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New Polo | Supreme Winner | 2018 Stuff Top Car of the Year

Written by Stuff.co.nz

The Volkswagen Polo is our Top Car of 2018. And if you want to be a title completist, also our Top Small Car of 2018.

Polo is new from the ground up, based on VW's latest MQB platform. It presents as a budget-priced supermini, but in fact what you're getting is a package of engineering excellence, outstanding quality, surprising practicality and unexpectedly high levels of driver entertainment.

That's partly due to the broad range on offer. The mainstream Polo models are powered by a 1.0-litre, turbocharged three-cylinder engine that's bursting with character, matched to a slick-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

This is the little engine that can, with a strong power delivery low down in the range (peak pulling power at just 2000rpm) and a brilliant soundtrack that'll keep you smiling.


Speaking of soundtracks: one of the hero models in the new Polo range is the Beats edition, a novel diversion that adds a thunderous 300W audio system and some dress-up stuff like a bonnet/roof stripe and and lurid interior trim. It's one for the young... or perhaps young at heart.

The Polo triple is no road-rocket, with 0-100kmh in 10.5 seconds. But it's endlessly entertaining, easy to drive and extremely thrifty.

We also love the fact that VW continues to see demand, albeit small, for a manual-transmission option. Shifting your own gears in a thrummy three-cylinder engine that's strong but also loves to spin up high: try it, you'll like it.






Outstanding attention to detail. That's "b" for the Beats edition, by the way.

Speaking of soundtracks: one of the hero models in the new Polo range is the Beats edition, a novel diversion that adds a thunderous 300W audio system and some dress-up stuff like a bonnet/roof stripe and and lurid interior trim. It's one for the young... or perhaps young at heart.

The Polo triple is no road-rocket, with 0-100kmh in 10.5 seconds. But it's endlessly entertaining, easy to drive and extremely thrifty.

We also love the fact that VW continues to see demand, albeit small, for a manual-transmission option. Shifting your own gears in a thrummy three-cylinder engine that's strong but also loves to spin up high: try it, you'll like it.


If you want more power and torque from this powerplant, you can step up to the R-Line which adds 15kW/25Nm. 

Cost of ownership can be a major factor in choosing a small car. Aside from that fuel-frugality, Polo can also be purchased with a $995 service plan that covers regular maintenance for three years/45,000km.

Polo is a supermini-sized car, but it punches well above its market segment in terms of space and practicality. It retains classic city-friendly supermini exterior dimensions, with an overall length a snip over four metres. But it actually has around the same overall footprint as the turn-of-the-century Golf and in fact the boot is only 10 per cent smaller than the current-generation Golf.

In short, even if you're shopping for a next-size-up small hatch, you owe it to yourself to take a look at Polo.

Safety equipment is strong across the range, with even the $25k entry model getting Front Assist with autonomous braking and pedestrian recognition, Side Assist including blind-spot monitor and driver fatigue detection, and rear cross traffic alert.

If the range was comprised just of the three-cylinder models, Polo would still have been a strong contender for our Top Car supreme award. But the just-launched GTI version adds a whole other dimension.

We've had Polo GTI models before, but this is the first time that VW has really developed it as a standalone performance model. It packs the 2.0-litre turbo engine from the Golf GTI, slightly detuned for no other reason to make the car (slightly) slower than its big brother to maintain the pecking order.

The GTI can be a mild-mannered town car, but when you're in the mood it pops and bangs like a proper hot hatch. It gets VW's trick XDS electronic differential at the front and the Kiwi model also rides on the dual-mode Sports Select suspension that remains an option in Europe.

It's still not as grown-up as the Golf GTI (which will cost you at least another $21k), but then that's the idea.

The tartan seat upholstery tells you everything you need to know: this car captures the spirit and size of the original Golf GTI of the 1970s, while still being state-of-the-art in terms of safety equipment and comfort/convenience.

If there's anything missing in the Polo range to really connect with these SUV-obsessed times, it's a high-riding version (although may we direct your attention to our Top Small SUV of 2018, the Seat Arona, which is pretty close).

From a strictly VW perspective that'll change next year with the launch of the just-revealed T-Cross, which takes the Polo into another market segment and another few centimetres further up towards the sky.

There's much more to our Top Car of 2018 than first meets the eye, in so many ways.