Volkswagen Polo Match 1.2 60hp review (2012 onwards)
Model: Volkswagen Polo 1.2-litre Match
Bodystyle: Five-door hatchback supermini
Engine: 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol, 59hp @ 5,200rpm, 80lb ft @ 3,000rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
What is it?
Volkswagen's premium supermini has been with us in its current guise for two and a half years now, but the Polo still appears fresh-faced - sporting VW's latest corporate identity that's now seen across the German firm's entire model range.
This is good news as it gives the Polo a grown up, more mature look in contrast to competition from the edgily styled but, by comparison, slightly fussy-looking Ford Fiesta and the more generic design of the Vauxhall Corsa.
In VW's traditionally high-value Match trim, the Polo is well equipped, boasting semi-automatic Climatic air-conditioning, heated electric door mirrors, one-touch (up and down) electric front and rear windows and a six speaker MP3-compatible audio system with an iPod connection located in the glove box.
Where does it fit?
The Polo Match feels like a condensed Golf - as if VW has added a drop of premium concentrate into the mix when designing the car. At £12,060 the Match is nowhere near the top end of the Polo spectrum, and given the level of standard kit it's competitively priced next to its rivals.
A similarly powerful Fiesta Edge is only £465 cheaper at £11,595, and although it was the UK's best selling car in 2011 the Ford doesn't come with the interior highlights, attention to detail or Polo-comparable equipment levels.
The Polo Match feels like a condensed Golf
As with the Fiesta, the Vauxhall Corsa offers similar amounts of space and practicality in five-door S 1.0-litre ecoFLEX trim, but is only a tenner cheaper than the VW. It's not as refined or well equipped as standard either, and is a good deal down on torque - the three-cylinder Polo's strong point.
Although the Fiesta and Corsa outsold the Polo in the UK last year, European figures don't reflect this trend - suggesting the already strong success of the Polo in the British market is in fact limited by available supply.
In 2011 the Polo was Europe's second best selling car. The Volkswagen Golf was number one...
Is it for you?
The Polo is a well-engineered, well-built hatchback with a glorious air of quality about it. If you're looking for a more premium compact vehicle that has the ability to cover almost all bases (five people and luggage on a long haul trip will stretch it somewhat) then the Polo will suit you very well.
The Fiesta might offer a more overtly sporty chassis - although the Polo is by no means limited dynamically - but it can't compete with the levels of refinement, and to an extent, the integrity that the VW badge brings.
Its chunky looks work well and make the Polo instantly recognisable as a quality hatch in the mould of a scaled down Golf. And it feels like a proper Volkswagen.
What does it do well?
With rear privacy glass, High Gloss Black trim inserts and plenty of Matt chrome accents lifting the cabin - giving it a decidedly upmarket feel - the attention to detail in the Polo is excellent. It's here that the Polo starts to make sense - in other words, it "sounds like a Golf".
There's a reassuring Germanic thud from the door as it closes, all the controls feel solid and nicely weighted, and the engine even makes an interesting noise, with its off-beat thrummy three-cylinder character.
There's a reassuring Germanic thud from the door
Given the potential for vibrations from this engine configuration, the Polo is superbly refined, too. It's quiet at motorway speeds with little wind roar and just the right amount of engine noise permeates the cabin, letting you know it's actually working.
Despite the mature feel and air of class the Polo exudes, the little Vee-dub is also a fun car to thread down a back road. The steering is nicely weighted and feels well connected to what the wheels are actually doing, while the standard-fit ESP system is ideally judged.
What doesn't it do well?
The motor is a little noisy when revved hard, but the car's standard fit stereo system is more than a match for the engine noise - given the criticism levied at VW by some for being a tad austere and serious, this actually endows the Polo with a healthy dose of character.
Performance isn't exactly brisk, though. The 60hp 1.2-litre car will complete the 0-62mph sprint in a rather ponderous 16.1 seconds, but then again, the Match is more about value than outright performance.
However, the relatively torquey engine - it offers 80lb ft - means it'll easily keep up with modern motorway traffic without having to be seriously hustled, feeling stable and planted all the while.
What is it like to live with?
The Polo is tremendously easy to live with. Room in the back is comparable with five-door iterations of the Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Fiesta, as is boot space - the Polo will accommodate 280 litres of luggage, increasing to 952 litres with the split-folding rear seats down.
The interior gives a strong impression of quality and durability, too. With the Polo's brilliant ergonomics (the steering wheel even adjusts for reach), Multi Device Interface for connecting an MP3 player and simple, intuitive control system, it ought to be a relatively pain-free ownership prospect.
Coupled with an insurance rating of group 4, the Polo Match will surely be a cheap car to run.
How green is it?
The three-cylinder Polo is fairly economical, returning a claimed 51.4mpg combined; however, over a week's driving, including racking up around 320 motorway miles, we managed to record an average of 41.6mpg.
Economical hatchback motoring with a premium feel
The low capacity triple certainly helps improve efficiency. Lopping a cylinder off a conventional four-pot obviously reduces capacity by 25% (for a given engine size), but it's widely recognised that a disproportionate 30% loss in friction is achieved.
That means the 1.2-litre unit isn't working against as much resistance as a comparable four-cylinder - VW claim the engine in the Polo Match will produce emissions of 128g/km CO2 equating to free road tax for the first 12 months, rising to £30 every year after.
Would we buy it?
We've always admired the Polo's ability to combine economical hatchback motoring with the premium feel of solidity and integrity of more expensive cars in VW's range. Other hatchbacks might offer sportier handling or be cheaper to buy and run, but none possess the Polo's wide-ranging breadth of ability.
The Match offers strong levels of standard equipment, a chassis that rides well and is refined to a level beyond its £12,060 price tag (yet still makes a decent fist of engaging the driver when asked), a fairly frugal engine, and the integrity of the VW badge helping to boost all-important residuals.
Beyond these many positives, however, the way the Polo makes you feel as if you're in a much more expensive product is enough to make it an extremely tempting proposition.