to the official figures. Emissions are down too at 106g/km.
There is also 1.4-litre engine which is a four-cylinder unit that produces 85PS and is the only one that comes with an automatic gearbox. This is the optional seven-speed DSG automatic transmission. Beware though that the DSG is not without its flaws. The system has an occasional habit of slightly delaying getting its act together and planting your foot hard on the accelerator can sometimes result in a lot of engine revving as the thing hunts about for the most appropriate ratio.
The real revelation in the Polo range is the 1.2 TSI. Don't be fooled by the small size - this is a very different animal than the three-cylinder 1.2 engines. For starters it's fitted with a turbocharger and as a result goes very nearly as well as some hot hatches of a few years ago, hitting 62mph in 9.7 seconds.
There's nothing to complain about regarding the Polo's ride. On lumpy, undulating roads, all the versions ride with great composure, and don't crash and lurch about although it's not as sharp as certain other hatchbacks. As for the handling, it's composed and reassuring. The Polo gets round corners in a neat and fuss-free manner. On the motorway it feels like a bigger car thanks to low noise levels and good refinement.
|1.0 60||59–60 mpg||14.3–16.5 s||106–108 g/km|
|1.0 75||59–59 mpg||14.3 s||108–109 g/km|
|1.0 TSI 110||63 mpg||9.3 s||99 g/km|
|1.0 TSI 110 DSG||61 mpg||9.3 s||102 g/km|
|1.0 TSI 95 BlueMotion||67 mpg||10.5 s||94 g/km|
|1.2 60||51 mpg||16.1 s||128 g/km|
|1.2 70||51 mpg||14.1 s||128 g/km|
|1.2 TDI||72 mpg||13.9 s||102 g/km|
|1.2 TDI BlueMotion||81 mpg||13.9 s||91 g/km|
|1.2 TSI||53 mpg||9.7 s||124 g/km|
|1.2 TSI 110||63 mpg||9.3 s||99 g/km|
|1.2 TSI 90||60 mpg||10.8 s||107–109 g/km|
|1.2 TSI 90 DSG||60 mpg||10.8 s||109 g/km|
|1.2 TSI DSG||60 mpg||10.8 s||109 g/km|
|1.4||48 mpg||11.9 s||139 g/km|
|1.4 DSG||49 mpg||11.9 s||134–135 g/km|
|1.4 TDI||74 mpg||10.9 s||93 g/km|
|1.4 TDI 75||74–83 mpg||12.9 s||88–97 g/km|
|1.4 TDI 90||74 mpg||10.9 s||88 g/km|
|1.4 TDI BlueMotion||91 mpg||12.9 s||82 g/km|
|1.6 TDI 75||66 mpg||13.9 s||112 g/km|
|1.6 TDI 90||66 mpg||11.5 s||112 g/km|
|Blue GT 1.4 TSI ACT||59–61 mpg||7.8–7.9 s||107–110 g/km|
|Blue GT 1.4 TSI ACT DSG||59–61 mpg||7.8–7.9 s||107–108 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Volkswagen Polo (2009 – 2017)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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What should I replace my old VW Polo with?
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