Sure the VW Polo AW still is one of the forgotten VW’s, but the Golf’s rural cousin has managed to usurp the almighty Golf and might be a better purchase. No wonder it sells so well.
It was inevitable. The Polo has stayed for a long time in the shadow of the Golf and the germans have always made sure that the Polo would not cannibalise the sales. And the popularity of the Golf was also a strong thorn in the Polo’s side so it was pretty much the minimal effort car from VW. The previous generation Polo, the 6R, had an incredible lifespan of 8 years which is close to twice the industry standard. And the same thing happens with this Polo aswell, as we’re in 2024 now and the car might be retired for the next generation in 2025, on it’s 50th anniversary. If the Polo won’t be retired for good and this be the final hurrah.
So why does it sell so well in our country?
- You may not believe it, but the Polo outsold the Golf in 2021 and it was Britain’s 5th best selling car and it’s still going, even in these cross-over and hybrid and hybrid cross-over times. And it did it by being one of the last bare bones car but still keeping that sort of premium feeling of quality, as the quality level is still up to VW’s standards. Sure, you may argue about the Sandero being cheaper and you’d be right, but we’re not very fond of driving the cheapest car on sale so we kept with the Polo until the new Vauxhall Corsa arrived and smashed the entire competition.
- So cheap, reliable, premium and small is the name of the game. Only that the VW Polo AW is not so small anymore, as it’s size is comparable to the Mk IV Golf and nobody complained back in 1998 about the Golf being too cramped and they didn’t complain for a long time. So it’s still officially described as a supermini but in reality it’s more of a compact, just like Mike Tyson was a supermini then inflated to compact then got back to supermini.
- It’s got that classic VW thoughtfullness of the average buyer, especially for the average Polo buyer. Everything is still logically laid out and easy to operate, lots of little but important comfort things and storage spaces, steering so light that even a 18 year old girl can steer with her pinkie and there’s still a whiff of VW’s quality build days.
VW Polo AW Engines
- 1.0 MPI EA211 of 65, 75 and 79 horsepower – The entry level engine for an entry level car, as we got the 79 horsepower version. Don’t even want to think about the 65 horsepower version. And you shouldn’t think about it too, as this engine is barely suited for the VW Up!, let alone the Polo. Sure, it may be the cheapest Polo on sale, but at what price?
- 1.0 TSI EA211 of 90, 95, 110, 115 horsepower – Didn’t talk about the oil consumption of the 1.0 naturally aspirated petrol because I was going to talk about it here, since they’re both the same engine only this one has a turbocharger strapped to it. It’s also an oily boy, but atleast it has enough grunt to haul you around town and, more importantly, you need to buy this for the DSG option. Personally I wouldn’t buy the DSG but hey, it’s your money. Lots of money in this case.
- 1.5 TSI EA211 of 150 horsepower – It’s certainly nice that they put it on sale, but the stalling and oil consumption issues didn’t make this configuration the most popular. In fact, it was so popular that they retired it pretty quick. I would probably go for the manual version and put up with the oil consumption, but the DSG and it’s kangarooing effect are a definite no-no. Much like eating watermelon and doing jumping jacks afterwards.
- 2.0 TSI EA211 of 200 and 207 horsepower – Slightly less powerful than the 2.0 turbocharged petrol mounted in the Golf GTI, but also significantly cheaper so this Polo GTI is a much better buy if you want to go fast in a shopping trolley. Really, really fast. As with the rest of the EA211 family, the oil consumption is an issue. Not as bad as it was originally, but it’s still fond of oil as I’m fond of Fosters.
1.6 TDI EA288 of 80 and 95 horsepower – The final hurrah for VW’s diesel supermini, this 1.6 TDI is the same 4 cylinder diesel that wrecked alot of wallets back in it’s heyday. Now it’s fairly reliable but you must keep it out of town, just like Bill Cosby must be kept out of women’s sight. Because the weak DPF and EGR will fail after the first 500 meters of urban driving and the EGR can’t be cleaned, needs to be replaced altogether. But if you want a diesel supermini that sits comfortably on the highway and does 70 mpg, then the Polo 1.6 TDI still is a sensible choice.
VW Polo AW Reliability Issues
- Not a bug, but a feature. Or a lack of features in this case, as the Polo shows it’s age everywhere. Outdated interior, outdated engines, no hybrids available, not very much tech going on. But if you follow the principle that “it won’t break down because there’s not much to break down in the first place” then sure, the Polo is up to the job.
- Which brings me to the second problem with the Polo, and VW in general. Sure it’s up to the job, but there are also cheaper cars out there that do the same job of simple and sturdy motoring and even the Corsa, Britain’s best selling car of 2023, is a grand cheaper than the Polo.
- It’s a VW so now comes the complementary moment about the DSG gearbox and it’s reliability, or lack of reliability. Known for eating clutches, sluggishness and for not being the best automatic transmission, especially in urban settings. And it kinda defeats the point of a cheap supermini, even if we’re talking about an expensive one.
- It’s a VW so now comes the complementary moment about the electrical gremlins since even the Polo is jam packed with technology and safety features. If there’s one thing VW still does well, it’s the ammount of electronics. The issue is that they usually come with a sensor for a sensor, so there will always be something to fail.
VW Polo AW Verdict
This might aswell be the final hurrah for the Polo, as VW is also moving forward towards the electric era and the ID.2 will most likely replace it. And the slow sales don’t help the Polo’s case too much aswell. But if you’re ready to spend a premium on a fairly basic but well built supermini, then the Polo keeps the recipe pretty much undilluted. Sure, it’s more expensive than it’s rivals, but it’s also a nicer place to be and drive about in. And now that it’s as big as a Mk IV Golf, it may even be a better buy than the Golf. But will you pay the price for it?
Which engines do I recommend? The 1.0 TSI petrol is the main engine of the Polo and the one that makes the most sense if you’re going to use it around town and for the occasional road trip. And for the highway minded motorist, the 1.6 TDI is an unexpectedly good choice.