Everything you need to know about next year’s new Volkswagen Polo, including how much it’s likely to cost and what it’s like to drive
The new Volkswagen Polo is one of those models that highlights just how much cars have grown. Never mind the original Golf of 1974, the Polo has expanded to such an extent that the latest version of this ‘small’ hatchback is bigger than the Golf you could buy in 2003.
In some ways this actually seems quite fitting; after all, a huge part of the Polo’s appeal has always been its grown-up feel. But while Volkswagen unsurprisingly wants to keep existing Polo customers happy, it’s also offering much greater scope for personalisation with the new car in an effort to attract younger buyers.
Not only are there 14 exterior colours, but you can specify a contrasting roof, choose from numerous alloy wheel designs and opt for an R Line trim (pictured) which makes the car look much sportier.
There are also some brightly coloured dashboard finishes that give the interior a less austere feel. And the new Polo is available with the latest infotainment technology, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
2018 Volkswagen Polo engines
For all the options you can add to try and ensure your Polo doesn’t look like everyone else’s, the exterior styling remains very much an evolution of the outgoing car’s. But don’t be fooled; underneath lurks a new platform.
It’s the same one that underpins the 2017 Seat Ibiza. And that’s encouraging, because when we group tested this last month it beat the latest Ford Fiesta and a former What Car? Car of the Year, the Skoda Fabia.
Most of the engines are also shared with the Ibiza, meaning the new Polo will be sold with a variety of turbo and non-turbo 1.0-litre petrol units, more powerful 1.5 and 2.0-litre turbo petrols and two 1.6-litre diesels. However, it’s the 94bhp version of the 1.0-litre turbo that’s likely to strike the best balance between performance and affordability.
With this engine you don’t need lots of revs to get up to speed quickly, which in turn makes it smoother, quieter and – in the real world – more efficient han the non-turbo petrols.
Despite the larger Golf being available both as a plug-in hybrid and as a pure electric vehicle, Volkswagen doesn’t have any plans to offer those powertrains in the Polo. But a mild-hybrid model – where a small electric motor is used to provide boost away from junctions – is on the cards.
- 1.0-litre petrol available in either 64bhp or 74bhp forms, both with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard
- 1.0-litre turbocharged 94bhp petrol, with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard (seven-speed automatic optional)
- 1.0-litre turbocharged 113bhp petrol, with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard (seven-speed automatic optional)
- 1.5-litre turbocharged 148bhp petrol, with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard (seven-speed automatic optional)
- 2.0-litre turbocharged 197bhp petrol, with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard (seven-speed automatic optional)
- 1.6-litre diesel with 79bhp and a five-speed manual gearbox as standard
- 1.6-litre diesel with 94bhp and a five-speed manual gearbox as standard (seven-speed automatic optional)
2018 Volkswagen Polo interior
The exterior may look familiar, but there has been a revolution inside the Polo, with the touchscreen infotainment system moved to the top of the dashboard, in line with the instruments, so you can still keep half an eye on the road when using it.
The fact that the screen is bigger than before (up from a maximum of 6.5in to 8.0in) also aids usability, although it’s not all good news, because Volkswagen has ditched the old car’s shortcut buttons in favour of touch-sensitive panels which can’t be located by feel alone.
Harder to fault is the perceived quality, with the upper dash made from appealing soft-touch plastics and even the more functional stuff used lower down feeling extremely solid.
Specify the optional Active Info Display and it moves things onto another level again, because this replaces the conventional instruments with a high-resolution screen that can display a vast amount of information very clearly.
2018 Volkswagen Polo practicality
Volkswagen has decided to drop the slow-selling three-door bodystyle, and has instead given all new Polos five doors.
This is also the first Polo to be more than four metres long, plus it’s 8cm wider than its predecessor and the front and rear axles are set further apart, all of which boosts practicality.
There’s plenty of room for tall adults in both the front and the back. Plus, the boot has a 351-litre capacity, which outstrips all of its key rivals; the Fabia, for example, offers 330 litres of space and the new Fiesta just 292 litres.
We’d also expect most versions of the car to have rear seats that split and fold 60/40. And as long as you avoid the entry-level S spec, there’s a height-adjustable boot floor that ensures there’s no step in this extended load area.
2018 Volkswagen Polo equipment
Full UK specifications are still to be confirmed, but if they match those of German Polos, then standard equipment will include LED daytime running lights, front electric windows, air conditioning and an automatic emergency braking system that can detect pedestrians as well as other cars.
Upgrading from S to SE spec should add a driver attention monitor, 15in alloy wheels, rear electric windows and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with remote audio controls. Meanwhile, we’d expect SEL cars to get parking sensors, ambient interior lighting and part-leather trim.
As with the outgoing Polo, there will be a Beats special edition, with an upgraded stereo as well as 16in alloy wheels and sports seats. And at the top of the range will be the sporty GTI model, with its turbocharged 197bhp 2.0-litre engine.
The new car’s expanded options list includes LED headlights, wireless charging for mobile phones, a panoramic glass roof, adaptive cruise control and a blind spot warning system.
2018 Volkswagen Polo pricing
Order books for the new Polo will open in October, with the first cars reaching customers in January 2018. Volkswagen hasn’t released UK prices yet, but we’d expect a small increase over today’s car, which starts at £12,600 for a five-door.
That means you’re likely to pay more than you would for equivalent versions of the Fiesta, Ibiza and Fabia, but the Polo does feel classier inside than all of these cars. And it’s likely to hold its value better, which should keep PCP finance rates competitive.
You’ll have spotted the strange disguise on the new Polos we’re driving here; they are early prototypes which were undergoing late development testing in South Africa. Even so, they are representative of the final car which will go on sale in the UK in January, and we have the added benefit of having subsequently driven the hugely promising new Seat Ibiza which is based on the same mechanical underpinnings and uses the same engines.
Our test covered the familiar three-cylinder 74bhp 1.0-litre and 94bhp 1.0-litre turbo petrol units, and both performed well in conjunction with the slick-shifting five-speed manual gearbox they were linked to. Even the lower-powered engine felt strong enough for all but the most urgent motorway acceleration, while the 94bhp unit is particularly sweet, delivering power smoothly and progressively without ever becoming noisy.
The Polo’s trademark grown-up dynamics remain, too. You feel a hint of larger potholes or road imperfections, but they are very well absorbed for a model in this class.
At all speeds – including above UK motorway limits – the Polo is supremely stable, too. There were few corners on our test route, but the ones we encountered suggested the Polo remains level and grips well as it turns. The handling is secure, if not sparkling with feedback that makes the driver feel at one with the car.
It’s hard to give a definitive verdict until we get the full pricing for the Polo and drive a finished car, but there’s no question that it has taken the qualities of its predecessor and made them better.
That means it will still major on practicality, quality and running costs, and for many buyers that combination will be exactly what they want. The only real quibble is that we wish it was a bit more involving to drive, an area in which the Ford Fiesta still sets the benchmark.
Overall, though, the Polo joins the Seat Ibiza on our shortlist as one of the most exciting new small cars coming on to the market and, as such, it must be considered as a viable challenger to the aforementioned Fabia’s Car of the Year crown.