Review: Volkswagen Polo (2017)


More Golf-like than ever before, will carry four large adults in comfort, huge boot, excellent range of petrol engines.

Rivals provide better value, bumpy ride on larger wheels, some interior trims feels a little cheap. Centre rear seatbelt cannot safely be used.

Volkswagen Polo (2017): At A Glance

Effortless to drive, spacious and backed by an excellent range of petrol engines, the Volkswagen Polo is the best excuse you’ll ever need for downsizing your daily driver. Admittedly, it lacks the value of its talented rivals, but the refined and practical sixth-generation Polo is one of the most-accomplished cars in its class. 

Mechanically speaking, the Volkswagen Polo is pretty much identical to the latest SEAT Ibiza. However, while it uses the same platform and engines as its Spanish stablemate, the Polo feels distinctly more upmarket, with higher quality cabin materials and better soundproofing. You also get more choice when it comes to tech, including the optional digital instrument display in place of the traditional needles and dials. 

The cabin is one of the most spacious and practical of any small hatchback, with a Tardis-like interior that provides comfortable transport for up to four large adults. The boot is huge too and far superior to anything you’ll find in the Vauxhall Corsa (280 litres) or Ford Fiesta (292 litres) when the rear seats are in place. In fact, with 355 litres on offer, the Polo is only a shopping bag short on the 380 litres you get in the Golf.

There's plenty of semi-autonomous safety tech, with Front Assist allowing the car to automatically apply the brakes if it detects a potential low-speed impact. The Polo has a five-star NCAP rating, while adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection make it to the options list, along with rear traffic alerts that will warn the driver of approaching traffic when reversing.  

The Polo isn't as fun or as involving to drive as the Fiesta, with its steering lacking the weight and purpose of the Ford. But the Volkswagen is safe and predictable in its handling, while its refined and quiet nature give it the feel of a much larger car on the motorway. The suspension absorbs most road imperfections, but cars on 17-inch and 18-inch wheels will transfer quite a few lumps and bumps into the cabin.

The best engine in the range is the 1.0 TSI. In our view it's one of the best turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine you can buy, with lively performance and claimed economy exceeding 60mpg. A performance-focused GTI model is also available, with a 2.0 TSI engine and 200PS. And only those covering long distances on a daily basis will need to consider the 1.6 TDI diesel.  

Efficient, comfortable and practical, the Polo is more Golf-like than ever before and certainly raises the bar for the once humble small hatchback. Admittedly, the Fiesta and Ibiza nudge ahead on value, with both getting better levels of standard equipment for similar money, but the classy Polo is an easy car to recommend for those who don't mind paying a little extra for comfort and refinement.

Volkswagen Polo GTI 6-speed DSG 2018 Road Test

What does a Volkswagen Polo (2017) cost?

List Price from £15,410
Buy new from £13,955
Contract hire from £168.34 per month

Volkswagen Polo (2017): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4053–4067 mm
Width 1946–1964 mm
Height 1461 mm
Wheelbase 2548 mm

Full specifications

The Volkswagen Polo packs a lot of space into its relatively diminutive dimensions and this gives it a real edge over its rivals. All versions have 355 litres of boot space, with the rear seats in place, which is far more than you'll get in any small hatch from Ford or Vauxhall. In fact, it's even more than you'll get in a Ford Focus (316 litres). 

Storage can be extended to 1105 litres when you flatten the rear seats and SEL trim adds 60/40 split seats, which allows the Polo to carry bulky items and a rear passenger at the same time. Using the boot is generally fine, with a high and wide opening, but the high load lip can make it tricky to fit heavy items without catching the plastic trim or paintwork.

The fit and finish of the interior is generally high in quality, athough some of the plastics around the handbrake, cup holders and lower dashboard feel a little cheap. That said, the Polo is a step up in quality compared to the Ibiza and Fabia with lots of soft-touch plastics and higher quality seat cloth materials.

The clean and minimalist dashboard design is dominated by a large and bright eight-inch colour touchscreen, which provides access to radio, CD player and Bluetooth connectivity. Navigation and a digital dashboard can be added as optional extras, with the latter replaces the instrument binnacle with a TFT display that can be customised with maps and route directions. 

The cabin feels more like a Golf than a small hatch, with lots of space for four adults to fit comfortably. Each of the rear seats get a head rest and there is enough knee room for two six footers to sit comfortably, without needing to ask those in front to slide their seats forward. Squeezing a fifth person is possible, but ill-advised owing to the raised transmission tunnel that cuts legroom to near zero in the middle. 

Most versions of the Polo get cloth seats as standard, but even the basic S trim cars are comfortable enough for long trips, with plenty of firm seat padding that support all of the essential areas of the back. The high roofline also provides plenty of headroom too, while the wide windows give the cabin a bright and modern feel.  

Entry-level versions of the Polo get decent levels of standard equipment, with manual air conditioning, LED daytime running lights, DAB audio, touchscreen infotainment and a full size spare wheel. A height adjustable driver's seat is also standard, along with reach and rake steering wheel. This means it's easy to get a good driving position, with the flat finish dashboard providing a clear view of the road. The dashboard can be brightened up too, with optional colour packs. 

Specifications (from January 2018):

S is the entry-level trim and features 14-inch steel wheels, full size spare wheel, automatic headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED taillight,  Front Assist emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, manual air conditioning, eight-inch composition media infotainment, CD player, Bluetooth, height adjustable driver’s seat and reach and rake steering wheel adjustment. 

SE adds 15-inch alloy wheels, body coloured door handles, electric rear windows, electric and heated door mirrors, multifunction computer and Car-Net App Connect with an additional USB port and leather multi-function steering wheel.

Beats gets (over SE) 16-inch alloy wheels, tyre repair kit (in place of spare wheel), front fog lights, rear tinted glass, Beats audio system, carpet mats, leather door panels and velvet red trim in dashboard. 

SEL features chrome trimmed strips on lower bumper, space saver spare wheel, LED interior lighting, front centre armrest, navigation, front sports seats, two-zone climate control, rain sensor, front and rear parking sensors, automatic windscreen wipers plus disc brakes front and rear. 

R-Line is the range topping trim and adds 65 per cent tinted windows from the B-pillar backwards, rear LED tail lights, R-Line exterior styled front and rear bumpers and black gloss spoiler, stainless steel pedals along with electric and foldable door mirrors that adjust automatically to kerb-view when reversing.

Child seats that fit a Volkswagen Polo (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.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Volkswagen Polo (2017) like to drive?

The Volkswagen Polo might not be as fun to drive as some of its rivals, but it's a comfortable and refined companion over long distances. It's also silky smooth on the motorway, with virtually no road or wind noise making its way into the cabin. 

The steering doesn't have the same weight or feedback as that of Fiesta, but the Polo is an easy car to use on a daily basis and the handling is accurate and predictable. In town, the Polo is nimble so you can guide it into a small parking space or perform a tight turn without having to make lots of annoying small corrections. 

At roughly four metres long, the Polo is larger than its predecessor - and only slightly shorter than the fourth generation Golf - but it still has the feel of a small car, with light steering and responsive pedals that only require a deft touch. Unfortunately parking sensors are only fitted as standard to cars in high-level SEL trim.

The suspension is supple and cars on 15-inch or 16-inch wheels will provide a soft and comfortable ride quality on British roads. The Polo can also be specified with 17-inch or 18-inch wheels, but these convey more bumps and lumps into the cabin and should be avoided by those who prioritise comfort over style. 

The Polo has some of the best petrol engines in the business. The most-popular is the turbocharged 1.0-litre TSI petrol with 95PS, which returns - officially - up to 64.2mpg and 101g/km of CO2. It's surprisingly refined for a three-cylinder unit and doesn't have any of the traditional rattles or vibrations that you get with most small petrol engines. A five-speed manual gearbox is fitted as standard.

The 1.0 TSI can also be specified with 115PS - which gets a six-speed manual - however this changes the official economy to 60.1mpg. All versions of the 1.0 TSI engine can be fitted with an optional seven-speed DSG automatic. A non-turbocharged version of the 1.0-litre engine is available - with 65PS or 75PS - but not recommended owing to the fact that it's quite noisy and slow in comparison to the TSI.

Diesel options are limited to a single 1.6 TDI, with 80PS or 90PS. All of the diesels are linked to a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, while the more powerful petrols are mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. 

A performance-focused GTI model is also available, with a 2.0 TSI engine and 200PS. Available with a six-speed manual or six-speed DSG, the hot hatch will cover 0-62mph in under seven seconds and feature a racing body kit and sports suspension. Claimed economy is in the region of 48mpg.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
1.0 65 59–60 mpg 15.4–15.5 s 108–110 g/km
1.0 75 60 mpg 14.9 s 108 g/km
1.0 80 - 15.4 s 110 g/km
1.0 TSI 115 60 mpg 9.5 s 107 g/km
1.0 TSI 115 DSG 58 mpg 9.5 s 109 g/km
1.0 TSI 95 61 mpg 10.8–15.4 s 101–104 g/km
1.0 TSI 95 DSG 60 mpg 10.8–15.4 s 105–106 g/km
1.6 TDI 80 74–76 mpg 12.9 s 97–99 g/km
1.6 TDI 95 74 mpg 11.2 s 99 g/km
2.0 TSI 200 DSG 48 mpg 6.7 s 134 g/km

Real MPG average for a Volkswagen Polo (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.

Average performance


Real MPG

29–64 mpg

MPGs submitted


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.

What have we been asked about the Volkswagen Polo (2017)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

What are the best offers on new cars, including free insurance?

We're looking to insure a 17 year old driver. We are unsure which strategy to pursue, buy new - including free insurance - or buy a used car for £1000 - £2000 and take the insurance hit. What are the best offers on new cars, including free insurance?
I would certainly suggest to buy new with free insurance. You have the reassurance of your child being in a much safer vehicle than one that's five or so years older. At £1000 - £2000, you would be looking at cars ten years old or less. Insurers know that drivers are less likely to take as much care with them due to their low value. Whatever you pay on your insurance, excluding the cover it provides, is a direct loss. Spend £3000 this year, £2000 the next year and that money is gone forever. Buy a car with free insurance, the only hit you are going to take is depreciation. The car would depreciate anyhow, but it offsets your insurance cost massively. What I would look at is PCP. Take a look at our Finance page, it shows manufacturers that offer free insurance as well - these include the new Volkswagen Polo, the new SEAT Ibiza, Peugeot's Just Add Fuel offer etc: However, these often only apply to drivers over the age of 18 or 21 so read the small print.
Answered by Tim Kelly
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