IN 2018, the perennially popular Volkswagen Polo was the sixth best-selling car in the UK with more than 45,000 sold.
Now, that's no real surprise, the Polo has always been a good buy. However, now in its sixth-generation, it's grown into an extremely good car - good enough to be named World Urban Car of the Year.
And, it really has grown up - it's bigger in every dimension but length than the Golf Mk IV, which was sold here until 2003.
For a small car, it is now, dare I say, more ‘manly', bringing ‘big car' safety standards to the supermini market.
Remarkably, it has earned a five-star rating from the safety experts at Euro NCAP, achieving the highest score for any car in its class. And that's just for starters.
The instantly noticeable difference of the latest Polo is its major increase in cabin and luggage space alongside the debut of new engines, sharper design, and a new generation of infotainment systems.
As with most VWs, there's a wide range of trims and a wide range of petrol and diesel engines ranging from a 1.0-litre MPI with 64bhp to the top of the range turbocharged 2.0-litre 197bhp GTI+.
Regardless of fuel choice, all are equipped with a stop-start system and a regenerative braking mode, while any of the TSI and TDI powerplants with an output of 94bhp or more can be matched with a six- or seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox.
The range starts from £14,235 but the biggest seller is the SE 1.0 94bhp three-cylinder turbocharged TSI, which costs a couple grand more.
Offered as a five-door only, the latest Polo is one of the most high-tech compact cars in the world. Automatic Post-Collision Braking, ABS brakes, Electronic Stability Control and a Driver Alert System are standard. Also standard is Front Assist, which uses a radar system to automatically brake the car when a likely front collision is detected, and City Emergency Braking - Volkswagen's autonomous emergency braking system.
There are now more airbags than ever before too, with the addition of a curtain airbag system for front and rear passengers designed to protect their heads in the event of an accident. Hence the safety award. The SE also has Blind Spot Detection with rear traffic alert to warn you of passing cars when you reverse.
It is longer, wider, has a lower overall height yet more headroom than its predecessor. It will easily carry five adults though it may be a little tight across the rear bench for three because of the transmission tunnel.
The boot has also grown by 25%, from 280 litres to 351 litres. The rear bench folds forward with a 60:40 split, creating 1,125 litres, though the seats don't go completely flat.
All that space, and the safety award, makes it a perfect little family car too.
The latest Polo is also very well equipped. New LED headlights replace all Xenon headlights while LED daytime running lights are also available.
Even the entry-level S trim gets DAB radio, air conditioning and automatic headlamps. Step up to the SE and you get 15-inch alloy wheels, alarm, a leather multi-function steering wheel, and full smartphone connectivity including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
All also have a glass-encased, easy to use, eight-inch touchscreen. In fact, the new interior has been fundamentally redesigned for the digital era and is the first car in its class to offer entirely digital instruments as an option. Not that it necessarily needs them because the interior is as classy as you would expect from Volkswagen.
The new dashboard layout is dominated by a large, sweeping angular panel, which allows the Polo's infotainment options to sit neatly in the centre of the cabin on the same level as the instruments - right in the driver's line of sight. Helpfully, it's also slightly angled towards the driver. Material quality and fit and finish is high quality.
Now, the Golf Mk IV didn't have the joie de vivre of some of its predecessors but it was an extremely impressive family hatchback. In the same way, the sixth-generation Polo is not as eye-catching or as fun behind the wheel as some of its rivals - the Ford Fiesta or SEAT Ibiza for example - but it is a seriously impressive drive.
The driver's position is highly and easily adjustable so it's comfortable even for large six-footers like me. All round visibility is good too.
On motorways and A-roads it's stable, easy and relaxing to drive and remarkably quiet, notably better than previous Polos. Put simply, it has similar composure to its bigger brother. It really does feel like a ‘bigger' car. The mid-range flexibility of the turbocharged engine means you're never going to struggle when the need is for speed.
The steering is sharp and direct even though on twistier roads it might not be as zesty as the Fiesta, but it does handle well with little noticeable body roll. The suspension does a good job of smoothing out all but the biggest lumps and bumps too.
And, because of its size and that direct steering, it's also great around town and easy to park in the tightest of spots.