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The spacious new VW Polo is at its best when the road is wide open.
Report by Ernest Litera.
The new Polo signifies a generational change for Volkswagen’s entry-level offering. Although classified as a light, or city car, this sixth-generation hatch is now comparable in size to the early Golf and comes with a sophisticated 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, mated to a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission. This ensures that, despite having grown physically beyond its classmates, economical motoring remains at Polo’s core.
Excellent build and presentation
The most appealing attribute for a budget car is Volkswagen’s excellent build and presentation. In addition to the classic chrome-rimmed dials set in an ebony-black facia, there’s a soft-touch dash, elegant flat-bottomed leather-bound steering wheel with multi-media controls, a notably large central screen, plus the expected connectivity of Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and two USB ports.
All models feature the safety of high-speed and low-speed autonomous emergency braking, six airbags, electronic stability control, driver fatigue monitoring, tyre-pressure indication and reversing camera. Standard features also include cruise control, air-conditioning, power windows, height-adjustable front seats, plus electrically heated and adjustable external mirrors.
These are all good features for the entry-level Polo 70TSI Trendline ($17,990 plus on-road costs), which is a five-speed manual, with a lower-tuned 70kW version of the 1.0-litre engine. It misses out on alloy wheels, rear disc brakes or the ability to option the Driver Assistance package. You can choose a seven-speed DSG auto in the Trendline, for $20,490.
More appealing is the higher-specification 85TSI Comfortline, from $19,490 in six-speed manual or from $21,990 for the seven-speed auto. As the model designation suggests, this is a healthier 85kW version of the same engine plus the added features of 15-inch alloy wheels, rear disc brakes, auto-sensing headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and added-comfort cloth upholstery with a centre front armrest.
Inbuilt satellite navigation is not available, yet $1400 will buy a highly desirable Driver Assistance package that includes adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, parking assist with front and rear sensors, manoeuvre braking front and rear, and crash-detection preparation. Our test car is a special Launch Edition with additional features such as 16-inch alloys, inductive wireless charging, fog lights, LED tail lights and tinted glass.
The larger cabin in this new Polo, built on VW’s latest modular platform, clearly draws on the Golf’s practical design architecture, delivering better-than-average space against its class competitors. This is generally noteworthy for front-seat occupants, particularly drivers, who have exceptional seat travel and head clearance adjustment at their disposal.
Luggage space with all seats occupied is also noticeably improved, and there’s the customary convenience of a 60/40 split-fold back seat. Practical features also include a full-size (steel) spare wheel, childseat top tether points on the seat back, ISOFIX, and recessed head restraints to enhance rear vision.
There are, however, no rear ventilation outlets, nor are there any connectivity ports for children’s entertainment. And the rear seat, essentially shaped and adequate for two adults, would be a squeeze for three children or a combination involving child seats.
Front-seat comfort is excellent, aided by long cushions angled up at the front for good leg support, and as well as excellent seat adjustment drivers can call on steering tilt and reach to find their ideal position. The dash presentation is sharp and tidy, in keeping with the current VW range, incorporating its customary clean instrumentation in a classically elegant layout. Our only niggle was that air-conditioning controls, buried low in the centre console, were difficult to read and select.
Remarkable on the open road
Although described ostensibly as a city car by VW, the new Polo is remarkable on the open road and for country touring. Much of this capability can be attributed to the highly developed Golf chassis, but the small turbo engine and slick DSG gearbox also combine perfectly with the suspension refinement in a flowing, open road situation. Under full acceleration from rest, Polo is also no slouch, as our performance figures attest. On the move, there is a dynamic quality to the car, a feeling that it is bigger, more settled and confidence-inspiring than the average light car, placing it squarely into the engaging driver category.
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Unfortunately, that’s not always the case around town, where in stop/start traffic there is a driveline conflict. The petite engine does not deliver a lot of torque off the line until the turbo is spinning well above idle, while the clutch in the DSG auto engages and disengages on the touch of the accelerator pedal. This results in a jerky hesitation on initial take-off, and it’s not associated with the engine stop/start function which just exacerbates the issue.
There’s a hill-hold function to counter rollback on slopes, and to make this DSG feel more like a conventional automatic there’s an artificial increase in idle speed to create forward creep as you release the brake. It comes together better when driven aggressively, but if you’re caught in traffic or trickling around the suburbs, there is a disconcerting tug and stumble in the driveline as you transition between gentle braking and accelerating, neither of which occurs smoothly.
Fuel economy and low operating costs are, of course, the targets of this small engine. On test, we averaged 5.7L/100km overall and could easily match the government figure of 5.0L/100km. Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000 kilometres, and the warranty is a conservative three years with unlimited kilometres.
The new Polo brings VW’s renowned style, practicality and equipment to the light car class, along with a more accommodating cabin and a class-leading ride and handling set-up. The new 1.0-litre turbo engine and seven-speed auto proved efficient and competent, although the package was surprisingly better on a country road than around town.
VW POLO 85TSI COMFORTLINE
$21,990 + $3942 (est) ORC. Premium paint $500. Model range $17,990-$22,290.
These comments are from RACV’s experienced team of vehicle testers. Check out the full range of RoyalAuto car reviews, news and other motoring information at royalauto.com.au.
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