Small car, big noise

WHEN I covered the Geneva Motor Show back in early March, I said I wasn&rsquo;t a fan of the shape of the new Polo. &nbsp;Now in its fifth generation, it looks like a new Golf from the front but with the Lupo attached to the rear. I just don&rsquo;t get it. I want to get excited about it but I still can&rsquo;t, face to face. Ford&rsquo;s latest Fiesta pulls rank on the looks front but the Germans provide superior build quality so it&rsquo;s engines at dawn for the superminis.<br /><br />The big noise on the engine front (figuratively speaking) is this; the 1.2 Tsi is offering 105bhp. &nbsp;You&rsquo;re probably wondering why on earth we&rsquo;re testing something with so little performance. &nbsp;Here&rsquo;s why. The Polo is a good city runabout, but it&rsquo;s also a comfortable long-distance motor. Moreover, it offers sophistication and dependability where others in this sector fall short.<br /><br /><strong>IMPRESSIVE</strong><br />But back to the tug power. There are six engines on offer to the UK market, four petrol and two diesel, but of them all tested at launch, the torque band of the 1.2 was really impressive, and right from the beginning of the rev range too. It pulls away smoothly and keenly &ndash; a decade ago, less even, we would have ignored such a unit. A 1.2 litre engine? Come on, my toothbrush offers more power, we would have scoffed.<br /><br />But that just shows how much time and money Volkswagen have spent on improving the lower end units which offer more power, better fuel economy and comply with the Euro 5 emission standards. It&rsquo;s clever stuff and everybody wins.<br /><br />We don&rsquo;t need lightening-quick performance in London, what we need is something that is nippy but frugal, agile but compliant over the undulations of the capital&rsquo;s streets, dependable, secure and offers good access via wide-opening doors and a decent boot &ndash; and finally, a good degree of comfort too. Tick. Oh and the price helps.<br /><br />So that&rsquo;s the basic stuff. Next on the list are the extras, the luxury details like a good stereo &ndash; yes; iPod dock &ndash; yes; decent easy-to-operate Sat Nav &ndash; yes; soft-touch plastics &ndash; yes; leather trim &ndash; yes; tinted rear glass &ndash; yes; air conditioning &ndash; yes; and a new alloy wheel design.<br /><br />The interior may not be the most inspiring to be in but it&rsquo;s of superb quality and finish and will still look peachy after a few years of use. There&rsquo;s good storage too.<br /><br />As for parking, peripheral vision gets the thumbs up and steering has sharpened up nicely, so no drawbacks there. There is also plenty of room inside for six-footers.<br /><br /><strong>FUEL ECONOMY</strong><br />Next year sees the arrival of the super-efficient BlueMotion engine option with fairly staggering fuel economy figures &ndash; Volkswagen is claiming 85.5mpg and emissions of just 87g/km. &nbsp;And at the other end of the scale comes the GTI using a turbocharged and supercharged 1.4 litre engine offering 170bhp.<br /><br />Sardinia provided the test venue, complete with ultra-smooth roads; it&rsquo;ll be interesting to see how the Polo copes with ours. I ended the Golf GTI test wondering whether the latest incarnation was growing up with the wrong generation, and I find myself asking the same question of the Polo.<br /><br /><strong>THE FACTS:</strong><br />VW Polo<br />1.2TSI<br />6-speed manual<br /><br /><strong>PRICE:</strong> &pound;13,000<br /><strong>0-62MPH:</strong> 9.6 secs<br /><strong>TOP SPEED:</strong> 118mph<br /><strong>MPG COMBINED:</strong> 51.3<br /><strong>CO2 G/KM:</strong> 129 g/km