If you think Volkswagen’s Golf has grown too large and too expensive, then the German firm’s own Polo may be the answer. Previous generation models were a bit on the dinky side, but the modern Polo has evolved into a more grown-up proposition that is now as large as the original MkI Golf. The car tested here is the super-economical Bluemotion model, which is one of the most fuel-efficient cars money can buy. It’ll set you back around £15,265 for a 3-door model and £15,885 for the 5-door.
The masters of subtlety and understatement, Volkswagen has created a small car that’s unlikely to offend anyone. The car fits in equally well in urban or suburban environments thanks to a minimalist design and a simple, unadorned shape. The five-door is arguably better looking than the three-door, as the extra pair at the back help break up the rear quarters.
There are a few visual tweaks that set the Bluemotion model apart. There’s a very modest bodykit that’s designed to help aerodynamics rather than looks, it sports diddy alloy wheels as standard and rides a little lower to the ground.
The Polo is on a par with the rest of the class in terms of practicality. Up front there is good headroom and plenty of fore and aft adjustment for the driver’s seat. It’s less impressive in the back — there’s room for a couple of adults, but things get cramped if those sitting up front push their chairs all the way back.
Boot space is respectable but not outstanding, and it’s possible to fold the rear seats almost flat. In three-door models, the tilting, sliding front seat gives good access to the rear, although obviously five-door versions are less of a hassle.
Performance & handling
The Polo is less sophisticated than the Golf, and thrills are few and far between. That said, it’s a safe, dependable, comfortable drive. It’s as easy-going as you could wish for from the driver’s seat, with slick pedal actions and a positive gearchange.
In Bluemotion form there’s a miserly 1.2-litre three-cylinder diesel engine up front, mated to a five-speed gearbox with extra long gear ratios. The emphasis is on economy rather than performance, but if you rev it hard enough, it’ll deliver a decent slug of torque that makes it quicker than the two entry-level petrol options.
It can sound quite gruff as you reach the rev limit, but treat it gently and it’s a relaxed and refined affair. Handling is predictable and safe, and though the low rolling resistance tyres have less grip than the standard items, this isn’t something you’ll notice around town.
Economy & environment
You’re on to a real winner here. Not only does the Polo Bluemotion have claimed combined fuel economy figure of 80.1mpg, it also scores a remarkable 91g/km of CO2 emissions which means no road tax and no congestion charge should you venture into London. There’s a modest 45 litre fuel tank but that still gives you a theoretical range of almost 800 miles between fill-ups. It is, without question, one of the most economical cars on the market.
Equipment & value
Thankfully Volkswagen has upped the spec of this latest Bluemotion compared to earlier models so you no longer feel like your scrimping on all fronts. You get ESP, air conditioning, electric mirrors and windows, central locking and cruise control as standard, as well as a decent radio/CD player. The only significant options missing from the standard list are climate control, rear parking sensors and Bluetooth connectivity, but those can be added for a price.
The biggest problem with the Polo Bluemotion is the list price. It’s almost £5,000 more expensive than the basic petrol Polo. A Polo Match, while slower and slightly less well-equipped, can still do over 50mpg and costs £3,000 less.
Nothing to worry about on this front. Volkswagen knows how to make a safe car, and every Polo is well stocked with kit, including the all-important ESP and a minimum of four airbags. It has received a five-star Euro NCAP rating and extra airbags can be added should you feel they’re required.
You’re spoilt for choice in the supermini sector but it’s still no surprise that so many people plump for a Polo. It’s classy, well made, easy to drive and likely to hold on to its value. In Bluemotion form it’s super-thrifty and would probably cost less than your bus fare to run it.
All that comes at a price though. You can get the same VW Group technology in the cheaper Skoda Fabia or Seat Ibiza, both of which arguably have a bit more pizzazz. But if classy and low-key is your thing, then look no further.
Model tested: VW Polo Bluemotion 75PS
Engine: 1.2-litre diesel
Acceleration: 0-62 in 13.9 seconds
Top speed: 107mph
Emissions: 91g/km CO2