2018 Volkswagen Polo long-term review: Farewell

$20,440 $24,310 Dealer
  • Fuel Economy
    5L
  • Engine Power
    85kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    115g
  • ANCAP Rating
    5Stars

Spending the last few months with Volkswagen's little hatchback has reinforced why we believe it's one of the segment leaders.

Yes, sadly the time has come for us to bid adieu to little Ginger – our long-term 2018 Volkswagen Polo Launch Edition.

After several months at the CarAdvice Melbourne office, Ginger has travelled 7000km, been piloted by various staffers, and endured various traffic and weather conditions.

The Polo has always been regarded as one of, if not the most mature offerings in the light car class, and this latest generation of Volkswagen's little hatchback continues to deliver that same experience.

We've already given you the ins and outs of living with the new Polo everyday, from the daily commute to and from work, longer-distance journeys interstate, interior comfort and practicality, along with its infotainment system – but here's a refresher.

The Polo is a very capable little car. While some rivals are limited in their ability in terms of practicality and freeway driving, the Polo is very much like a 'Golf Jr.', doing most things very well with a damped, insulated maturity that is normally associated with larger cars and also vehicles with premium badges.

It's a comfortable and quiet vessel in town and on the freeway – the latter something that some rivals struggle to achieve. There's a feeling that it's a larger car than it actually is, making you feel stable and planted at speed.

Sure, the ride is on the firmer side, meaning it doesn't quite iron out the lumps and bumps of inner-city roads as cushy rivals like the Citroen C3, but the trade-off is that the Polo handles with precision and balance. It's almost what you'd call 'sporty'.

The cabin is also immensely practical for the class. You can fit four adults in genuine comfort, while the 351-litre boot is one of the largest in the segment. Again, this plays to the 'Golf Jr.' vibe.

We also came to appreciate the luxury car levels of technology on offer – be it standard or optional. The 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is largely identical to the display found in Volkswagen's more expensive models, which is quick to respond to inputs and features high-resolution graphics that are a cut above rivals.

However, the lack of satellite navigation and DAB+ digital radio is a bit of a miss, given similarly-priced competitors offer these features as standard.

In addition to the premium-feeling infotainment system, our tester's optional Driver Assistance package ($1400) bundles various technologies like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and an automated parking assistant – features that are usually found on much more expensive cars.

The adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist in particular made peak-hour commutes that little more bearable, assisting the driver in low-speed traffic while also keeping a safe distance at higher speeds on Melbourne's busy freeways. However, this system occasionally would mis-interpret cars in other lanes, thinking they were merging and slow down.

We also found the stop&go function would occasionally brake and accelerate to and from a standstill rather harshly, which isn't the most pleasant experience.

Speaking of negatives, low-speed driveability was a complaint raised by numerous CarAdvice staff during our time with the Polo. The seven-speed DSG and idle stop/start system tend to stumble and create a noticeable delay when setting off from a standstill, which can be a pain in traffic.

Other gripes included disjointed cabin elements, namely the cheap-feeling door plastics which were a harsh juxtaposition with the soft-touch dashboard. Despite the well-built and insulated cabin ambience, some of the plastics and trims used in the interior felt a little average.

We also noticed a rattle that developed from somewhere in the dashboard, and the window seal on the front passenger door squeaked every time you opened or closed the door. Small things, but still annoying.

The Launch Edition variant also lacks the value proposition of the mainstay 85TSI Comfortline and the 70TSI Trendline. Despite being the top of the line model (at the time of launch), the Launch Edition lacks features like satellite navigation, the availability of the digital Active Info driver's instruments, and there's also no climate control air-conditioning.

We also noticed the lack of the full-LED headlights offered overseas – which not only look better than the basic halogens you see here, but would also be far more effective at night – and there's also very few colours available.

For what is a $25,000 light car before on-road costs, these are things you'd expect to be fitted as standard or at least available as options at the pointy end of the segment price bracket.

Since the initial launch, however, the Polo range has been bolstered by the addition of the Beats variant, which adds navigation and the Active Info display amongst other things, along with a Sound & Vision pack for Comfortline variants. Those wanting a sportier look without the go (and price tag) of the GTI hot hatch can also tick the R-Line option, which brings a body kit, different wheels, and sports suspension.

All told, little Ginger reinforced to us why the Polo is one of the class leaders in the light hatch segment. It's comfortable, refined, (mostly) nice to drive, and is a technological standout with the right options ticked.

The low-speed DSG niggles and mismatched cabin trims are notable drawbacks, as is the at times unsettled urban ride.

Additionally, in the case of the Launch Edition, it's a little pricey, and lacks numerous equipment items that are offered as standard by rivals.

We'd definitely recommend the Polo as one of our top picks in the light car class, though we'd suggest getting a Comfortline with Driver Assistance and Sound & Vision packages, which works out to about the same price as the Launch Edition, but with more kit.

Bye bye Ginger, gonna miss ya!

2018 Volkswagen Polo Launch Edition