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Volkswagen Polo 2020 review: Style

Is VW's Polo Style a story of getting what you pay for?
EXPERT RATING
7.5
The continued success of VW's Polo proves there's a semi-premium niche to fill in the city-car segment. But is it worth the extra spend?

It's getting increasingly difficult to sell a small car in Australia.

Several of the Volkswagen Polo's competitors – for one reason or another – have been forced to exit Australia's market, or at very least have their ranges cropped down to a slim list of competitive variants.

The Polo soldiers on, though, proving there's a niche to be filled for a polished and well-equipped offering in such a contracting market segment.

Volkswagen's most recent update to the Polo range has seen its limited-edition Beats variant replaced with this car, the Polo Style.

But in such a price-conscious market segment, is the Style too much coin? We drove one for a week to find out.

Volkswagen Polo 2020: 85 TSI STYLE
Safety rating
Engine Type1.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$25,390

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

For a variant dubbed 'Style' there was surprisingly little extra in the look, particularly from the outside. That's not to say the Polo isn't an attractive car. In fact, on it's base appearance alone it's probably one of the best looking small cars you can buy, but there's nothing extra impressive about the 'Style'.

Slick angles and lines are oh-so-resolved in the signature Volkswagen way, and the angular rear light and DRL fittings suit it well. It does a fantastic job of being the shrunken Golf it needs to be to fit in with VW's line-up.

Extra points for the subtle details in the moldings that give the interior a feel a league above most cars in the small hatch class.

For a variant dubbed ‘Style’ there was surprisingly little extra in the look, particularly from the outside. For a variant dubbed ‘Style’ there was surprisingly little extra in the look, particularly from the outside.

Sadly, even at the Style's relatively expensive price-point, the look is tarnished slightly by the lack of LED headlights.

Inside is a slightly different story. The Style gets a unique synthetic cloth seat trim and a slightly different dash-filler. It is all a bit grey compared to the outgoing Beats' cherries and cream look interior, but still an aesthetically pleasing place to be thanks largely to an abundance of quality trims and materials.

The flashy screens, one in the centre of the dash, and the virtual instrument cluster are particularly impressive visually.

The Style gets a unique synthetic cloth seat trim and a slightly different dash-filler. The Style gets a unique synthetic cloth seat trim and a slightly different dash-filler.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The Polo offers a large interior space and a swathe of practical storage areas with just a few small oversights.

Up front, occupants can make use of huge bottle holders in each door, a large trench under the air-conditioning controls that also houses dual USB outlets, a decently sized glove box, and a small centre console box.

While much of the interior consists of grey plastics, at least the major touch points are clad in a soft finish, although the armrests could have used a little more padding for elbow-resting on longer journeys.

The rear seats provide a surprising amount of room for such a small car, even offering a little air space for my knees, and the roof is high enough to give me room above my head, too (I'm 182cm tall).

The rear seats provide a surprising amount of room for such a small car, even offering a little air space for my knees. The rear seats provide a surprising amount of room for such a small car, even offering a little air space for my knees.

The middle seat is unavoidably tight, and I wouldn't recommend subjecting adult-sized humans to it for longer journeys. There are also no directional air vents for back seat occupants, but there are two USB ports so they can charge devices.

The Polo has decent bottle holders in the rear doors, too, although it was lacking even the rudimentary elbow padding that front passengers benefit from.

Boot space comes in at 341 litres which sounds, and is, very impressive for the class, but our recent Polo vs Audi A1 test proved the numbers only tell half the story.

Despite the Audi having less 'space' (335L) it was easier to use, fitting our entire suitcase set where the Polo could only fit two of the three.

This was due to the higher boot floor in the Polo, a necessary design element given it scores a full-size spare underneath.

Boot space comes in at 341 litres which sounds, and is, very impressive for the class. Boot space comes in at 341 litres which sounds, and is, very impressive for the class.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

This Polo wears an MSRP of $24,990 making it expensive when you consider more mainstream alternatives like the Kia Rio (GT - $23,590) and Toyota Yaris (ZR - $22,670), or more niche euro rivals like the Renault Clio (Intens - $23,990), and Peugeot 208 (Allure, $24,990).

It has to be said that the Polo aces pretty much all of those rivals when it comes to specification (and refinement), so you will be getting what you pay for.

Good examples of this include the 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with a slick stock interface as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, backed by the truly impressive 300W Beats-branded audio system, carried across from the Polo Beats edition.

The flashy screens, one in the centre of the dash, and the virtual instrument cluster are particularly impressive visually. The flashy screens, one in the centre of the dash, and the virtual instrument cluster are particularly impressive visually.

The digital dash – essentially a VW version of Audi's excellent virtual cockpit suite - is almost unheard of in a car at this price point, and an impressive bit of kit no matter which way you cut it.

A leather-trimmed wheel and tidy fittings common across most Volkswagen models, even up to the $90K-plus Touareg, helps to lift the cabin ambiance above most rivals.

To many (who won't be cross-shopping budget rivals anyway) this more 'premium' feel will be worth the extra few grand alone.

It comes with 16-inch alloy wheels. It comes with 16-inch alloy wheels.

Other great standard inclusions come in the form of standard safety (which we'll talk about later), an auto-dimming rear-view mirror as well as heated wing mirrors, a reversing camera, 16-inch alloy wheels, and built-in sat nav.

You can also optionally equip a $1500 'Driver Assist package' that will up the standard spec to include more safety items like blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, auto parking, adaptive cruise control and auto folding mirrors.

This is 100 per cent worth it, although I'll acknowledge that by the time you've equipped that and considered on-road pricing you'll be looking down the barrel of a price tag which will get you into some very good competitor hatchbacks a full size up.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

The Polo is available with three engines across its range, but the Style is only available with one – the mid-spec 85kW/200Nm 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol.

It's a fun high-tech little engine, in this instance mated exclusively to a seven-speed dual-clutch auto, although it has a few issues explored in the driving section of this review. The Polo is front-wheel drive only.

The Polo is available with three engines across its range, but the Style is only available with one. The Polo is available with three engines across its range, but the Style is only available with one.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Given all that high-tech wizardry in the engine I'd expected a slightly better fuel number than the one which Matt Campbell and I got back from our at-the-pump comparison test.

Against a claimed/combined fuel consumption figure of 5.0L/100km, the Polo's actual reading was 7.1L/100km.

These real-world figures are still capable of outranking cheaper rivals with older engines, but there's also the necessity of filling up with at least 95RON premium petrol to consider.

The Polo has a 40-litre fuel tank.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

Here's a place you'll feel where your extra money has gone, too. The Polo is a pleasure to drive, easily among the best in its size-class.

Particularly notable is the suspension, steering, and handling - all of which are prime examples of VW's engineering prowess.

The steering is light, but direct leading to fun in the corners, but never fatigue on long drives.

The Polo is a pleasure to drive, easily among the best in its size-class. The Polo is a pleasure to drive, easily among the best in its size-class.

The suspension is a great emulation of the larger Golf's wonderful ride, it's just not quite to the same level. Over worse bumps, the torsion-beam rear-end can be stiff, but credit where credit is due, the ride on the Polo is still better than anything I can think of in this size-bracket, including its Audi A1 premium cousin.

The engine has some unfortunate characteristics for everyday driving. The amount of moving components combined with a stop-start system and low torque from the get-go means this car can be far too slow off the mark, to the point where you'll be missing gaps in traffic at T-intersections.

Once it's up and running though, it's a fun little unit, surging up the rev-range with a gruff three-cylinder grumble to boot. The transmission is fast and smart at speed to, flicking between ratios at a lightning pace.

It's a drive experience that's mostly what you'd expect from a larger, more expensive vehicle, and that's a very good thing.

The suspension is a great emulation of the larger Golf’s wonderful ride, it’s just not quite to the same level. The suspension is a great emulation of the larger Golf’s wonderful ride, it’s just not quite to the same level.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The Polo Style offers a great safety suite, headlined by auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection and driver attention alert.

To make it really shine though, you'll need to tick that $1500 safety upgrade option to get access to blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and active cruise control. Tick that box. It's worth it.

Safety pack or not, the Polo carries a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as of February 2018.

A reasonably high-resolution reversing camera comes standard, as does a suite of six airbags and a set of two ISOFIX child-seat mounting points for the outer rear seats.

Australian-delivered Polos come from a facility in South Africa.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

VW backs the Polo with its brand-wide five-year,/unlimited kilometre warranty and 12 months of roadside assist.

There's a catch to the servicing. VW sells servicing packs that will add up to a significant discount compared to the pay-as-you-go alternative, but you'll need to add either $950 or $1800 to the upfront cost for three or five years servicing respectively.

That's not bad price-wise though, and adds the advantage of bundling the service cost in on finance.

The Polo Style is unavoidably pricy in the city car segment, but in so many ways you’re getting what you pay for. The Polo Style is unavoidably pricy in the city car segment, but in so many ways you’re getting what you pay for.

Verdict

The Polo Style is unavoidably pricy in the city car segment, but in so many ways you're getting what you pay for.

The Polo offers a superior look and feel than almost all competitors in the segment, as well as a swish drive experience and active safety package, too.

While the argument can be made for buying a decent car a size up for the same money, if you don't need the extra room, the Polo will impress.

Pricing guides

$25,740
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$18,990
Highest Price
$32,490

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
70 TSI TRENDLINE 1.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $21,490 2020 Volkswagen Polo 2020 70 TSI TRENDLINE Pricing and Specs
85 TSI COMFORTLINE 1.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $20,590 2020 Volkswagen Polo 2020 85 TSI COMFORTLINE Pricing and Specs
85 TSI STYLE 1.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $25,390 2020 Volkswagen Polo 2020 85 TSI STYLE Pricing and Specs
GTi 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $32,490 2020 Volkswagen Polo 2020 GTi Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.5
Design7
Practicality8
Price and features7
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety8
Ownership8
Tom White
Journalist

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