Two weeks in two Volkswagen Polos confirmed the excellence of the classy German. Just as well as the all-new Mazda2 ($14,990 - $21,990) has the king of the compact hatchbacks under immense pressure.
Of course in volume terms, the Hyundai i20, Mazda2 and Toyota Yaris are the sales leaders, and make no mistake - especially for driving dynamics and refinement - the Volkswagen Polo ($16,290 - $20,790) remains the benchmark in this league. But the German maestro needs to stay on its game because Mazda knows a thing or two about matching benchmarks and the all-new European designed and engineered Hyundai i20 is due soon.
Crucial to the ‘2’ and the ‘i20’ will be matching Volkswagen Polo’s best-in-business refinement and driving dynamics. In the meantime winners are grinners and Volkswagen sold more than 721,000 Polos globally last year.
Volkswagen Polo Overview
The current generation Volkswagen Polo scored its first running changes this year. While styling changes were minimal, a revised engine lineup (with Volkswagen’s BlueMotion technology including auto start/stop and brake energy regeneration) delivered fuel efficiency gains of up to 21 per-cent.
In the www.carshowroom.com.au garage first week was a Volkswagen Polo 66TSI Trendline (the entry-grade) with the DSG automatic transmission. This vehicle retails for $18,790 ($16,290 for the five-speed manual).
And in week two we had a Volkswagen Polo 81TSI Comfortline (the mid-grade) also with the DSG automatic transmission. Sticker price for this car was $20,790 ($18,290 for the six-speed manual).
Our Volkswagen Polo 81TSI Comfortline was fitted with the ‘Drive Comfort Package’ ($1,500) which adds handy extras such as the reversing camera, adaptive cruise control, driver fatigue detection system, front assist with city emergency brake and rain-sensing wipers. As well, it came with the ‘Sports Pack’ (also $1,500) which adds 17-inch alloy wheels, side/rear window tinting, front fog lights with static cornering lights, lowered sports suspension and a low tyre pressure warning indicator.
So all up we’re actually looking at $23,790 for our Volkswagen Polo 81 TSI Comfortline – and worth every cent in our opinion. Although to be honest we’d sell our collection of motoring magazines to raise a few more dollars ($29,590 to be precise) and the buy the range-topping Volkswagen Polo GTI, one of the world’s greatest compact cars with a 132kW/250Nm ‘twin-charged’ 1.4-litre engine…but that’s another story.
Volkswagen Polo Engine
Volkswagen revised the engine lineup as part of those updates and both of our test cars employed two different versions of the 1.2-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine. Both are new to the Volkswagen Polo lineup.
Our entry-level 66TSI Trendline was good for 66kW of power from 4400rpm-5400rpm, peak torque of 160Nm from 1400rpm-3500rpm and combined-cycle fuel consumption of 4.8l/100kms.
Stepping-up, our 81TSI Comfortline delivered 81kW of power between 4600rpm-5600rpm and peak torque of 175Nm between 1400rpm-4000rpm and identical combined-cycle fuel consumption of 4.8l/100kms.
Both drove the front wheels via Volkswagen’s seven-speed twin-clutch DSG transmission.
Volkswagen Polo The Interior
Where once interior design wasn’t a Volkswagen strong point, massive improvements in recent years now see the Wolfsburg, Germany giant at the front of the field. The current-generation Polo provides ample proof of that.
Even the entry-level 66TSI (overlooking the oddly downmarket steering wheel) bristles with contemporary German style and quality materials. And there’s that hallmark German solid ‘thunk’ when you close the doors giving you further reinforcement that this isn’t an ordinary compact hatchback.
Biggest changes in the most recent update were for the instruments with the Volkswagen Polo scoring a new 3D-look cluster and a new design for the centre console (now nine buttons instead of seven for the statistically minded). There’s also a new infotainment console mid-ships with a five-inch colour display and six-speaker audio.
Same for the climate control system which is now simpler to use.
Comfortline models add extras such as unique trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel, some aluminium highlights, front centre armrest and height adjustment for the front passenger seat.
Rear seat accommodation is on-par with rivals and luggage space is 280-litres with the rear seat in-place or 952-litres when folded.
Volkswagen Polo Exterior & Styling
In terms of outside visuals, this year’s update didn’t see too many changes for the Volkswagen Polo. And that’s a good thing because the compact Polo echoes Volkswagen’s current styling philosophy perfectly…in a scaled-down package.
Overall the Polo is Germanic design precision at its best (with more than a few hints of Golf and Passat of course). Unlike say the voluptuous aerodynamic roundness of the Renault Clio, the Volkswagen Polo leans towards straight, geometric lines and unlike the Sydney Opera House curvature of the Ford Fiesta’s roofline, the Polo favours a more gradual approach.
Prominent side character lines add some oomph and both the 66TSI Trendline and 81TSI Comfortline models we tested looked cohesive with their wheels (15-inch steel for the Trendline or 17-inch alloys for our ‘Sport Package’ 81TSI Comfortline) filling the wheelarches with intent.
Changes focus on the front-end (new lights, bumper and larger air inlets) and rear-end (new bumper and lights).
Volkswagen Polo On The Road
In driving dynamics you can’t sugar-coat $2,000 worth of extra specification, $3,000 worth of optional extras and 15kW/Nm more under the bonnet. So over our high-speed mountain roads test loop of course the Volkswagen Polo 81TSI Comfortline ‘Driver Comfort Pack’ + ‘Sport Package’ had the edge over our 66TSI model (the lowered sports suspension, punchier engine and extra rubber guaranteed that).
But that’s the thing with our Volkswagen Polos – even the budget-priced model boasted a slick-shifting seven-speed DSG and the same wonderful platform as the upscale model. There’s not a poor relation in the Polo family when it comes to the driving experience.
Sure the fully-equipped 81TSI model turned-in a smidge crisper and the suspension package was a little tauter but both delivered top-notch refinement and suspension calibration. And to be frank both made some rivals feel distinctly sub-standard.
As you’ve probably heard a million times, stop-start city driving doesn’t show the DSG in its best light (it gets a bit clunky on-off throttle at slow speeds). But otherwise we couldn’t fault either of our Volkswagen Polos.
A special word for our $18,790 so-called ‘entry-level’ 66TSI Trendline model Volkswagen Polo. In the case of this 1082kgs five-door hatchback, 66kW/160Nm is more than enough grunt - in our week we never missed the boat when freeway merging or going for a gap and with that handy 4.8l/100kms fuel consumption…in many ways this is the Polo to buy.
Volkswagen Polo Challenges
You can’t beat the Volkswagen Polo for driving dynamics or quality but the DSG remains cumbersome at low speeds.
Volkswagen Polo Verdict
It’s tough being a Volkswagen Polo – some of the stiffest competition comes from your own family. The range-topping GTI competes with the Ford Fiesta ST ($25,990) as being the best of the compact hatchbacks and the 81TSI Comfortline isn’t far behind.
But that’s doing a disservice to the entry-grade 66TSI which is the value-for-money winner.
Put it this way – Volkswagen Polo didn’t scoop all those international awards for nothing.
Volkswagen is right at the top of its game currently – a powerhouse of the global automotive industry. The plan is you buy a Polo, like it so much you step-up to the Golf, then the Passat, then the Tiguan, then the Touareg.
Volkswagen Polo The Competition
Let’s stick to Western European designs and engineering and that brings into play a long-time Car Showroom Favourite – the German-origin Ford Fiesta. Priced from $15,825, the Fiesta is the car which gives the Polo the closest run for driving dynamics.
Not that the Germans have it all their own way.
Peugeot 208 is little pricey (starting from $18,490) but is zippy to drive and oozes class inside. Looks nice too.
Renault Clio is a Car Showroom Favourite. We love the looks, we love the all-turbocharged engine lineup and we definitely love the driving experience. Prices kick-off at $16,790 so value isn’t out of the picture either.