Volkswagen Polo: Mint condition
The Volkswagen Polo is one of the most well-rounded small cars on sale, says William Scholes
SMALL cars don't come much smarter than the Volkswagen Polo, a perennial favourite in Northern Ireland and a stalwart of the European sales charts since the nameplate first appeared in 1975, writes William Scholes.
Volkswagen's commitment to steady evolution rather than radical revolution is one of the building blocks of the company's success, so the current Polo looks a lot like the Polo that went before it, as well as a lot like the larger Golf.
Some might accuse VW of being unadventurous - dull, even - but such a mannered design approach has been part of its winning formula for decades.
Few brands of any sort communicate their identity as consistently, and with as much confidence and assurance, as Volkswagen. Why fix it if it ain't broke?
These days, thanks in part to expectations built by Volkswagen itself as well as cars like the Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio, we expect our small hatchbacks to be all things to all people, whether they themselves are small, medium or large.
In order to have the broadest appeal, the car needs to safe, refined, spacious, cheap to run and laden with the sort of technology that would once have been the preserve of larger, more expensive cars.
It's a big challenge for car-makers when they are working with a small supermini-sized canvas, but Volkswagen passes the test with aplomb.
The Polo has a five-star Euro Ncap rating, for example, with the crash-test body rating the VW as top of its class among the small cars that it smashed to smithereens in the name of road safety in 2017, the year it was launched.
Volkswagen's engineering might mean the Polo is built around a platform derived from that which so distinguishes the Golf; it is also shared with a host of its Volkswagen Group siblings, such as the internecine rival Seat Ibiza.
Volkswagen's commitment to steady evolution rather than radical revolution is one of the building blocks of the company's success, so the current Polo looks a lot like the Polo that went before it, as well as a lot like the larger Golf
There's as much space for passengers and luggage as one could reasonably demand from a small hatchback. All Polos are five-door hatchbacks these days. In-car tech extends to the sort of touchscreens, infotainment, sat-nav and driver safety aids familiar from bigger cars.
Most people regard the Polo as a cut above the rest of the supermini milieu, a position it has earned over the years through a combination of reliability, durability and quality.
For example, that's why, in keeping with its mini-Golf image, VW has stuffed the Polo with sound proofing and insulation, all in the name of making it a quieter and comfier mode of transport than other small cars you could have bought.
Natuarally, small, efficient engines dominate the line-up. Petrols are 1.0-litre three-cylinder units available with 79bhp, 94bhp or 113bhp, though the sporty GTI models get a potent 2.0-litre with 197bhp. A 1.6-litre diesel with 94bhp is offered only on the SEL trim.
All Polos are front-wheel-drive and depending on engine, can be had with five- and six-speed manual or six- and seven-speed double-clutch automatic gearboxes.
Trim levels start with the SE and rise to the Beats, which gets an upgraded stereo and some oddly-positioned bonnet and roof stripes, and SEL, which is probably the most sensible balance of value-for-money and equipment.
There is also a sporty-looking R-Line trim level and the line-up is topped by GTI and GTI Plus models.
These are dependable cars that hold their value well and which represent a very sensible place in which to put your own money; owners love them, and it is easy to understand why
Prices start from £15,735 for an SE, with GTI models kicking off at £21,660.
That might not make the Polo the cheapest small hatchback around, but that doesn't mean it's poor value for money.
There are plenty of desirable superminis - the Suzuki Swift, Ford Fiesta and Mazda 2 are among Drive's favourites - and each offers something a little different from the rest.
In the VW's case, that means the certain sense of wellbeing and quiet assurance that comes as standard with every Polo.
These are dependable cars that hold their value well and which represent a very sensible place in which to put your own money; owners love them, and it is easy to understand why.