Blink and you’ll miss the exterior tweaks to the updated VW Polo, but VW has rung the changes under the skin. New three-cylinder engines, and tech from the latest Golf, improve the package on paper - but how does it fare on UK roads?

Volkswagen predicts the new 1.0-litre engine, borrowed from the VW up!, will be the most popular choice in the range over here, especially in mid-spec SE trim. In town – the Polo’s natural habitat – it’s quiet enough, and certainly better than the old entry-level 1.2-litre petrol, offering a relaxed drive backed up by the smooth ride and excellent refinement.

Escape the traffic, though, and this less powerful 59bhp version is short on pace – 0-62mph takes 16.5 seconds, which isn’t helped by the long ratios of the five-speed manual gearbox or the vague steering feel and rather loose body control.

Impressive fuel economy and emissions of 60.1mpg and 106g/km are the 1.0-litre’s saving grace. But working the engine hard is unavoidable, so you might expect 20mpg less than that in real-world driving. A conservative approach at least gives you time to enjoy the high-quality interior, featuring the VW Group’s first-rate modular infotainment system (MIB).

From SE spec up this comes with a larger 6.5-inch colour touchscreen as standard, and is easily navigated using smartphone-style pinch-to-zoom gestures, providing access to Bluetooth, DAB radio and – if you add it for £700 – sat-nav.

The £240 rear view camera also relays images to this screen, although we didn’t find life too difficult without it, as the three-door provides decent rear visibility. Much more useful is the safety kit included as standard for the £12,435 starting price, such as Hill Hold and post-collision automatic braking systems, while you can add high-end extras like radar-controlled adaptive cruise control.

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