Volkswagen has always been a frontrunner in the hatchback space and two that have captured UK drivers’ since the 70s are the Golf and the Polo. The perception has always been that the Polo lives in its older brother’s shadow, but how true is that?
In our latest blog we pit the Volkswagen Golf against the smaller Polo so that you can make your own mind up about these excellent models. Read on to discover whether the Golf or Polo is the car for you.
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The first thing to note about the Volkswagen Golf and the Volkswagen Polo is that they’ve both got an air of class about them. There aren’t many people who wouldn’t be happy to be seen in one of these cars.
As the bigger car, the Golf has more of a presence of the road that some people will prefer more than others. This means as standard it has features to match, such as 16in alloy wheels over the Polo’s 15in ones. But other than this, it’s tough to separate these two very well-equipped cars.
Overall, there’s a bit more slickness about the Volkswagen Golf over the Polo which sells it for us. The LED lights on the front and back are sleeker on the Golf, while on the back there’s even smart ‘Golf’ text below the VW badge which the Polo doesn’t have. Not that you’ll need reminding of the car you’ve bought, but it is a neat touch we quite like.
There are a whole bunch of trim levels available for both the Golf and Polo which can spec them out to your taste. Exclusive to the Polo is a Beats trim which gets a neat little red stripe down the bonnet and roof, plus unique door sill protectors which separate it from the range. As the name suggests, it’s got the best sound system in the range too, which we’ll get onto later.
As for the Golf, we’d recommend the sporty-looking R Line model which has more aggressive bumpers on the front and back, rear tinted glass and chunky cool 17in alloy wheels. It’s by far the best Golf as far as looks are concerned, while the Polo also has an R Line model which comes close.
The VW Polo R Line comes with 16in alloy wheels, styled front and rear bumpers, a black roof spoiler and tinted rear windows too.
Interior design and space
Stepping inside both the Polo and Golf there’s plenty to please the eye. There’s a good feeling that everything is well-built and screwed together properly. Soft touch materials are prevalent across the top of the dashboards in these cars, although in the back of the Golf there are some more noticeable scratchy, hard plastics (but we are nitpicking).
Getting comfortable shouldn’t be too difficult in either the Golf or Polo if you’re sat in the front. Adjustable lumbar support comes as standard so the seats in both cars are comfortable enough for longer journeys. Sports seats are standard on Style trim and higher on the Golf and are perfect for adding extra support when going through corners and even more comfort if you’re sat down for long periods of time.
As for the infotainment systems in both these cars, the Golf comes with a 10.0in infotainment screen which is a couple of inches larger than the Polo’s. However, it’s less about the aesthetics of the systems and more about how they operate. Unfortunately there aren’t physical buttons or dials you can easily control the system with on the move, so you have to use the touchscreen which can be distracting.
Despite being the smaller car of the two, the Volkswagen Polo knocks the socks off of the Golf with a punchier stereo system in its unique Beats trim. With a 300w Beats sound system with six speakers and a subwoofer, you’ll be blown away by how impressive this car plays your music.
There aren’t many roomier small cars than the Volkswagen Polo, whereas the Golf is beaten by rivals such as the Ford Focus and Skoda Octavia. The Polo even beats the Golf for headroom thanks to its taller roofline.
Every Polo has big door bins, a reasonably-sized glovebox and a useful cubby in front of the gearknob – ideal for storing loose items.
The VW Golf is still a practical car and is a go-to for many small families. Because it’s a wide car, you won’t be knocking elbows with your passenger sat in the front. In terms of storage space, that’s pretty good too, with reasonably sized door pockets, a centre console with two cupholders inside and in front of the gear lever sits a wireless phone charging tray.
When it comes to the rear space in these cars, you’ll be surprised at just how roomy the Polo is. A pair of six-footers will be comfortable in there and still have wiggle room for their head and legs. In the Golf you can fit a couple of six-footers in the back easily too, though if the seats are far back in the front then knee room might be tight.
Moving round to the boot of the Golf and the Polo, you’ll be pleasantly surprised again at how roomy the Polo compared to rivals. The 351-litre space is bigger than the Skoda Fabia’s, Peugeot 208’s and Ford Fiesta’s. Due to its useful square-shaped entrance and flat load bay, you’ll find it incredibly easy to load heavier items into the back too.
We’d recommend avoiding the Beats trim if you want to maximise this space. The subwoofer takes up the floor space in the cargo so there’s considerably less room back there than if you were to pick another trim level.
The Volkswagen Golf has a 380-litre boot which will be enough for most people wanting to squeeze in a weekly shop and a fold-up buggy. However, the Skoda Scala can carry much more in the back.
Performance and price
For a small car, the Volkswagen Polo has a very smooth ride, whether you’re driving in the city or motorway. While it isn’t the most engaging car to drive (we’d recommend the Fiesta or Seat Ibiza for this) it is exeptional at keeping vibrations and wind noise hushed while you’re moving.
Choose the manual gearbox on the Polo and you’ll find it’s surprisingly slick, though the range-topping Polo GTI is only available with a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. It’s pretty jerky when you put your foot down, but once it kicks into life you’ll be surprised at how it outsprints the Ford Fiesta ST.
On the other hand, the Golf is also pretty adept at smoothing out rough surfaces and is one of the best in its class for this. When you choose one of the more powerful ‘150’ engines the car gets a sophisticated rear suspension setup that makes it more stable at faster speeds. You can even add VW’s Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive suspension which lets you tune the car’s setup to suit your driving situation. Pick between Comfort, Normal or Sport mode depending on how you want your car to behave. Comfort turns this car into one of the comfiest cars in this class, while the other more firmer options are good for when you hit winding roads and want to sure things up a bit.
As for engines on these cars, well we’d recommend the 1.0-litre, turbocharged unit with 94bhp available for the Polo. It’s good in town, but isn’t one bit weedy when you hit motorway speed and put the revs on – the turbocharging kicks in well and it pulls you along quite strongly. Avoid the 1.0 80 Evo at all costs – its lack of turbocharging means that it needs working hard to make any progress.
For the best performance, there’s the very quick Polo GTI comes with a 2.0-litre 197bhp petrol engine that takes you from 0-60mph in 6.4 seconds.
Engines are much stronger from the off in the Volkswagen Golf, with the entry-level 1.0-litre petrol engine producing 110bhp that provides enough punch and fuel-efficiency for most. However, there are stronger engines still, including bigger 1.5-litre units that have 130bhp or 150bhp (this last one is our pick of the bunch). There are even mild hybrid versions which provide more poke thanks to assistance from a small electric motor.
At the top of the VW Golf range is the renowned Golf R, which has a 2.0-litre engine with 320bhp that can do 0-60mph in a bonkers quick 4.7 seconds.
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