2015 VOLKSWAGEN POLO REVIEW
What’s Hot: Great value for money, miserly yet feisty drivetrain, great handling.
What’s Not: Stop/start shudders slightly, no sat-nav on Trendline (while touchscreen is staring you in the face).
X-FACTOR: While simple and fun to drive, the Polo is all class and very competitively priced.
Vehicle Style: 5-door light hatch
Price: $16,290 to $20,790
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.8 l/100km (66TSI MT & AT, 81TSI AT), 4.9 l/100km (81TSI MT)
The updated Volkswagen Polo is packed to almost bursting with what the manufacturer calls “standard features”.
But there’s nothing “standard” about this diminutive German.
Take a look at this list for a sub-$20k car: emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, multi-collision braking system, start/stop and brake-energy recuperation technology, airbags for every occasion, heated wing mirrors, even a chillable glovebox!
And just so your owner’s manual doesn’t get frostbite, a separate compartment for the manual.
The 2014 Polo comes in two variants (and no diesel option): the 66TSI ‘Trendline’, featuring a 66kW petrol engine matched to either a precise 5-speed manual gearbox or an even more impressive 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox (DSG), and the 81TSI ‘Comfortline’.
The latter sporting an 81kW engine and a vastly expanded array of features, as well as either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed DSG.
Two option packages can be added to the 81TSI ‘Comfortline’ variant; a Sport Package and a Driver Comfort Package - both costing $1,500 each.
Things have certainly changed in this incarnation of the Polo: both models are feisty, superb in both their handling and safety management, well built and utter misers on fuel.
Quality oozes out of every corner of this car, and external noise stays out.
- Fabric upholstery across both models; featuring manually-adjusted, firm yet comfortable front seats.
- Standard equipment on both models include: electric windows, heated exterior rearview mirrors, cruise control, CD player, SD, USB and Bluetooth inputs, that chillable glovebox, AM/FM tuner, Bluetooth telephony, a five-inch hi-res ‘infotainment’ touch-screen system, switchable start/stop, and air-conditioning.
- Comfortline adds a leather-upholstered multi-function steering wheel, and elegant instrument cluster with trip computer display (fuel consumption, any active safety measures in play, cruise control and trip information)
While the interior layout of the Polo is elegant, refined and well appointed, this is a small car and space is at a premium.
However, despite the size limitations, the Polo certainly feels comfortable.
There may be little wriggle room - and the cup holders in the centre console seem to take precedence over your left knee if you’re the driver - but things are ergonomically positioned and well-appointed.
There’s a detail pattern in the seat fabric that looks a little ’80s but somehow, in context, this also works.
There are no rattles or creaks - this thing is tight - everything is well finished in elegant blacks and charcoals, with occasional brushed chrome highlights, and the car is impressively quiet when on-road.
Most road surfaces barely tipped the meter over 60 - 65dB… very impressive.
Beyond the driver’s seat, however, things get a little cramped.
While the front seat passenger enjoys the same comforts as the driver, fitting four adults in for any length of time would test friendships.
Being of average height, my seating position in most cars tends to be pretty ‘average’.
Yet, even with me behind the wheel of the Polo, any passenger immediately behind would have needed Kermit the Frog legs to feel like things weren’t getting impossibly tight back there.
The Polo is, in all practicality, a two-seater for adults; a genuine four-seater only if you’re a diminutive clan with small children, or a contortionist.
Meanwhile, if you mostly use the car to commute to work on your own, and only occasionally load up the car with shopping, it’s perfect.
The hatchback is also relatively small, and fits little more than an average sized check-in bag and some shopping.
Don’t try putting the labrador back there; he just won’t fit.
ON THE ROAD
- Polo Trendline: 66 kW/160Nm 1.2 litre turbo-charged petrol inline four 5-speed manual or 7-speed twin-clutch automatic
- Polo Comfortline: 81kW/175Nm 1.2 litre turbo-charged petrol inline four
- MacPherson strut and coil spring front, torsion beam rear with trailing arms and coil springs
- Brakes: front, ventilated discs, rear, solid discs
The 2014 incarnation of the Polo is vastly more impressive to drive than previous models. Even the entry-level Trendline manual has a get-up-and-go that surprises every time you put your foot down.
It will never leave you with a feeling you have to get out and beat the car with a stick to get it going, the new 1.2 litre motor - in both models - is remarkably willing and pulls strongly, even from quite low revs.
Both the manual and DSG models in the Trendline we drove have an impressive spring in their step; the manual gearbox is easy to shift and the DSG (which shifts gears in just 4/100ths of a second) is smoother than Lindt chocolate.
The hills behind Brisbane were no match for the 1.2, its torque impressive from as low as 1300rpm.
The 81kW version of the motor is nippier again, the turbocharger and quick-shifting DSG making the whole experience quiet and effortless. If you didn’t know better, you’d be forgiven for thinking a much larger motor lurked below.
The class-leading handling and performance, even when approaching an unexpected corner too quickly, is well-balanced and amazingly accurate.
Understeer is almost non-existent and the technological smarts controlling stability and braking work perfectly invisibly before things start looking a little ragged.
Steering on all models is excellent; the electro-mechanical power steering system, which is sensitive to speed and steering input, provides comfortable, well-weighted control.
Rough roads are experienced with just the right amount of feel through the steering wheel: tactile enough to feel like you’re really driving the car, yet easy enough to barely figure in your thinking as you drive.
This revised Polo feels like a driving experience, not an austerity measure.
ANCAP rating: 5 Stars. The Volkswagen Polo has scored 34.96 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Volkswagen's Multi-Collision Braking system, stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist and six airbags (dual front, side, and full-length curtain front and rear) are standard on all Polo models.
The Driving Comfort Package adds adaptive cruise control, a Driver Fatigue Detection System and “Front Assist” ambient traffic monitoring system with City Emergency Braking.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The updated Polo is remarkable for the price. Even enthusiastic drivers will enjoy the peppy and tractable 1.2 litre turbo engine, whether in the 66TSI Trendline or 81TSI Comfortline.
In our view, for an extra $2000 above the base model, the Comfortline version is the preferred choice.
And, if you were to extend yourself and add both $1500 options packages to the vehicle (ie. add another $3000), you get one appealing little car, burgeoning with safety features and advanced technology.
At that point you’re driving a very impressive small luxury car.
When I first clapped eyes on this car, I thought, “Okay, here’s another little hatch from Volkswagen.”
But this is an improved Polo. By the time I had driven three variants of the vehicle, I was hooked on the way it drove: how quiet it was, how nippy, how balanced and safe it felt, and how frugal on fuel it turned out to be (5.4 l/100kms in the 81kW Comfortline over a combo of steep hilly terrain, suburbs and freeway).
If you’re looking for a small car but want something more than just a boring, lacklustre fuel saver, or even if you want to be a bit sporty, with plenty of technological support and something a bit classy around you, this car is a compelling option.
The updared Polo is fun to drive, easy on the eye and ear, and rarely requires a fuel stop.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- Polo 66TSI Trendline 5MT: $16,290
- Polo 66TSI Trendline 7AT: $18,790
- Polo 81TSI Comfortline 6MT: $18,290
- Polo 81TSIComfortline 7MT: $20,790
- Metallic paint: $500
- Driver Comfort Package: $1500
- Sport Package: $1500