Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSi


It’s hard to believe that twelve years have passed since I tentatively approached Volkswagen’s press office to see if they’d consider lending me a car. Whatever it was I wrote in my email must’ve worked: a few weeks later I found myself the custodian of what was then a brand-new 1.2 litre, Polo Moda; all £13,250 of it. With a whopping 69bhp, the capability to go from 0-62mph in 14.2 seconds, and if I recall correctly, a quite groovy orange paint job, it was my first press car. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen another orange Polo since…

      Almost a dozen years to the day and here I am having just handed back the keys to the latest version of Volkswagen’s perennial, super-mini. In fact, make that one of the world’s most successful superminis. Over 18 million Polos have been sold globally since the model’s introduction in 1975.

    Needless to say the latest generation Polo is altogether different from those original early cars – where if memory serves me correctly, even a radio was optional. It’s certainly more spacious, and it now packs technology which even a dozen years ago was only beginning to be wheeled-out on far more expensive machinery.

    In what is expected to be the best-seller, the Polo Life 1.0 litre 95PS (94bhp) 5-speed manual (as driven here) you’ll not only find a DAB radio fitted as standard, but also a raft of other niceties such as an 8 inch colour touchscreen that will emulate your and your passenger’s smartphone, thanks to either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto; Adaptive Cruise Control and City Emergency Braking; Lane Assist, Hill Hold, Start-Stop, LED matrix headlamps, Bluetooth, and a battery regeneration system that recovers energy during braking.

      If all of that still sounds a bit science fiction, you may also be glad to know that the Polo also gets a proper, lever-operated handbrake (the rear brakes are drums!), and proper knobs and dials to control the heating and air-conditioning, rather than the touchpad type sliders as fitted in the new Golf. Hurrah! There’s also ISOFIX both front and rear. You do have pay an extra £105 to get a full-size spare wheel though, sat-nav isn’t standard on certain specs, and as clear as Volkswagen’s  new Digital Cockpit dashboard display may be, I’m still not sure it looks as classy as the white-on–black analogue dials that were fitted to that first Polo I borrowed. And why can’t I have a round rev-counter and a round speedo displayed at that same time VW? Please.

     Digital dashboard display dilemmas aside, what can’t be quibbled is just how nice, or should I say pleasant, the Polo is to drive. OK, so the three-cylinder turbo-charged engine can feel a bit grumpy at just above idle – I sometimes found it hard to make smooth progress at parking speeds – nevertheless, once it’s been allowed to breathe a little progress is both comfortable and quiet. Clearly things have been set-up for comfort and economy rather than sparkling handling and lap-record setting performance – the five speed manual feels quite tall geared – but, around town and out in the open the Polo never feels underpowered, and it can certainly hold its own on the motorway. Try as you might, you won’t get it to drop its mpg below 50 either. In these times of frankly ridiculous fuel prices it’s nice to know the Polo still sips fuel like a maiden aunt sips sherry. 

         As always, refinement is one the Polo’s trump cards, so too that almost undefinable feeling that everything has been screwed together properly and everything is going to last. I genuinely enjoyed my time with it; the boot was big enough for the weekly shop, the seats were comfy, the visibility was good, the performance was more than adequate for day-to-day duties, it was economical…. I could go on.

     It may not be the most exciting supermini money can buy, and rear seat space is a tad tight – especially-so if the driver is tall (I’m anything but). However, one could argue that for sensible money the sensible Polo could be all the car you actually really need.    



Volkswagen Polo Life 1.0 litre TSi 95 PS 5 spd manual


Engine: 999cc 3-Cyl Petrol turbo

Transmission: 5-Speed Manual, front wheel drive.

Power:  94 bhp @ 5,000 - 5,500pm

Torque: 129 lbft @ 1,600 – 3,500 rpm

0-62 Mph: 10.8 Sec

Max Speed: 116 mph

CO2: 118g/km

MPG: 54.4 (WLTP combined)

Price: £19,795 (Car driven £21,535)


Many thanks to Nicki at Volkswagen’s UK press office for the loan of the Polo




Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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