40,740 registrations YtD and the UKs seventh best seller

40,740 registrations YtD and the UK's seventh best seller

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It can't catch the sixth place Qashqai but the recently facelifted VW Polo is now the UK's seventh best seller, ahead of the entire Audi A3 range.

Like the Golf, this is one of those cars that it is tricky to fault. If for some reason you just don’t like Volkswagens, then the Polo obviously won't be for you. That would be a shame, though, as it’s replete with multiple touches that give an impression of high quality. Yes, too much sensibility makes for a dull life, and I can well understand why so many people, especially in Britain, choose the Fiesta over this VW. The little Ford is more fun to drive, as its steering gives you the impression that it was honed by chassis engineers who tried to cater for enthusiasts. Yet they also needed to please the majority: those who just want a small hatchback and don’t care about clipping apexes or hearing an engine zinging up and down its rev range.

The Polo needs only a gentle touch at the wheel but it’s not overly light. Conversely, your first impression is of heaviness and by that I am referring to the doors. That air of German solidity, again. Not annoyingly heavy, mind, just enough to make you feel safer than you might in some rivals. The three-door test car was a 1.2-litre petrol turbo. There was good room in the rear and the front seats tip and slide easily before returning to exactly where you had them: why can’t all OEMs specify this feature in their two-door models? A footnote here, though, the spec sheet mentions these as part of the higher priced SEL model grade. So I'm afraid it's a sad face directed at Volkswagen UK’s product planners for not making these standard.

Jump into the car in the dark and you’ll see where VW gains its advantage. I don’t know why, but the soft crimson lighting makes me think ‘premium’. Of course this is nonsense, but when it comes to being a consumer, such impressions matter. I myself dislike the hard plastics and annoyingly small infotainment screen and fiddly controls of the Fiesta’s dashboard but to most, they’re fine. So the glowing instruments, window and mirror switches on the doors, cruise control buttons, trip computer, phone and audio controls on the steering wheel all give me a quiet, sad, sense of well being. But not a thrill.

Other things to love about being in a Polo are the ParkPilot system my car was fitted with, the smoothness of the six-speed manual gearbox, the lack of roll-back and sudden clunks on hill starts - you guessed correctly, there’s no electronic parking brake - seat trim that’s tasteful fabric, that felt which VW specifies for the tops of the doors instead of rubber, and plastic inside the door bins which felt nicer than the stuff inside the £40,000 Lexus NX 300h I had just before the Polo. 

The VW250 series model has been with us since 2009, having first been seen in five-door form at that year’s Geneva motor show. The first cars came to the UK just as summer was starting, with the three-door following a few months later at the Frankfurt IAA. We don’t get it in Britain but there is a sedan too, and this is assembled at the VW Group’s Kaluga plant and sells well in Russia. Its debut was at the 2010 Moscow show. Like the hatchbacks, the four-door has the PQ25 or A05 platform as its basis, though it has a longer wheelbase so as allow better rear legroom. India’s Vento is more or less the same model.

The Polo isn't quite global as you can't buy one in the US or Canada but the Pune-made sedan is shipped to Mexico. Volkswagen India is also about to start sending facelifted five-door hatchbacks to the car's sole NAFTA region market. Cars for Europe are sourced from Spain, the Landaben plant near Pamplona building these.

There is further production at Shanghai VW's Ating factory; VWSA makes the hatchback plus the CrossPolo at Uitenhage, Africa's largest vehicle plant; and DRB Hicom carries out assembly at its Pekan facility - kits are sent to Malaysia by VW India. So it's globalish. The previous generation model is still built too: in Shanghai and in the Eastern Cape. In both China and South Africa, it's a cheaper model called Polo Vivo.

Four years on from its original appearance, a facelifted Polo range turned up at this year’s Geneva salon, with deliveries to LHD European markets commencing in June, and July for us. The main technical news was the same range of new three- and four-cylinder engines which has just been announced for the facelifted Audi A1. One of the highlights is an 89bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol for the Polo TSI BlueMotion. Its official figures are 68.9mpg and 94g/km for the combined EU test cycle, compared to 57.7mpg and 113g/km for the former engine. This is Volkswagen's first petrol-powered BlueMotion variant. 

The power, torque, consumption and emissions figures for the car I borrowed aren’t too shabby, even if they’re not as impressive as the BlueMotion’s numbers. The turbocharged, direct injection engine produces 81kW (110hp) and 175Nm from its 1,197cc, emitting an official 110g/km and delivering 59mpg on the Combined cycle. There are some other choices in SEL trim, and that includes a DSG gearbox for this engine as well as a 90bhp 1.4-litre diesel, with three- and five-door bodies available for all.

In other model grades, you can instead have a 1.0-litre petrol engine with 60bhp or 75bhp, a 75bhp 1.4 TDI, a 1.4 TSI (BlueGT) or a 90bhp version of the 1.2 TSI. There will inevitably be extra derivatives to be added over the car’s remaining years on the market. The lifecycle will likely finish around 2017, at which time the next Polo will appear, based on the new MQB Zero architecture

It was mentioned at the start of this review that the Polo is outselling the Audi A3 in the UK. The figures are close, with the VW managing 3,968 registrations in October, just 66 ahead of the Audi. For the year to date, though, the littl’un leads by 1,242 and will probably finish 2014 remaining the country’s number seven best seller, behind the unstoppable Qashqai.

Keeping things in perspective, and even Britain as Europe's second largest market, the picture in Germany is somewhat different. It also demonstrates the weighting that the brand's domination at home carries into Europe-wide sales numbers. The Golf is of course way out ahead of all comers, its sales in Germany having reached 179,691 units for the year-to-date. That's up 14% YoY and means this hatchback and estate range alone holds a 7% share of the entire market. The Polo is in second place, with 56,391, which is flat (56,694), and a mere 20 cars ahead of the Passat. The imminent arrival of the new generation Passat sedan and variant mean the Polo is unlikely to end 2014 as Germany's number zwei.

Wondering which vehicle pushed the Polo into third in October? It's not very exciting but it has certainly hit a sweet spot in the market: the Golf Sportsvan, or SV as it's known in Britain. With 8,105 finding homes last month, it outsold the Polo by 230 units. What was I saying earlier about sensibility?