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Volkswagen Polo review: Downsize and save a mint

By Roger St Pierre with Hazel Kempster

With legions of owner-users striving to contain their costs, ‘downsizing’ has becomes as much a byword in motoring circles as it has been of late among house owners of a certain age.

If we were all ruled by our heads rather than our hearts then we would all be at it.

Let’s face it, opting for a smaller car no longer means you have to give up the better things of life behind the wheel.

Car sales are doing quite well at the moment but it’s an ever more competitive market and consequently the offer has needed to be improved at all ends of the market which means, basically, that you get more bang for your buck.

Specifications have needed to be beefed up, build quality improved and warranties extended. Performance, safety, low-cost servicing, lower insurance ratings and vastly improved fuel economy have all been upgraded in the mix.

At which point, enter Volkswagen’s perky little Polo. Yes, it is a small car but if I was handed the key and asked to drive it clear across the Continent – for a fee, of course – then I’d have no trepidation.

It might fit comfortably on the smallest of supermarket spaces but is spacious and airy inside and not much smaller than its Golf big brother.

All the knobs, switches and dials are in the right spaces, falling readily to hand and eye – if looking like they’ve come from yesterday’s parts’ bin, but then we would rather have an old fashioned handbrake than one of those new-fangled electronic gizmos even though we’ve no interest in practising handbrake turns!

Fact is, you could happily loan your Polo to friends, family or mere acquaintances – of motoring age, of course – safe in the knowledge that they will feel immediately at home.

Indeed, the biggest challenge they might face would be trying to locate the vehicle in the car park because, truth be told, visually the Polo is a clone of a good half-dozen of its closest competitors with little but the badging to mark them apart – though I must confess there’s an easy answer to this if you take the time for a quick flick through the colour charts. Suffice to say, I was rather taken with the test car’s rather fetching shade of deep, spot-me-a-mile-away, red.

There’s a full packet of Polo models available, ranging in price from an entry level rather underpowered 1.0-litre three cylinder model at £11,300 up to £19,530 for the all bells and whistles range-topper.

The 1.4 turbo version has a novel engine management device that at appropriate times shuts down half its cylinders to save fuel while an 89-bhp three-cylinder diesel has lots of low-down power, so you don’t have to keep wiggling the gear lever.

Handling might not quite match Ford Fiesta or Peugeot 205 levels, thanks to rather soft suspension settings, but, in its favour, this leads to greater ride comfort for those super-long runs that are well within the Polo’s comfort zone.

Rather unfortunate recent events sadly mean that the German maker’s emissions levels and fuel consumption figures will likely be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt so we will not go into figures but suffice to say that in a long mileage packed week testing the car we spent barely enough time at the pumps to allow Hazel to run into the filling station to pick up a roll or two of our favourite mints.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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