2010 Volkswagen Polo First Drive Review Photo:
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Mike Stevens | May, 10 2010 | 2 Comments

OVER A YEAR after its international debut at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show, the new 2010 Volkswagen Polo has finally made it to our shores.

There’s new engine technology, a wider range of gearboxes, vastly improved styling and improved safety. The updates have been comprehensive, and Volkswagen is gunning for a bigger slice of the ultra-competitive light car market with the 2010 Polo.

The base model Polo Trendline manual spearheads VW’s assault on the light car segment with a retail price of $16,690 – just $160 more than a base Mazda2 Neo manual three-door.

A full suite of six airbags (front, front-side and curtain) are standard on all Polo models too. With side and curtain airbags a $400 option on the Mazda2 Neo, the Polo edges ahead on spec-for-spec pricing.

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The Toyota Yaris and Ford Fiesta are squarely in VW’s sights too, and Volkswagen Group Australia Managing Director Anke Koeckler says the company expects to sell “significantly more” Polos than ever.

Crucially, Volkswagen’s DSG dual-clutch transmissions are now available across the range. The last-gen Polo’s 74kW turbodiesel was only available with a five-speed manual, but the 2010 Polo 66TDI now comes with the option of a five-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG automatic.

Accordingly, Ms Koeckler says an automatic transmission is expected to be optioned on the majority of 2010 Polos sold. She also anticipates that the Polo 77TSI that sits in the middle of the range will be the most popular model.

“As far as a price/product package, I think it is very competitive,” Ms Koeckler said to TMR.

The range begins with the Polo Trendline, which is powered by the same 1.4 litre naturally-aspirated petrol four that saw service in the outgoing Polo, except slightly warmed over for 2010 to produce 63kW and 132Nm.

The Polo Trendline is only available as a three-door hatch, but those looking for a five-door can opt for the 77TSI and 66TDI Comfortline models.

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The 77TSI features an all-new 1.2 litre turbocharged inline four, which develops 77kW and 175Nm of torque. The 66TDI’s 1.6 litre turbodiesel is a derivative of VW’s 2.0 litre diesel, and puts out 66kW and 230Nm – slightly less than the last-generation Polo diesel.

The 77TSI manual retails for $19,850, while the 66TDI manual is priced at $22,350 before on-road costs. A seven-speed DSG automatic is available on all Polos at a $2500 premium.

We had the opportunity to sample each model during the 2010 Polo’s local launch in Queensland, and initial impressions were good.

Cosmetic changes to the Polo’s body have gifted it with a more masculine, square-jawed front while the sides and rear are characterized by clean lines and unfussy styling.

Inside, the interior finish is excellent and the seating comfortable (the rear bench is a touch too flat, however). Legroom is good for rear seat passengers, but the centre stack crowds the driver’s knee a bit.

On the road, the base 1.4 petrol engine is always willing to rev, but ultimately lacking in torque. It definitely performs better with the DSG transmission, as the greater number of ratios allows the car to make the most of its meager output.

The 66TDI is a smooth and relatively quiet engine, and with 230Nm available between 1750 and 2500rpm it has great tractability. In manual form it’s quite happy to lug around town in high gears, and it pulls cleanly from idle.

However, the 1.2 litre 77TSI is the best of the bunch. It may be small, but with peak torque of 175Nm on tap from 1500rpm to 3500rpm, it’s the most flexible motor in the range. It’s also great fun when paired with the standard six-speed manual, and it felt pretty zippy when hustled along the winding test route.

There’s a slight pause between flooring the accelerator and the turbo spooling up, but the lag is impressively small considering the 1.2 litre engine’s tiny size. The DSG is the more logical choice for commuters, but the slick-shifting manual feels sportier.

The DSG gearbox is, as always, a brilliant alternative to a traditional torque-converter automatic, and in the Polo it works very well.

It’s smooth during normal driving and delivers crisp shifts when in manual mode (all DSG-equipped models get a tiptronic mode, by the way), and is generally a delight to use.

Previous VW DSGs (particularly those fitted to the Golf) seemed to suffer from an annoying hesitation when taking off from a standstill under gentle throttle, but that issue seems to have been resolved with the Polo’s DSG.

The 77TSI Comfortline DSG is expected to be the most popular model, and our first taste of the Polo range indicates that it’s the sweetest variant in the range.

However, with keener pricing, improved equipment levels, a thoroughly modern design and an enhanced engine line-up, all 2010 Polo variants represent good value.

A proper road test will reveal more about what the 2010 Polo is like to live with, though, so stay tuned to TMR for a full review of VW’s new light car.

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