by Brad Leach - 19/11/10
Volkswagen Polo has carved a reputation as one of the world’s best compact cars and the all-new sixth generation model is the current ‘World Car of the Year’.
In Australia, Volkswagen Polo starts at $16,690 for the ‘Trendline three-door; we’ve just tested the five-door 77TSI in the mid-range ‘Comfortline’ specification. With its $19,850 price tag, the German compact makes an alluring proposition to be called the best compact hatchback on the market.
Ford’s Fiesta - priced from $16,090 and also made in Germany - presents a credible rival for that title and the nicely styled Mazda2 (priced from $16,500) is also a strong contender.
One this is certain – compact car shoppers have some fine products from which to choose and competition between various brands means there are some bargains to be had.
Volkswagen Polo stands out from the compact car crowd with its stylish new look, elegant interior and high-tech array of drivetrains. Incredibly, in the compact car segment, Polo buyers who opt for an automatic transmission score Volkswagen’s seven-speed DSG (direct shift gearbox).
Our Volkswagen Polo 77TSI Comfortline was fitted with a six-speed manual and – like every Polo model – included Hill Start Assist in its standard specifications.
Power for our test car – and remember the Volkswagen Polo is a sub-$20,000 compact – came from a 1.2-litre turbocharged direct injection petrol engine.
The new Volkswagen Polo is larger in every dimension than its predecessor and provides interior space competitive with all rivals expect the Honda Jazz plus luggage space up to 952 litres.
A naturally aspirated 1.4-litre engine powers Volkswagen Polo’s entry-level model, but the 77TSI nomenclature of the Comfortline model tested represents Volkswagen’s superb 1.2-litre turbocharged direct injection petrol powerplant. Polo’s other engine is a 1.6-litre turbo-diesel.
The Volkswagen Polo 1.2TSI delivers 77kW of power at 5000 rpm and peak torque of 175Nm is available from 1500 rpm. By comparison, a 76kW/137Nm naturally aspirated 1.5-litre engine powers Mazda2, while the Fiesta offers a 88kW/152Nm naturally aspirated 1.6-litre engine for its manual transmission variants.
As you would expect from those figures, performance from the Volkswagen Polo is very impressive – zero to 100km/h in 9.7 seconds. Fuel economy is impressive too – this Euro 5 compliant engine returns 5.5l/100kms (6.1l/100kms for the Fiesta and 6.4l/100kms for the Mazda2) and C02 emissions are low at 128g/km.
The interior of the new Volkswagen Polo is very slick – a marked improvement over its predecessor. There is a real quality feel with high-grade trim materials and (in the Comfortline model tested) aluminium look edges for the vents and instruments.
Volkswagen Polo's front seats are height-adjustable and the driver gets a nice leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel which adjusts for rake and reach.
Instrumentation is the conventional twin gauges and between is Volkswagen’s Multi Function Display (MFD) with secondary information like distance to empty for the fuel tank plus a gearshift indicator light displaying the gear you’re in and – when appropriate - an arrow advising to shift ratios for optimized fuel consumption. Volkswagen Polo's instruments all have high quality white backlighting.
To the left are controls for the semi-automatic air-conditioning and audio – a six-speaker single CD unit with MP3 compatibility and an auxiliary audio socket. Bluetooth is on the options list for the Volkswagen Polo.
The Car Showroom juniors were easily installed in the backseat of the Volkswagen Polo, which looks great but affords only segment-competitive legroom.
Same in the hatch – a 280-litre luggage capacity with the rear seat upright, or 952 litres with the seat folded (that’s about average for the segment). However Volkswagen Polo does provide a variable height luggage floor and load-securing hooks.
On the safety front – as you’d expect from Germany – Volkswagen Polo is comprehensively equipped with standard ESP (Electronic Stabilization Program), EDL (Electronic Differential Lock), ASR (Anti-Slip Regulation) and six airbags including front and rear curtains ‘bags.
Volkswagen says the new Volkswagen Polo is the third model to boast the new Volkswagen ‘Design DNA’. The outstanding Scirocco coupe (rejected for the Australian market) was first, followed by the sixth generation Golf and now the Polo.
Volkswagen’s goal here – under the direction of Walter de Silva, Head of Group Design – was to produce a level of visual and technical quality found in cars several classes higher. In the case of Volkswagen Polo this is evident in the precision of lines, the treatment of surfaces, reduced radii, tight seams and sharp panel edges.
At the front is the new Volkswagen ‘family face’ – the flat grille and band of headlights (dual headlights in the Comfortline specification as tested).
From the side, this sixth generation Volkswagen Polo continues the theme started with the fourth generation – a ‘three window side’ with a small third window integrated in the C-pillar. Short front and rear overhangs, a prominent shoulder line and low rearward sloping roof also characterize the new Polo.
The Volkswagen Polo's rear is simple and geometric, featuring a roof edge spoiler and low-opening tailgate.
This latest Volkswagen Polo is slightly longer, wider and higher than its predecessor, the 2,456mm wheelbase is 2mm longer and both front and rear tracks are 46mm wider.
Our 77TSI Comfortline Volkswagen Polo test car ran 15-inch five-spoke alloy wheels (entry level Trendline models come with 14-inch steel wheels).
During our week with the Volkswagen Polo 77TSI Comfortline, Volkswagen’s 1.2-litre turbocharged engine was a constant revelation. Polo’s zero-100km/h time of 9.7 seconds is almost one second faster than the hitherto zippy Mazda2 and Ford Fiesta.
The six-speed manual was light and easy to use and underlying Volkswagen Polo’s 5.5l/100kms fuel economy, the gauge had hardly moved even after our run through our twisty mountain roads test route.
Volkswagen Polo runs Volkswagen’s usual MacPherson strut front/Torsion Beam rear suspension and not surprisingly, the German engineers have it thoroughly sorted. Typically Volkswagen, the new Polo was a tad taut in its suspension calibration but this translated into first-rate driving dynamics through the turns.
Also typically Volkswagen, Polo’s interior noise was low.
Surprisingly, the compact Volkswagen Polo has a 10.6-metre turning circle – Kia’s slightly larger SOUL has a 10.5-metre turning circle – but parking in our tight CBD car park was easy.
If you’re used to Japanese and Korean small cars, you may feel the Volkswagen Polo is just a bit firm in its ride as noticed over cobblestones and Melbourne’s tram and train track crossings…it’s a European thing.
And even though your Car Showroom correspondent runs Size 9 shoes, footwell space on the drivers’ sight felt cramped.
For quality, performance and driving dynamics, the latest Volkswagen Polo is at the front of the compact car pack.
Good as the Volkswagen Polo is, high quality opposition comes from not only Ford’s Fiesta and the Mazda2 but also the Honda Jazz which delivers stunning interior space for a compact hatchback.
Brilliant 1.2-litre turbo; oozes quality; competitively priced
Ride a little tight for some; tight drivers’ side footwell
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