2020 Volkswagen Polo Review

By David Bonnici and WhichCar Staff

2018 VW Polo 85TSI  Launch Edition

Overall Rating


4.5 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
Expand Section

Safety, value & features

4 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

4 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

5 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

5 out of 5 stars


5 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProPunchy engines; great roadholding; excellent phone integration.

  2. ConConservative looks; limited paint options

  3. The Pick: 2021 Volkswagen Polo 85TSI Comfortline 5D Hatchback

What stands out?

The Polo looks crisp, clean and elegant, inside and out. Its turbocharged engines supply great everyday performance without using much petrol. Bigger than a Mk4 Golf, the Polo is roomy inside but fits into small parking spots but feels like a bigger car on the road, with a smooth ride and reassuring road holding. The range includes a budget priced entry-level manual and GTI hot hatch. Autonomous emergency braking is standard.

What might bug me?

Being stuck with a colour you don’t really like. There are only five colour options, white, grey, silver, black and orange. White is the only colour that doesn’t cost extra, whereas the previous model also had a choice of red or blue.

Being passed by a Volkswagen Golf 7.5 110TSI Trendline and wondering if you should have spent a little more money on the bigger, more powerful and sharper handling VW.

What body styles are there?

Five-door hatch only.

All Polos drive the front wheels, and are classed as light cars, lower priced.

What features do all Polos have?

Cruise control with speed limiter, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, driver fatigue alert, and an air pressure monitor that lets you know if a tyre is going flat.

An 8.0-inch colour touchscreen for controlling audio, phone and trip computer functions (among other uses). A sound system with an AM/FM radio, a CD player, an SD card slot, and Aux and two USB inputs.

Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, and a reversing camera.

Support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which work with Apple and Android phones. If you plug your phone in through the USB socket, many of its apps – including mapping and music – are mirrored on the touchscreen display and can be controlled from there.

Leather trim on the flat-bottomed steering wheel and gearshift lever. A display on the instrument panel that can show your average speed and fuel consumption, among other functions.

Headlight height adjustment from inside the cabin. Daytime running lights, which make the car more visible to other road users, and rear fog-light.

A full-size steel spare wheel.

Hill-start assist, which controls the brakes to make it easier for you to take off on uphill slopes.

Height adjustable front seats, and 60:40 split folding rear seat.

Six airbags. Electronic stability control, which helps you avoid and control skids. (For more on Polo safety features, please open the Safety section below.)

The Polo is covered by a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

The Polo comes with a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine in one of two versions, called either the 75TSI or 85TSI. The numbers refer to the maximum power output each version produces in kilowatts.

With its standard five-speed manual gearbox, the 75TSI sips fuel at 4.8 litres/100km while the 85TSI with a six-speed manual consumes 5.1 litres/100km.

Both engines are also available with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which shifts a bit like a manual inside but without a traditional foot-operated clutch. Each engine consumes fuel at a rate of 5.0 litres/100km in the official test (urban and country combined) when fitted with this transmission.

These slight differences in fuel consumption will be barely noticeable in real-world driving, which tends to result in usage that’s a little higher than test claims. For example during recent Wheels magazine testing, the 85TSI with an automatic gearbox consumed 6.2 litres/100km with a mixture of city and country driving, with and without passengers.

The only real advantage of going for the more frugal 75TSI manual is its lower price.

The main reason you wouldn’t want the excellent 1.0-litre engine is because you want the more powerful Polo GTI which comes with a punchy 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. This has an official combined fuel consumption of 6.1 litres/100km.

(Power outputs and all other Polo specifications are available from the Cars Covered menu, under the main image on this page.)

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The least costly Polo, the 75TSI Trendline, comes with cloth seat trim and rolls on 15-inch steel wheels, and has the less powerful version of the 1.0-litre turbo engines. The 75TSI manual has a five-speed gearbox.

Spend more for an 85TSI Comfortline and your seats are trimmed in higher quality ‘Comfort’ cloth upholstery, and the 15-inch wheels are made of aluminium alloy, which look better and don’t need plastic covers.

Other upgrades for the 85TSI include headlights that switch on automatically when it’s dark, the windscreen wipers operate themselves when it rains, and the rear-view mirror dims automatically to reduce glare from bright headlights behind you.

The interior gains an armrest between the front seats.

The 85TSI also has disc brakes on all four wheels, which are stronger and more responsive than the 75TSI’s disc-front and drum-rear brakes.

Upgrading to the 85TSI Style adds 16-inch alloy wheels, front sports comfort sears, front seat height and lumbar adjustment, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, sporty interior trim, dark-red LED tail-lights, satellite navigation, Beats premium audio, and wireless phone charger.

The most expensive Polo the GTI has the more powerful 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine with dual-clutch auto, plus unique features over the 85TSI Style including 17-inch wheels, traditional Clark tartan seat trim, adaptive sports suspension, and keyless entry/start.

Option packages

For about $1400 you can add a Driver Assistance package to the Polo 85TSI and GTI versions, which brings you Park Assist with front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor, rear-cross traffic alert, power-folding door mirrors, front and rear auto braking when parking, and a proactive occupant protection system that can anticipate a potential accident and take measures to mitigate injury.

The R-Line package ($1500) adds sporty touched to the 85TSI versions, including a redesigned black lower-front bumper and air intake, side sill extensions, revised rear bumper, high-gloss black rear spoiler, metallic grey 16-inch Sebring alloy wheels, sports suspension and front fog lights.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

Apart from extra cost, no.

White is the only standard colour on a Polo, with the other paints costing extra.

How comfortable is the Polo?

The Polo is very spacious for its class and seats four adults comfortably. Each version shares the same basic interior layout, but the 85TSI and GTI variants have has higher quality cloth trim.

You can adjust the steering wheel for reach and height, and both front seats can be raised or lowered; unlike some light cars whose high seats make you feel like you’re propped on a bar stool.

The front and rear seats blend comfort with side-support very effectively, holding you in place nicely through corners.

The main controls are well positioned high on the dash (near your line of sight). The main instruments are legible and clear.

This Polo is longer and wider than the previous model which makes it feel well planted when cornering. It rides in a supple but very well controlled manner, so if you hit a big bump it recovers quickly. Where many cars of this size sound noisy and feel tinny, the Polo is surprisingly quiet. You’ll get some tyre noise, but not much.

Steering is nicely weighted, with a consistent feel throughout its arc. In general, the car feels very stable, but compact and agile.

The Polo 75TSI is responsive and relaxing in everyday driving. The 85TSI steps things up a notch, with more oomph in all situations, while the GTI offers genuine hot hatch excitement.

What about safety in a Volkswagen Polo?

Every Polo comes with automatic emergency braking, anti-lock brakes, stability control, six airbags, daytime running lights, and a reversing camera. Also included is a driver fatigue monitor that assesses your use of the steering wheel over long journeys, prompting you to take a break if it concludes you might be falling asleep.

Volkswagen calls its auto-braking system Front Assist with City Emergency Brake, and it operates at city and highway speeds. A radar-type sensor scans the roadway ahead for obstacles, and the system will warn you of an impending collision (typically if a car ahead has slowed suddenly). If you ignore the warning, at speeds under 30km/h it will initiate an emergency stop automatically. At higher speeds, it will warn you via the audio-visual dashboard alert and pulse the brakes, encouraging you to brake yourself. If you ignore the pulsing it will brake automatically – although not at maximum pressure.

There are airbags ahead of the driver and front passenger, and another outside each front occupant that protect at chest level from side crashes. Curtain airbags extend down each side of the car at head level, protecting front and rear occupants.

All but the 75TSI feature rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and auto headlamps that can come on when it gets dark.

For around $1400 you can add a Driver Assistance package to the Polo 85TSI Comfortline and Style and GTI, which brings you Park Assist with front and rear parking sensors, and front and rear manoeuvre braking, which stops your Polo automatically if you’re about to hit an object while parking.

You also get adaptive cruise control (which can reduce your set cruising speed to match slower cars ahead on the highway, resuming automatically when the way is clear), blind-spot monitor, rear-cross traffic alert and power-folding door mirrors.

Proactive occupant protection system is also included in the package – this clever technology uses sensors to detect if an accident is more likely to occur and prepares the Polo and its occupants for an impending collision by automatically tensioning the seat belts and closing any open windows.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rated the Polo at its maximum five stars for safety, in February 2018.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The Polo has always been one of the very best city cars to drive and this model takes that driving enjoyment to a new level.

It is built on an all-new chassis which is longer, wider and tauter than the previous model resulting in sharper handling. The ride is firm, but still comfortable and despite the size increase, Polo still feels nimble around town. For a so-called city car, it lapped up B-road bumps with poise giving up little in terms of rebound movement.

The suspension’s excellent control comes into its own on challenging, twisty roads. Teamed with good cornering grip, it makes for a car that is great fun, and feels a lot more like the Golf.

The steering is nicely direct, and front to rear balance is also sweet, meaning understeer is rarely an issue.

The manual gearbox feels light and easy to shift, the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic felt very polished. In the default Drive mode it was a little tardy from a standing start, but this was overcome by flicking the gear shifter down to engage Sport mode, which lets the engine rev more while building up speed.

Once on the move, progress is smooth, without the delayed shifts at low speeds that plague some vehicles with similar transmissions. In more dynamic driving conditions the Polo’s dual-clutch selects gears intuitively so you’re never lacking for power.

And while the 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine lacks the silkiness of the previous model’s 1.2-litre four-cylinder, it does reward you with a nice, throaty, sports-car-like noise when you put the foot down.

The Polo GTI offers genuine hot-hatch performance. It’s seriously quick the sharpness of its front end through corners is astonishing.

How is life in the rear seats?

The sixth-generation Polo has a 92mm-longer wheelbase than the previous model meaning significantly more legroom than before. It’s also about 50mm wider meaning more shoulder room, and headroom is pretty good even for taller people.

The rear windows are quite low, which allows small people a good view out the side.

There are no air vents for rear passengers, but the car is still small enough that the front vents are fairly effective throughout the cabin once the desired temperature has been reached.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The new Polo’s increased dimensions also apply to the boot space, which has grown to 351-litres. That measurement is above average for its light-car class.

Folding the rear seats down increases capacity up to 1125 litres, and accommodates objects up to 1.38 metres long.

Where does Volkswagen make the Polo?

All Polo variants including the GTI are manufactured in South Africa.

Are there any rivals I should consider?

Not really: the Polo has most light cars covered, unless you’re particularly swayed by extremely cost-effective competitors with sharp, mid-teen pricing.

The Citroen C3, Mazda 2, Suzuki Swift GXL Turbo and Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo come close, though neither ticks as many boxes when it comes to equipment, safety, performance and handling.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

The 85TSI Comfortline with the dual-clutch automatic is a great all-rounder that will be happy performing urban runabout duties or chewing up hilly country B-roads.

But if you’re after a performance hatch, the Polo GTI offers a lot of driving pleasure for the price and is one of the best value performance cars on the market.

Are there plans to update the Polo soon?

The sixth-generation Polo arrived in March 2018, replacing the 2010-2017 Mk 5 Polo, which you can read about in a separate review.

The new Polo arrived with two permanent variants, the 75TSI Trendline and 85TSI Comfortline. A special Launch Edition was also available in limited numbers, which was based on the 85TSI Comfortline, but offered bigger 16-inch alloy wheels, wireless phone charger, dark tinted rear windows, front fog lights and tinted LED tail-lights.

Volkswagen Australia introduced the R-Line option package for the Comfortline in June 2018, which adds exterior enhancements and sports suspension.

A Polo GTI joined the range in August 2018, with a more powerful 147kW 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol, and the new higher-spec 85TSI was added in May 2019.

No updates are expected until the latter part of 2020, though Volkswagen could add other permanent or limited edition variants with varied equipment levels and engine outputs.