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Volkswagen Polo 2022 review: Life

The Volkswagen Polo Life - not much has changed but it’s popular for a reason. (Image: Brett Sullivan)

The Volkswagen Polo Life hasn’t had much of a design change since the last version but it’s popular for a reason. The pinched lines running the length of the body and the compact but sharp nose hints that this isn’t your typical Nanna errand car, either, but it’s still a safe play compared to some of the other hatchback designs coming out now. The Polo competes with other compact hatchbacks like the Toyota Yaris, Kia Rio and Mazda2.

Let’s be honest, if you’re looking at this for a family car then you need or want something that's small on the outside. But does that mean it's going to be too cramped on the inside?  I’ve been driving this for the last week with my small family to see how it performed.

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What does it look like?

This car is inoffensive, smart looking, and has enough detailing on the outside to not be boring. The inside isn’t going to wow you with plushness but while this is the base model, it doesn’t look basic, at least not in the front. The dashboard is quite lovely and the little arrows against the piano black look a bit like sharks’ teeth and add much needed edginess to the interior. The digital instrument panel and 8.0-inch touchscreen have been well integrated and nestle nicely.

The digital instrument panel and 8.0-inch touchscreen have been well integrated and nestle nicely. (Image: Brett Sullivan) The digital instrument panel and 8.0-inch touchscreen have been well integrated and nestle nicely. (Image: Brett Sullivan)

The Life comes in six colours and all but one will cost you an extra $600, but there are some cool options available, like the 'Vibrant Violet Metallic' of my model, which makes it pop out against the sea of grey and white in a parking lot.

LED headlights. (Image: Brett Sullivan) LED headlights. (Image: Brett Sullivan)

How does it drive?

The Polo Life has a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine and while tiny, it still feels supple and smooth to drive. The stop-start feature isn’t terribly graceful, which is surprising. It starts kicking in when you’re slowing down and there’s a lag when you go to accelerate again as that process stops. You can turn this off, if it bothers you, though. Despite this, it feels rather powerful and it’s zippy to drive. The cabin earns marks for being quiet, too.

The Polo Life has a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine and while tiny, it still feels supple and smooth to drive. (Image: Brett Sullivan) The Polo Life has a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine and while tiny, it still feels supple and smooth to drive. (Image: Brett Sullivan)

The steering wheel is really nice and the steering feels direct and responsive. I love the turning circle on this, I can navigate tight streets and spaces with ease. And on the highway or in the country, it hugs the road, which is great.

When parking, the reversing camera view fills the entire 8.0-inch screen. When parking, the reversing camera view fills the entire 8.0-inch screen.

When parking, the reversing camera view fills the entire 8.0-inch screen, too, which makes it easy to see behind you. Which is good because the windows throughout are pretty narrow.

How spacious is it?

This is the sort of car where space is at a premium and you need to use it wisely. It’s a compact hatchback, so don’t expect to be wowed with space inside. Front occupants have the most legroom and headroom. I wouldn’t want to sit behind a tall driver because it would be a bit 86994. The storage throughout is pretty average for a car of this size but you do have a good size glove box while the centre console is tall and skinny. Up front there are two cupholders, plus a drink holder in each door.

  • This is the sort of car where space is at a premium and you need to use it wisely. (Image: Brett Sullivan) This is the sort of car where space is at a premium and you need to use it wisely. (Image: Brett Sullivan)
  • 2022 Volkswagen Polo I Seats 2022 Volkswagen Polo I Seats
  • 2022 Volkswagen Polo I Seats 2022 Volkswagen Polo I Seats

The boot is a good size for a hatchback at 351L and the floor can be repositioned for a deeper space, which is great. If you pop the back seat down, the space jumps up to 1125L, which helps with storage of gear but not people. With all seats up, I was able to fit my single seater pram and a 125L hard suitcase on top of one another, but had to take off my pram's back wheels to be able to close the lid. I would probably consider a larger car if I still used my pram daily. There is a spare tyre underneath the cargo floor as well. 

  • The boot is a good size for a hatchback at 351L. (Image: Brett Sullivan) The boot is a good size for a hatchback at 351L. (Image: Brett Sullivan)
  • 2022 Volkswagen Polo Life I Boot 2022 Volkswagen Polo Life I Boot
  • 2022 Volkswagen Polo Life I Boot 2022 Volkswagen Polo Life I Boot

How easy is it to use every day?

You will feel like you hit your daily squat goal getting in and out, but the relatively low height of this car did make it easy for my five-year old son to climb in and out of his seat. Plus, it made it easy to clean the roof, which is not normally the case for me.

I would prefer if the back of the seats had a more durable kickplate than the cloth on offer because my son put a lot of foot marks on it this week. I imagine this could get grubby quickly if you’re not on top of cleaning (and honestly, who is with little ones in tow?).

The Polo earns a lot of points for being ridiculously easy to park. (Image: Brett Sullivan) The Polo earns a lot of points for being ridiculously easy to park. (Image: Brett Sullivan)

The back seat is pretty basic. Besides map pockets, storage bins in each door and a couple of USB-C ports, there’s nothing else back there. No directional air vents, armrest or cupholders, plus the legroom is tight. Comfort doesn’t seem like a big factor in the back and older kids or adults won’t be comfortable on a long trip.

However, the Polo earns a lot of points for being ridiculously easy to park. Which came in handy this week around my son’s school because I was able to sneak into tiny spaces that would otherwise evade me!

How safe is it?

For a little car, it has a good line-up of safety features that come as standard, like: autonomous emergency braking, driver fatigue detection, forward collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane keeping aids, reversing camera, as well as, front and rear parking sensors to name a few.

It has seven airbags but that does include curtain airbags covering the back row and it’s nice to see that is has a front centre airbag, which has only just started to appear on some new cars. The Polo also has a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating and was tested in 2022, so it’s fresh and shiny.

The Polo also has a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating and was tested in 2022, so it’s fresh and shiny. (Image: Brett Sullivan) The Polo also has a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating and was tested in 2022, so it’s fresh and shiny. (Image: Brett Sullivan)

This has outboard ISOFIX mounts and three top tether child seat mounts but you’ll only be fitting two car seats. My big harnessed booster seat was a cinch to fit but the 0-4 rearward facing seat proved awkward to fit. The biggest issue I have with it is that it compromises the front occupant’s comfort and legroom. I was nowhere near my driver’s position when it was installed behind the driver’s seat. Personally, I wouldn’t want to compromise my driving comfort or safety just to fit a car seat in, which is something to consider if you have young children.

This has outboard ISOFIX mounts and three top tether child seat mounts but you’ll only be fitting two car seats. (Image: Brett Sullivan) This has outboard ISOFIX mounts and three top tether child seat mounts but you’ll only be fitting two car seats. (Image: Brett Sullivan)

What’s the tech like?

Remembering that this is the base model, the tech is pretty good inside but front passengers will enjoy this the most. There are two USB-C ports in each row plus a wireless charging pad for your smart phone up front. The 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia screen is easy to use and isn’t as laggy as some I’ve sampled.

There are two USB-C ports in each row plus a wireless charging pad for your smart phone up front. (Image: Brett Sullivan) There are two USB-C ports in each row plus a wireless charging pad for your smart phone up front. (Image: Brett Sullivan)

My model is fitted with the optional 'Vision and Tech package', which adds adaptive cruise control (with driver assist), wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (always a bonus), sat nav and a customised digital instrument panel which makes the car feel more like your own.

The six-speaker sound system is good and I love the crisp sound quality.

 The 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia screen. The 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia screen.

How much does it cost to own?

Now, I’ve given you a fair bit to think about up this point, so let’s talk money. This is the auto version of the base model and will cost you $28,250, before on-road costs. You get some nice features with that price, like: 15-inch two-tone alloy wheels, LED headlights and daytime running lights, a turbo-petrol engine, and even a rear braking system that should stop you from bumping into objects at low speeds. Like I mentioned earlier, my model was also fitted with the Vision and Tech package which adds an extra $1700 to the price, but the features are the worth the extra money for me.

This is the auto version of the base model and will cost you $28,250, before on-road costs. (Image: Brett Sullivan) This is the auto version of the base model and will cost you $28,250, before on-road costs. (Image: Brett Sullivan)

The Polo comes with the pretty standard, five-year/unlimited km warranty but the servicing is a little expense for the class. It averages at $430 per service on the pre-paid five-year plan but that’s much cheaper than the pay-as-you-go option. Servicing intervals are also every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first, which is good.

All in all, this is a very tidy package for under $30K and if you’re after something smaller for your day-to-day errands, this could just be the ticket. Plus, the official combined fuel economy is 5.4L/100km and I achieved the same on a mix of highway-heavy and shorter school trips. You won’t get much better than that until you go into a hybrid class.


The Wrap

So, does it pass the family life test? For my family of three, yes, it would be sufficient but I’d definitely want more space if this was going to be our sole family car. I’d be reluctant to do the long family trips because of the space and seat comfort. If I had a child in a rearward facing seat and still needed a pram… I wouldn’t be considering this. You can get larger cars for a little extra cash and I reckon they’d be worth the extra money. All in all, the VW Polo Life drives well, the fuel economy is awesome and you can park it anywhere. But the space factor is a biggie for me with kids, so this earns a 7.0/10. My son has a thing for colours, and the purple won him over completely, but even he commented on how small it felt, and gave it 9/10.

Likes

Park it anywhere!
Good safety & tech features
Zippy

Dislikes

Basic back seat
Seat comfort could be better
Tight squeeze with car seats installed

Scores

Emily:

3.5

The Kids:

4.5

$25,250

Based on new car retail price

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Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.