VW Golf and VW Polo side by side

Volkswagen Golf vs Volkswagen Polo: used car comparison

Which is better, the Volkswagen Golf or Volkswagen Polo? Our used car comparison guide tells you everything you need to know.

The Volkswagen Golf and Volkswagen Polo are two of the brand’s most popular models, but which is best when buying a used car? Both are compact hatchbacks with lots of features, high-quality interiors and engine options that range from super-efficient to sporty. Deciding which is better for you is a tough call.

Here’s our guide, focusing on the Polo that went on sale in 2017 and the Golf that was sold new between 2013 and 2019 (an all-new Golf went on sale in 2020).

Size and features

The most obvious difference between the Golf and the Polo is size. The Golf is larger, about the same size as compact hatchbacks such as the Ford Focus. The Polo is a fraction taller than the Golf but it’s shorter and narrower and is a smaller car overall, similar in size to ‘superminis’ such as the Ford Fiesta. 

As well as being larger, the Golf is also more expensive but it generally comes with more features as standard. Which ones will vary depending on the trim level you go for. The good news is that all versions of both cars come with DAB radio, air con and a touchscreen infotainment system.

Higher-spec versions of the Golf have sat nav, front and rear parking sensors and big alloy wheels, as well as a reversing camera and leather seats. Unlike the Polo, you can get plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions of the Golf, and even a full electric version called the e-Golf.

Some earlier versions of the Golf may not have the same features as later ones. This model was on sale from 2013 until 2019, and updated models from 2017 onwards have more up-to-date equipment.

The Polo is a newer car, with the latest model on sale since 2017. It’s available with some equally impressive features, some of which would have been expensive options when new. Highlights include LED headlights, an opening panoramic sunroof,  adaptive cruise control and a self-parking function.

Interior and tech

Both cars have the kind of classy but understated interior you expect of a Volkswagen. Everything feels a bit more premium than it does in a Ford Focus or Fiesta, for example. 

There’s not much difference between them, though the Golf’s interior ambience feels a bit more high-quality (and a bit less modern) than the Polo’s. Part of the Polo’s more youthful character comes from the fact that, when new, you could specify your choice of coloured panels that create a brighter, bolder environment.

Earlier Golfs have a less sophisticated infotainment system, so look for cars from 2017 onwards if you want the most up-to-date features. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems weren't available before 2016. Later Golfs get a bigger, higher-definition touchscreen, although earlier systems (which have more buttons and dials) are arguably easier to use.

The Polo is newer and has the same up-to-date infotainment system across the range. All models except the entry level S trim have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Boot space and practicality

The Golf is the larger car, so it's no surprise that it has more interior space than the Polo. That said, the difference is less than you might expect because the Polo is impressively roomy for its size. Two adults can fit in the back of either car without too much trouble. If you do need to carry three adults in the back then the Golf is a better option with slightly more space for knees and shoulders.

The boots in both cars are large compared with that of most rivals. The Golf’s is biggest with a capacity of 380 litres, while the Polo’s is 351 litres. You’ll easily fit your luggage in the Golf’s boot for a weekend away, but you might have to pack a bit more carefully to get it all in the Polo. Both cars have plenty of other storage spaces including large front door pockets and useful cupholders.

Most used Golfs will be five-door models but you’ll find a few three-door versions too. The three-door models aren’t as easy to get in and out of, but they’re just as spacious. The Polo is only available as a five-door model. If maximum luggage space is a priority, you might consider the estate version of the Golf with its huge 605-litre boot.

Which is the best to drive?

Both the Golf and the Polo are very good to drive, with suspension that gives a great balance of comfort and handling. If you’re doing a lot of motorway miles, you’ll find that the Golf is quieter and more comfortable at higher speeds. If you do a lot of city driving, you’ll find that the Polo’s smaller size makes it easier to thread through narrow streets or squeeze into parking spaces.

R-Line versions of both cars have larger alloy wheels and feel a bit sportier (though less comfortable) than other models, with a slightly stiffer ride. If sportiness and performance is important to you, the Golf GTI and Golf R models are great fun, very quick and easy to recommend. There’s a sporty Polo GTI too, but it’s not as fast or enjoyable to drive as the sporty Golf models. 

You have a huge array of engines to choose from with either car. All are modern and efficient but whereas every Golf engine gives you nippy acceleration the least-powerful engines in the Polo make it feel a bit slow to get going.

Which costs less to own?

Costs for the Golf and Polo vary considerably depending on which versions you choose to compare. Overall you’ll find that the Polo costs less to buy, although there’ll be crossover points depending on the age and specification of the cars that you’re looking at.

When it comes to running costs, the Polo will again tend to cost less because it’s smaller and lighter and therefore more fuel-efficient. Your insurance premiums are likely to be lower too, due to lower insurance groupings.

Plug-in hybrid (GTE) and electric (e-Golf) versions of the Golf will cost you more to buy than most petrol or diesel versions but they have the potential to slash ownership costs. If you have somewhere to charge the GTE and mainly do short journeys, you can use its electric-only range and keep petrol costs to a minimum. With the e-Golf you can look forward to electricity costs that should be a fraction of what you’d pay for petrol or diesel to cover the same mileage.

Safety and reliability

Volkswagen has a solid reputation for reliability. It was ranked mid-table in the J.D. Power 2019 UK Vehicle Dependability Study, which is an independent customer satisfaction survey, and scored above the industry average.

The company offers a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty on its cars, with unlimited mileage for the first two years, so later models will still be covered. This is what you get with many cars but some brands offer longer warranties, with Hyundai and Toyota offering cover for five years and Kia giving you a seven-year warranty.

Both the Golf and the Polo scored the maximum five stars when tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP, although the Golf’s score came out in 2012, when standards were lower. The Polo’s test was in 2017. Most later Golfs and all Polos include six airbags and automatic emergency braking, which can bring the car to a stop if you don’t respond to an impending crash.

Dimensions

Verdict

There’s no bad choice here because the Volkswagen Golf and the Volkswagen Polo are both excellent cars with lots to recommend them. 

The Polo has huge appeal. It’s one of the best small hatchbacks around and it costs less to buy and run than the Golf. It’s very practical for its size and does everything well.

The Golf has a broader appeal, with more space and a wider choice of engines. It has a slightly more comfortable interior than the Polo, as well as the options of three-door, five-door or estate models. It’s our winner, by the slimmest of margins.

You’ll find a huge range of high-quality used Volkswagen Golf and used Volkswagen Polo cars for sale at Cazoo. Find the right one for you, then buy online and have it delivered to your door or choose to collect it from one of our Customer Centres.

We're constantly updating and adding to our stock. If you can't find the right one today, check back soon to see what's available or set up a stock alert to be the first to know when we have cars that match your needs.

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