Since the 1976 original Volkswagen Polo reached these shores as a rebadged Audi 50, VW has conferred more than 1.4 million examples of the car to us Brits.
For context, that’s some way short of the 4.5m or so Ford Fiestas sold since that model was introduced in the very same year, but it’s a fantastically large figure nonetheless. And with it comes to the pressure to err on the side of conservatism.
Volkswagen claims the Polo’s redesigned front end is more emotionally engaging than its predecessor, but we’re not so sure
So here’s the sixth-generation Polo although, at a glance, you may have mistaken it for the fifth-generation Polo, introduced in 2009.
That momentary confusion is one of the hallmarks of an extraordinarily successful model because the manufacturers of such vehicles know that they alter a successful recipe at their extreme peril. The new car thus springs a few initial surprises. Its proportions are instantly recognizable and so, too, are its facial features. However, it is, in fact, something of a quiet revolution.
That revolution comes in the form of a redesigned interior. Thanks to the car’s new chassis, the cabin is more spacious and, as the vanguard of the Polo’s charge into the ‘digital era’, it’s also more technologically able than anything yet seen in a supermini.
There’s also the trickle-down of safety systems from larger models such as the Golf. It’s why you can now have an optional active instrument binnacle that feels as though it should still be the preserve of Audi’s more luxurious models.
It’s also why the Polo has a bigger boot than some hatchback rivals in the class above (and, as you’ll discover, such cars should now be considered fair game for the Polo).
Finally, it’s why those who do choose to buy this car will navigate our increasingly congested road network with such systems as emergency braking, pedestrian monitoring blindspot detection, adaptive cruise control and rear traffic alert, which can detect approaching objects up to 40m away and help to prevent a collision while the car is reversing.
It seems that the Polo is becoming the Golf, then, and the Golf is becoming… well, that’s another story.
Right now, it’s time to see whether this is the supermini you should test drive before any other, and consequently whether convenience is a substitute for fun.