Car brands will always try and make a new model seem like a big deal. But with the 2018 Volkswagen Polo 85TSI Launch Edition that is literally the case in two ways.
This new-generation Polo is physically much larger than before, with Volkswagen now wanting buyers to consider this light hatchback alongside entry-level models from the small car class above. Think $19,990 driveaway Kia Cerato S, for example.
Only this 85TSI Launch Edition model grade, complete with an optional automatic Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG), is better equipped than most of the size-up cohort while offering similar boot space, to name but one comparable dimension.
Add in greater infotainment technology and active safety equipment than the old car, plus a permanent offer of $1000 on-road costs, and the deal does seem sizeable.
Vehicle Style: Light hatchback
Price: $22,990 plus on-road costs or $23,990 driveaway
Engine/trans: 85kW/200Nm 1.0 turbo petrol three-cylinder | seven-speed dual-clutch
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.0 l/100km | Tested: 7.1 l/100km
Volkswagen’s Polo range all utilise a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine linked to a five- or six-speed manual transmission, or this seven-speed DSG. It all starts with the $17,990 (plus orc) 70TSI Trendline, which delivers 70kW of power plus 175Nm of torque, and wears 15-inch steel wheels. It has a 10.8-second 0-100km/h and a combined-cycle fuel rating of 4.8 litres per 100 kilometres.
For $1500 extra, the $19,490 (plus orc) 85TSI Comfortline gets 85kW/200Nm, with 15-inch alloy wheels, auto on/off headlights and wipers, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rear map lights and map pockets, vanity mirror lights and a front centre armrest. It has a 9.5sec 0-100km/h and uses 5.1L/100km (or 5.0L/100km with DSG).
Then there is the $20,490 (plus orc) 85TSI Launch Edition tested here, with the same outputs plus foglights, 16-inch alloys, wireless phone charging and dark-tinted glass. A $22,490 (plus orc) 85TSI Beats Edition will also soon be available with all of the above plus sports seats, 300-watt Beats audio and a full-colour driver display.
However, the entry 70TSI Trendline is the only one to get free on-roads, with the above 85TSI trio needing $1000 extra. Meanwhile in all cases, and as tested here, the DSG adds a hefty $2500 to the above pricetags.
- Standard Equipment: Keyless entry, automatic on/off headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, vanity mirror lights, rear map lights, cloth trim, power windows and mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel, multi-function trip computer, cruise control and manual air-conditioning.
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, twin USB inputs, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring, wireless phone charging and six speakers.
- Options Fitted: $1400 Driver Assistance Package (including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors with auto reverse-park assistance, and electric-fold door mirrors).
- Cargo Volume: 351 litres
After enormous experience with the previous-generation Polo, which launched locally in 2011, hopping into this new-gen immediately elicits a huge sigh of relief from this tester. Finally, the driver’s seat and driving position are not flat and high respectively.
This larger light Volkswagen indeed feels lower yet broader, with all occupants sinking into the car further and creating the impression of greater headroom above. There’s extra legroom as well, particularly in the rear where occupants will find among the most comfortable and supportive backrest and bench for this pricetag.
Meanwhile the 351-litre boot volume is among the largest in the segment – almost challenging the 381L Hyundai i30 – and it packs a full-size spare underneath.
Indeed, the likes of the i30 Go, plus the aforementioned Kia Cerato S, are what this Polo is targeting while also attempting to shoulder-charge its usual sub-$20,000 suspects in its own class, such as the Mazda2, Suzuki Swift and Toyota Yaris.
This 85TSI Launch Edition ultimately isn’t as roomy as an i30 or Cerato, but there isn’t much in it. Cabin quality is also competitive, with a superb 8.0-inch touchscreen the highlight, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel missing from the Go and S.
Meanwhile the soft-touch dashboard, which even extends to the middle tier, soundly eclipses the 2 GT, Swift GLX Turbo and Yaris ZR from the light car segment. But while the new Polo offers proper vertical grabs on each door, the previous generation’s overhead grab handles and cloth door inserts have been ditched.
What it means is that this Launch Edition can’t fully launch into the class above.
And, with DSG costing a hefty $2500, the trio of available 85TSI model grades all launch up towards $25,000 driveaway, especially when, as is the case here, the optional Driver Assistance Package is added (see Options Fitted, above).
While it includes plenty of techy extras, even a so-optioned Comfortline, Launch Edition or Beats will still disappointingly lack keyless auto-entry with push-button start, climate control air-conditioning (which was available previously) and LED headlights – in the latter case, the standard halogens look cheap.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 85kW/200Nm 1.0 3cyl turbo petrol
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, FWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and torsion bar rear
- Brake: Ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering
While all Polos (bar GTI) share the same suspension, this 85TSI Launch Edition (and also 85TSI Beats Edition) nabs 16- versus 15-inch wheels, with Falken Sincera tyres swapped for – as we discovered – far superior Continental ContiPremium Contacts.
The slightly lower-profile tyres deliver marginally firmer ride quality than the entry model grade, but Volkswagen’s past expertise with tuning a chassis for both comfort and control still proves impeccable. Here, urban compliance mixes with rough-road composure superbly well, making the Polo feel like a bigger, more mature hatch.
A greater difference comes into play on a twisty road, where the 85TSI’s extra grip gels more harmoniously with the 15kW of extra power and 25Nm of extra torque. Volkswagen shares its MQB platform across Polo, Golf, Tiguan, and even the full-sized Passat, which means its smallest hatch poaches its ability from those models.
Quite simply, this Polo feels like a smaller body dropped over larger, more sophisticated underpinnings. Where most light hatchbacks are noisy, but also love to be tossed through corners with playful disdain, this Volkswagen remains hushed and also unflappable. Even with the willing, refined 1.0-litre turbo charging forth, its chassis just shrugs everything off.
That three-cylinder is also charming to the ear, beautifully punchy, and it even teams well with the seven-speed DSG, the breed of which has in the past proven less fluent and intuitive than this one. It doesn’t lurch at low speeds, it picks lower gears immediately on hills, and its alternative Sport mode is only subtly aggressive.
Urban fuel consumption will rarely top 10L/100km even in the worst traffic, while mid-6L/100km is easily achievable in mixed conditions. Add some spirited, hilly driving and we ended up on 7.1L/100km – though don’t forget it needs premium unleaded.
If there’s a main gripe, it’s the steering, which – although smooth, fluent and linear – could be sharper to better gel with this energetic hatch. Also, with immense refinement, great ride quality and planted handling, this Polo could be too strait-laced for some who just wanna have fun. But that’s it. For everyone else, it’s near perfect.
ANCAP rating: 5-stars – this model scored 36.7 out of 38 possible points when tested by Euro NCAP in 2017.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags, ABS, ESC, reverse-view camera, forward collision warning with low-speed (sub 30km/h) autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Capped-price servicing program includes annual or 15,000km intervals at a cost of $307/$549/$357/$834/$357.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Swift delivers the same powertrain excellence – it’s even a 1.0-litre turbo configuration – as the Polo, but it’s much lighter, sportier, nippier and more playful. On the other hand, the Suzuki is noisier, bumpier, smaller and much cheaper inside.
Those latter attributes are true for the Mazda2 GT as well, though it is feeling its age with its dated 1.5-litre petrol engine and is therefore most compelling at middle-tier Mazda2 Maxx level. Likewise the Fabia Monte Carlo, which is an older and inferior cousin to this new Volkswagen.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Polo 85TSI Launch Edition proves that a buyer should shop beyond class boundaries, because this hatch is almost as roomy as a Hyundai i30 or Kia Cerato inside, while being better equipped and demonstrably more polished to drive.
While the Launch Edition and Beats Edition each fail to offer enough over the Comfortline, and some interior appointments are still lacking, at least an 85TSI with auto DSG can be bought from $23K driveaway; complete with alloys, 8.0-inch screen, leather-wrapped steering wheel, AEB and auto on/off lights and wipers.
Beyond box-ticking, though, every Polo buyer scores an incredibly efficient yet punchy and refined engine, a comfy cabin, lovely suspension and excellent handling.
And that’s indeed a big deal for such a little hatch.
- Interested in buying Volkswagen Polo? Visit our Volkswagen showroom for more information.