2020 VW Polo 1.0 TSI R-Line (110)
The VW Golf called, it wants its identity back.
Offering consumers just two different engines would usually create a chasm in the range but Volkswagen seems to have pulled off a trick with the Polo. You can have the one litre in different degree of hotness, from a cool Korma with 65ps all the way to the full Vindaloo of 110ps. Many of you may consider having just over a hundred horses at the leverage of a throttle pedal below any chilli scale but for the average buyer is packs a lunch of torque that will be more than enough to get around. The middle ground of the range, an 80ps and 95ps offering are worth considering but for the mild price increase unless speed really is a final consideration when buying a car then only the 110 and 95ps option should really be considered. If you really don't want a 1.0 litre engine then your only choice will be a GTI model with the 2.0 lump under the bonnet, but if you want a manual you'll be out of luck and left with either the option of taking a second look at the 1.0 litre engine again or stepping up in size to a Golf. (For the facelift arriving late 2021 the 110 will also go DSG auto only). Here is where the challenge really hots up, the Golf is a larger car and so offered with a 1.5TSI engine, but the extra power has extra weight to lug around, and for a small family you won't benefit from a lot of extra space as the Polo has consistently grown its footprint generation to generation.
Four adults now fit in the Polo and could easily go on a half hour journey with the whole experience becoming too claustrophobic, for longer journeys a couple of stops may be needed to alleviate any cramped feeling but then the Golf would only fare marginally better.
The real surprise was the road holding on larger roads, it feels like youre in a Golf.
The Polo has escaped Volkswagens insistence on dragging all drivers in a technological witchcraft show, including those that go kicking and screaming, inside physical dials control the volume, and, crucially the heater. No need to look at the screen to get things just so, instead the same twist that has worked for decades is used. This alone may make the Polo a better car for many, the fact that even a basic specification Golf is still produced with everything on a screen is baffling, and it isn't just for luddites, even those that surround themselves in technology may find that if they just want a tool to go to the shops and back, the Golf neither offers simplicity, nor cutting edge complexity with a lagging screen that just doesn't feel premium enough. The Polo skips over all of this, there is an ample screen for the radio and Apple/Android screen mirroring meaning you can use your phone's Sat Nav or media source rather than paying the optional extra for VW systems. There is a concern that the price has nudged a little too high for a Polo in recent years, the Golf's ever ballooning price dragging up the rest of the range so as not to create too much of a gap between one model and the next. For the few cash buyers out there this may mean that a Ford Fiesta or Hyundai I20 are better suited, but the vast majority will buy this car on monthly payments and VW's strong residuals mean that against the competition it is still worth visiting a VW showroom.
Out on the road is where the 110ps model makes its worth know, not only getting up to speed without an issue but even when passing on a motorway the small displacement engine feels a lot bigger than it really is. The previous generation always felt as though there was a busy motor under the bonnet, revving to get the most for the driver but the new model has been retuned and delivers a swell of torque low down the rev range, the delivery is almost diesel-esque but without the imminent exhaustion as the revs rise and the little petrol continues to push on rather than running out of puff as a heavy oil engine would. The R-Line won't be for everyone but the added styling cues, subtle interior, and standard specification make it an easy choice above the lesser models. Those that really don't want any hint of sportiness from their car can opt for an SEL trim which gives essentially the same options but with a calmer appearance. Where the Polo should be good is only a city street and a country lane, the sidewall in the sporty wheels is thick enough to absorb the worst of the bumps but there is a slight difference between this and the slightly more comfortable SEL specification. Turn in is better on the R-Line though and so it the feel through the electrically assisted steering, if there was ever an icy road out ahead and driver feedback became imperative you will be more comfortable in the R-Line, there is just something more poised about the overall experience. The real surprise was the road holding on larger roads, it feels like you're in a Golf. It was so sturdy that the question of why buy a Golf slip across my lips. Yes it is roomier, but that comes at a price, the Polo is more efficient, just as well built, and doesn't have the compromise of older models that just didn't have the road holding of its bigger brother on a motorway. Those with a large family and a dog will probably be better served in a Gold, although the T-Roc may now be the car of choice for a family over the traditional hatchback, and with it will come added cost.
We end our time with the Polo scratching our heads, a touch more boot space would be great, and if we were beginning to split hairs it would be nice if there were fewer optional extras and more included as standard features. The R-Line still needs optional boxes ticked for seat heaters, keyless entry, and Navigation, a dedicated package or R-Line 'Technology' model would be a nice addition to the range. All in all the car impressed and with such a saving over a Golf, we would suggest to stop as you walk through the showroom towards a Golf, try out the Polo, it may just surprise you.
Note of interest: The late 2021 facelift of the Polo will lose a lot of the physical dials and bring the infotainment in line with the Golf, a shame as this simplicity made the Polo an easier car to get on with immediately without feeling that you are driving a computer game.