New Polo reassuringly

familiar

WIDER, longer, lower... the latest version of Volkswagen's perennial Polo follows a familiar road when it's time for a new model.

But there's no need to panic if you fancied one of the outgoing Polos but thought you'd wait for the newest one - it is reassuringly familiar.

Thank goodness, most potential Polo owners will surely say, happy they easily recognise this 2018 version as a clear successor to a range they love.

Crisper of line and roomier for people and luggage (boot space is up by a quarter), thanks to stretching the distance between front and rear wheels, the Polo Mk VII still shows the strength of a line that started in 1975 and has produced more than 14 million so far.

More than a million of them were sold in the UK, where last year it was third best seller in its segment behind the Fiesta and Astra, and we clearly love the way its strengths have run through from one version to another.

Among the reasons we love a Polo are its attention to safety and a quality of build that might have looked just a little severe on the surface but goes much more than skin deep.

Actually, the new one looks pretty sharp suited, with its designers particularly proud of what they call a 'tornado line' that stretches along the car below the side windows. Judge for yourself, but this is pretty daring stuff in VW land.

More practically, the new South African built Polo is available with a lot of techie bits usually reserved for dearer cars, although many of these features are found on the options' list and will cost extra.

Pay up, though, and you will be warned of approaching vehicles in adjacent lanes or of a car moving towards as you reverse out of a parking space. There's even a very grown up active info display (£475) that puts uses a high definition screen for the instrument panel and will make your Polo feel like an upmarket Audi.

Most Polo owners won't want to spend that sort of money, heading instead for the likely most popular version, the £15,930 SE with 1.0-litre 95 horsepower petrol engine and five-speed gearbox. Like every new Polo it's a five-door hatch as VW joins other car makers in abandoning slow selling three-doors.

Prices actually start at £13,855 for a lower powered (65 horsepower) 1.0-litre engined version but with steel wheels instead of alloys and limited performance, don't expect to see lots of them about.

There's a version called 'beats' (from £15,680) that features a powerful sound system and some styling tweaks - including a splash of colour across the dash and is presumably targeted with bringing down the average age of a Polo buyer.

The new range will top out at £22,640 when a lavishly equipped and powerful (200 horsepower, 147mph) GTI+ arrives mid-year. That too will be a modest seller compared to its less expensive siblings, but hopefully great fun to drive.

Every new Polo has more safety features than before, with city emergency braking and pedestrian monitoring. Curtain airbags for front and rear passengers now feature, helping push down insurance ratings - with a lowest possible group one for the entry-level Polo.

There are five versions of the 1.0-litre engine, a single 2.0-litre and - yes, even with VW Dieselgate still a lively topic - a couple of diesels to choose from. The vast majority of sales, as is usual in this class of car, will be petrol models, sold to private buyers.

The diesels will achieve 74.3mpg in the official test; the 95 horsepower petrol Polo does best of the non-diesels with a respectable 62.8mpg and 101g/km emissions (45.5mpg on a varied real world test route) and never felt lacking in performance.

Neither it should with a 116mph top speed and 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds, helped along by a delightful five-speed manual gearbox. More than adequate performance, in other words.

But Polo buyers are unlikely ever to explore its limits. Instead they'll enjoy a car that feels very grown up with a feel of unpushy quality.

It's something hard to measure but easy to feel and a quality rivals know comes from years of vastly expensive fettling they simply can't afford.

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