The sixth-generation Volkswagen Polo arrived in Australia in 2018, and four years down the track it’s time for an update.
The line-up has been trimmed from four to three grades, and in a conscious decision to better align the car with what Polo buyers are typically opting for, standard specification is up along with cost-of-entry.
Some of the headline upgrades are cosmetic tweaks front and rear, as well as new digital instrumentation, wireless charging, AEB, and LED headlights on all models.
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We’ll get into the details shortly, but to clarify, this review will deal with the entry-level Life and more highly specified Style model, with the GTI hot hatch covered in a separate review.
Volkswagen Australia invited us to the car’s local launch drive which took in a combination of city, suburban, B-road, highway and freeway running. So we were able to get a solid first taste of how the refreshed small hatch measures up in a slowly shrinking, but still hotly contested city car market.
|Volkswagen Polo 2022: Life|
|Engine Type||1.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 8/10
Let’s rip the Band-Aid off and get to the bottom of a more than 30 per cent base price increase before we go any further.
Yep, you read that correctly. Previously, a Trendline 70TSI manual gained you Polo club membership for $19,290, before on-road costs. Now, the entry-grade Polo Life, with exactly the same powertrain underneath it, will set you back $25,250.
So, what gives? Instead of getting down and dirty with the likes of the Kia Rio, Mazda2, and Suzuki Baleno, maybe even the poshest MG3, the Polo’s aiming up at its Audi A1 cousin and the Toyota Yaris, the latter undergoing a similar upscaling evolution in 2021.
Wireless phone charging.
The answer is standard equipment, and more of it. Volkswagen believes the days of a ‘price leader’ Polo are behind it. That is, pique a buyer’s interest with a keenly priced but relatively sparse base model, and they inevitably move up to a higher grade once engaged in the process.
No, the new Polo cuts right to the chase, specified more in line with the cars ultimately ending up in consumers driveways.
As mentioned, the Polo range now kicks off with the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol Life in manual for $25,250, and auto at $28,250, before on-road costs.
The gap between five-speed manual and seven-speed auto versions is slightly larger this time around ($3000 vs $2500) because the auto now boasts a more powerful (85kW/200Nm) version of the turbo triple than the manual (70kW/175Nm).
15-inch alloy wheels.
On top of the active and passive safety tech detailed in the Safety section (and it’s a pretty big story), the Life picks up new standard features including, LED headlights and tail-lights, 15-inch alloy wheels, the ‘Digital Cockpit’ configurable digital instrument display, front and rear parking sensors, ‘Manoeuvre Braking’ (low-speed rear AEB), wireless phone charging, electrically-folding exterior mirrors, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. That’s the $5960 difference between prior and current Polo entry models in a nutshell.
As well, the Life boasts leather trim on the steering wheel, gearshift and handbrake lever, an 8.0-inch media touchscreen, six-speaker audio, rain-sensing wipers, LED tail-lights and DRLs, and more.
Opt for the auto-only Style ($31,250) and you’ll pick up front fog lights (with static cornering function), ‘Matrix’ LED headlights, ‘Premium’ LED tail-lights (with dynamic indicators), ‘Dynamic Light Assist’ (auto low to main beam switch with light profile adjusted to avoid dazzling cars ahead or oncoming), 16-inch alloys, dual-zone climate-control air con, front and rear carpet mats, ‘Digital Cockpit Pro’ (incorporating nav and phone functions), ambient interior lighting, and sports front seats.
A sharp package in the Polo’s brave new world of $25-$35K small car competition.
Two option packs are available, starting with the ‘Vision & Tech Package’ for the Life (auto only - $1700), incorporating ‘Discover’ nav in the 8.0-inch media set-up, Digital Cockpit Pro, voice control, wireless app connect, ‘Travel Assist’ (Level 2 semi-autonomous driving) and adaptive cruise control.
A ‘Sound & Tech Package’ is available for the Style ($1900) delivering ‘Discover’ nav in the 8.0-inch media set-up, voice control, wireless app connect, keyless entry and start, and a Beats branded premium audio system (digital eight-channel amp, 300 watts).
A Panoramic glass sunroof ($1500) is available for the Style, and metallic paint adds $600 for both models.
Explore the 2022 Volkswagen Polo range
- Volkswagen Polo GTI 2022 review
Is there anything interesting about its design? 7/10
It’ll take a sharp eye to spot the external differences between this upgraded Polo and its predecessor.
The car’s compact, tightly wrapped body and finely chiselled lines are unchanged, the only differences being reshaped (body-coloured) bumpers front and rear, a new headlight signature, with LED units now standard across the range, and remodelled LED tail-lights.
And after dark car-spotters should look out for the Style’s standard ‘IQ.LIGHT’ LED matrix headlights adding a continuous LED strip across the nose.
Neatly integrated 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen above the centre stack.
Inside things have shifted further, most notably in the entry-level Life, which now boasts the sleek digital instrument display, previously reserved for higher grades, as well as a neatly integrated 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen above the centre stack.
The rest of the interior is relatively understated in typical VW style (no pun intended), the neatly sculpted seats trimmed with a mix of textured and smooth cloth on both models.
How practical is the space inside? 9/10
Volkswagen has developed the Polo over six generations (the first appearing in 1975) and its packaging and space-efficiency game has been honed to a fine point.
This car measures just under 4.1 metres end-to-end, yet the wheelbase is close to 2.6m, which isn’t a million miles away from the Golf. Well, actually, it’s 72mm shorter, but still pretty impressive.
And it shows in terms of interior space. The driver and front passenger have plenty of breathing room, and the rear is remarkable.
Storage options in the front include a small lidded box between the seats.
At 183cm, sitting behind the driver’s seat set to my position, I enjoyed ample legroom, and more than enough headroom.
Width is another story, because while two grown-ups will be fine in the back, there isn’t enough space for three to sit in comfort for any length of time. You need to be realistic about what to expect from a city-sized car.
Storage options in the front include a small lidded box between the seats (which doubles as an adjustable armrest), two cupholders and various oddments spaces in the centre console, as well as the wireless charging bay in front of the gearshift.
Sitting behind the driver’s seat set to my position, I enjoyed ample legroom, and more than enough headroom.
There are also pockets in the doors with room for (medium) bottles, a decent glove box, a shallow drawer under the passenger seat, and an overhead drop-down tray for glasses.
Map pockets on the front seat backrests, and small bins in the doors add extra practicality, but there’s no fold-down centre armrest or individual ventilation control for rear seaters.
For connectivity and power, there are two USB-C ports in the front, plus another two in the rear, as well as a 12-volt socket in the front centre console.
Boot space is 351 litres (VDA) with the 60/40 split-folding rear seats upright.
Boot space is 351 litres (VDA) with the 60/40 split-folding rear seats upright, which is impressive for a car of this size, that number growing to 1125L with them folded down. You can also change the floor level when you’re making a call between maximum volume and ease of loading.
Tie down anchors are handy for strapping loose loads, while shopping bag hooks help keep smaller bundles under control. And all this efficiency is even more impressive given the spare is a 15-inch steel rim.
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What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 7/10
The Polo is powered by Volkswagen’s 1.0-litre (EA211) three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, driving the front wheels through either a five-speed manual gearbox (yep, five-speed) or seven-speed dual-clutch auto in the Life, or auto only in the Style.
The Polo is powered by Volkswagen’s 1.0-litre (EA211) three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine.
Important to note the all-alloy triple is tuned to produce 70kW/175Nm in the Life manual, those numbers jumping to 85kW/200Nm in the Life auto and Style.
No matter the output, maximum torque is available from 2000-3500rpm, with peak power arriving from 5000-5500rpm.
How much fuel does it consume? 8/10
If VW’s aim in turning the wick down on the manual Polo is improved fuel-efficiency it’s a dubious move with both versions of the 1.0L three-cylinder engine returning an official fuel economy figure of 5.4L/100km on the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle.
And the environment is ultimately the (not so big) loser, the 70kW manual producing 124g/km of CO2, while the 85kW auto trims that to 123g/km.
Minimum fuel recommendation is 95 RON premium unleaded, although you’ll need just 40 litres of it to brim the tank. Using the official consumption figure that translates to a range of 740km.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 9/10
With a maximum five-star ANCAP score already in the bag for the Polo from a 2018 assessment, the path of least resistance for VW would have been to rest on its laurels. But to its credit the German giant resubmitted this updated version for testing against stricter 2022 criteria.
That’s largely because it’s squeezed in several key active safety features under the umbrella of ‘IQ.Drive’, with all Polos now featuring, AEB (with cyclist and pedestrian detection), lane-keeping assist (with lane departure warning), ‘Multi-Collision Brake’ (automatically slows the car after a collision, reducing the chance of a secondary impact), driver fatigue detection, front and rear parking distance sensors, rear AEB (low-speed), a reversing camera (with static and dynamic guidelines), cruise control (with speed limiter and distance warning display), tyre pressure monitoring, and more.
‘Park Assist’ (perpendicular and parallel) and active cruise and are standard on the Style, with the latter optionally available on the Life auto as part of the Vision & Tech package.
If, despite all that, a crash is unavoidable there are seven airbags on-board - driver and front passenger (front and side), front centre (to minimise head clash injuries) and full-length side curtain.
There are three top tether points across the rear seat for child seats and/or baby capsules, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.
Warranty & Safety Rating
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 8/10
Volkswagen Australia covers the Polo with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is now the volume market standard.
The paint is warranted for three years/unlimited kilometres, “Through Corrosion” is covered for 12 years/unlimited kilometres, and 12 months roadside assistance is included.
Servicing is required every 12 months or 15,000km, with prices over the first five years for the Life manual (70kW) ranging from a low of $413 to a high of $929, the average per service coming out at $560, bumping up to $580 for the Life auto and Style (85kW).
Volkswagen Australia covers the Polo with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
Capped price servicing is available, however, over five- and three-year plans. Paying up-front for five years results in a $664 saving over pay-as-you-go for the Life manual, and $716 for the Life auto and Style.
A compelling side benefit is the ability to fold servicing costs into the vehicle’s financing at the time of purchase, and the plan is transferable if you decide to sell the car before the five or three years is up.
What's it like to drive? 8/10
The Polo’s launch drive program covered around 150km of city, suburban and freeway running from inner Sydney, through twisting B-roads to the city’s south, and sprawling semi-rural areas further west.
We sampled the Life and Style, both in 85kW seven-speed auto form, and first impressions are dominated by how refined this little car feels in terms of ride quality and noise suppression.
Typically throaty three-cylinder engine and exhaust noise is there under load, but it’s relatively low-key. And even on coarse secondary roads the Polo remains quiet and composed.
Zero to 100km/h comes up in around 10.5 seconds, which isn’t going to rewrite the class record books, but with seven ratios to play with the engine stays in its 2000-3500rpm sweet spot most of the time.
Zero to 100km/h comes up in around 10.5 seconds.
There’s more than enough pulling power for safe highway overtaking, and cruising at 100-110km/h is easy. You don’t have to mash the accelerator to maintain a comfortable pace.
Suspension is strut front, torsion beam rear, and if you’re inclined towards a cheeky fang through your favourite set of corners, the Polo is heaps of fun. At a fraction over 1.1 tonnes it’s light but feels planted and stable on twisty sections.
The steering’s nicely weighted and road feel is good, plus the front seats are supportive and comfortable over long stints behind the wheel.
Not surprisingly, parking is stress-free thanks to the Polo’s compact dimensions and good visibility.
Parking is stress-free thanks to the Polo’s compact dimensions and good visibility.
Braking is progressive and reassuringly firm, but, although we didn’t drive the Life manual at launch, be aware its back brakes are drums, a ‘technology’ largely unknown beyond base utes in 2022.
Nothing wrong with an efficient drum set-up on a light-weight car, but let’s just say it’ll be interesting to drive that variant and see how it pulls up under pressure.
Under the heading of random thoughts, the combination of on-screen touch controls, and physical dials for the multi-media system is welcome. And the connection for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is wired or wireless which is handy for those who prefer the surety of a wired connection or the flexibility of one less cable in their life.
The Polo has always been a desirable, high-quality, small car option. Effectively moving it to a more premium positioning by aligning its specification with what the market has been buying is a bold move. But this mid-life upgrade has given the Polo the extra safety tech and digital sophistication it needs to substantiate the shift.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with meals provided.