Volkswagen Polo

The popular German supermini has received a makeover.

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Outside, if you squint, it can still be mistaken for a Golf, while inside there is seating for five and enough space to make you think a Golf is a bit... indulgent!

Volkswagen has sold close to 14 million Polos since the Mark 1 was launched in 1975 (Mk2 1981; Mk3 1994; Mk4 2001 and 2009 saw the fifth-generation). 

As you can clearly see, little has changed on the outside apart from minor front and rear tweaks. New greener engines feature, delivering up to 21% better fuel consumption, plus there is more standard kit and lots of new electronic driving aids and toys.

For the first time in the Supermini class, city emergency braking and 'Post Collision Braking System' are standard. Now before you say it, what use is automatic braking after a crash? Imagine in a collision, a driver is knocked out, or so shaken, they simply fail to put on the brakes - the car could continue moving, causing another crash and further injury. That's where this safety feature makes sense. Other driver aids include: Driver Alert system, City Emergency Braking (we first saw with the VW up!), Front Assist (traffic monitoring) and ACC (adaptive cruise control). There is also an optional reversing camera. 

Available for the first time in the class, are LED headlights (from this autumn). The all-new infotainment systems feature greater connectivity, eg 'MirrorLink' allows certain apps, from your own smartphone, to integrate with the car's system. 

On the road the front-wheel drive machine is quiet and unassuming. The power steering is a new electro-mechanical type. If you specify the 'Sport Select Suspension' you can enjoy a more spirited driving experience, thanks to electronically adjustable dampers with two settings to choose from. 

We took a standard one-litre, 75hp five-door for a test from Munich, where we headed south to Austria. On the Autobhan we could cruise at 160/170kph without too much fuss, so it can easily handle Irish motorways. When accelerating hard the three-cylinder engine works at its own pace but without complaint, so most light users need look no further than the cheaper petrol versions. 

The petrol engine range (MPI and TSI) consists of two, three-cylinder, one-litre units with 60hp and 75hp; a four-cylinder 1.2-litre (90hp) and two, four-cylinder, 1.4-litre petrol units (90hp and 150hp). There are two EU-6 compliant TDI diesel engines: both are 1.4-litre, three-cylinder units but have different power outputs of 75hp and 90hp. All Polo engines are in low tax bands ('A2' or 'A3'). Polo 'Bluemotion' has the lowest CO2 figure of just 82g/CO2.

Irish on-the-road prices (OTR) start at €15,745 for the three-door, 60hp, one-litre petrol Trendline, rising to €25,060 for the five-door DSG version of the 1.4-litre, 150hp, 'GT' TSI. The GT features Active Cylinder Technology (ACT) that manages the number of cylinders the engine uses based on need. When the engine is under little stress - cruising or going downhill - ACT cuts the number of cylinders in use from four to two. When you need more power it switches back to four. 

The chunkier 'Cross Polo' has also received revisions and comes in two versions, both of which have 90hp engines. The 1.2-litre TSI petrol costs €21,310, while the 1.4-litre TDI diesel costs €23,325. Bluemotion, BlueGT and GTI versions are on the way, so there really is a Polo to suit all driving styles.

Michael Sheridan


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