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Cross Polo will never be a volume seller, but the chunky little car turns heads.

Volkswagen has given us a niche car that, in many ways, is a modern take on the ill-fated Rover 25 'Streetwise'. Like Streetwise back in 2003, Cross Polo is built on a mainstream supermini platform and is then given the urban bad boy look by the stylists. Our test car certainly looks like a pimped Volkswagen Polo, with a paint job that any drifter would be proud of. Vivid 'magma' orange is one of two unique colours available (a dull beige being the other) with 17-inch alloys completing the modified look - the tasty wheels really fill out the car's arches.

The exterior of the five-door, front-wheel drive car gets 15 millimetres of extra ground clearance to make it look more SUV-like, plus there are roof rails that can take a modest weight. The front and rear ends get beefed up with extra trim over the standard Polo, while the car's profile gets the pseudo-protective panel treatment.

Inside the fabric used in our test car reflects the exterior's paint and is vivid and fresh. Sadly, the dash layout lacks the same youthfulness but, as you'd expect, the instruments and trim are first rate, if a little on the dull side when compared to the exterior. The boot is small, but the rear seats split and fold to make more cargo space.

Polo starts at €14,455, which is a bit of a bargain for a VW, while the tax band 'B' Cross Polo is nearly €3,000 dearer at €17,380 (ex works). Our test car came fitted with a few extras like the ride comfort pack (cruise control, flat tyre indicator and rear parking sensors plus tinted rear glass and an iPod interface) that bumped the price up to €18,592. ESP is standard as is ABS, of course, and air-con.

Our test car is powered by a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder engine that needs to be revved to make any sort of lively progress. There are just two engines available in the Cross Polo, namely a 75bhp, band 'A' diesel (€19,585 OTR) or the petrol version on test with 70bhp. Both have a five-speed manual gearbox; despite the look there is no four-wheel drive version.

On the road the taller Polo does not live up to its good looks. It rolls in the corners and the large alloys cannot hide the lack of sophistication in the suspension set-up, particularly over speed bumps. You need to rev the three-cylinder engine hard to make decent progress. Even when moving off you have to keep the revs high to avoid stalling. Both front seats adjust for height and overall visibility is very good in this slightly taller Polo.

Cross Polo very much looks the part of a tough urban machine but is dynamically compromised by its styling. The standard Polo is the better car, but Cross Polo makes more of a statement on the street.

Michael Sheridan