E has ABS, dual front passenger airbags, height and reach-adjustable steering wheel and radio/CD player.
S adds ‘Climatic’ air conditioning, 14in alloys, front fog lights, front electric windows, electrically heated adjustable door mirrors, body-coloured door mirrors and handles, and split folding rear seat.
SE gets driver and front seat passenger height adjustment, front under seat drawers, remote central locking with alarm and front seat back storage pockets.
Top-spec Sport gains 15in alloys, front fogs, chrome-trimmed radiator grille, front sports seats, leather-trimmed steering wheel, gearknob and handbrake grip, multi-function computer and sports suspension.
Generally a good all-rounder with a precise gear change and little bodyroll. One minor criticism is the steering, which can be a little light. There’s some bodyroll in the corners but it still feels safe. Sport versions are noticeably more agile.
Rear passengers get a better deal in five-door models than in the three-doors. However, the rear is only suitable for two adult passengers. Aside from that, the cabin is airy and light.
Ride comfort is good, but Polo does suffer from excessive wind noise at speed and from engine noise with lesser-engine models.
There’s an engine to suit nearly every need, with the exception of a ‘hot’ petrol version. That should soon join the range in the shape of the Polo GTi.
The line-up kicks off with a three-cylinder 1.2. There’s a choice of two power outputs: 55bhp and 65bhp. It’s a lively and economical unit.
The 1.4 has 75bhp in standard form or 100bhp in Sport trim. It’s easy to drive but is far from being a hot hatch worrier. There’s also a 1.4 diesel – the 1.4 TDI – which is available with 75bhp or 80bhp; it’s a willing unit that’s well suited to Polo’s small body. Finally, there’s a 1.9 with 65bhp, 100bhp and 130bhp (this last model is badged GT TDI).
Polo gets a four star Euro NCAP rating. Dual front airbags and ABS are standard, while sidebags are optional. An immobilizer is available across the range and central locking, with anti-hijack, from S-model upwards.
#AM_ART_SPLIT# Parker's buyers' lines
On the forecourt
1.2 SE - Bread-and-butter model with decent equipment and a peppy engine
Trade: 0202-0454: £4,700-6,600. Retail: 0202-0454: £5,500-7,500
1.9 S SDI - Old-school engine. Air-con models are preferred
Trade: 0202-0505: £4,000-6,300. Retail: 0202-0505: £5,000-7,700
Ones to avoid:
Base model cars - Spec is stingy compared to some other manufacturers
In the workshop
No major problems, but recalls for the vacuum pipe to the brake servo, clutch operation and the bolts of the tandem fuel pump cover