Vehicle Style: 5-door light hatch
Price: $20,790 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 81kW/175Nm 1.2 4cyl petrol | 7spd dual-clutch auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.8 l/100km | tested: 7.3 l/100km
When the current generation Volkswagen Polo arrived in Australia in 2010, it sent a ripple through the light car class.
It offered quality and features that threatened the well-established players - like the Yaris, Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 - and also put the heat on cars from the segment above.
But the automotive landscape keeps evolving, and plenty of new and updated product has arrived since then. To keep things fresh, Volkswagen has freshened the Polo range and given specification a plump.
We took the wheel of the up-spec 81TSI Comfortline. It came fully loaded with the optional Driver Comfort Package and Sport package, plus metallic paint for an as-tested price of $24,290.
That’s not exactly small change, however with a long list of standard features, the Polo manages to keep the competition honest.
- Five-inch touchscreen colour display.
- Six-speaker audio with Bluetooth phone and audio.
- Cloth seat trim, leather wrapped steering wheel.
- Boot space: 280 litres (seats up), 952 litres (seats down)
The Polo interior is, without doubt, conservative. That’s okay though, the layout is ergonomically sound and the materials look and feel first rate.
As part of the Model Year 2015 update, the centre stack gets a freshen up, with a touchscreen display taking pride of place.
The steering wheel also scores an update - it’s a little button-heavy, yet still clean and clear to operate.
The seats are trimmed in cloth, and the wheel scores a leather wrap.
The dash-top and door trims are soft-touch up top, with hard but well finished and robust plastics below.
While the cabin isn’t enormous, it will happily take four people with ease and five at a squeeze.
The rear seat offers lofty headroom, but legroom is tight unless the front occupants are prepared to shimmy forward a little.
Those with a bigger frame might not like the front seats either, they’re not lacking for comfort, just a little narrow for comfy cruising.
Swing open the tailgate and the compact boot holds 280 litres, drop the 60:40 folding rear seat and that stretches out to 952 litres.
There’s also a ‘false floor’ in the boot, you can either use it as a second layer, or drop it out of the way for a deeper boot.
ON THE ROAD
- 1.3 litre petrol turbo inline four cylinder.
- Seven-speed dual clutch auto, front wheel drive.
- Four-wheel disc brakes, vented front/solid rear.
- MacPherson front suspension, torsion beam rear.
- Speed-sensitive electro-mechanical power steering.
The 1.2 litre turbo engine in the 81TSI produces 81kW of power (as the name suggests) between 4600-5600rpm with 175Nm of torque between 1400-4000rpm.
The engine is a strong unit for a little car. The generous torque makes moving the Polo about effortless.
Oddly, while it feels ‘strong’ it can be a little reluctant to rev. Where you might expect it to zing to the redline, the Polo is more restrained.
It nevertheless gets around very smartly and still has torque aplenty for overtaking or swift cruising on the open road. A generous spread of gear ratios helps too.
As in the previous model, the high-output engine is tied to a seven-speed dual-clutch auto. There’s still a jerky feel at parking speeds, which can be bothersome, but once underway the changes are barely noticeable.
Thanks to the Sports Package fitted to our test car, the ride was taut around town - not harsh, just firm.
Escape the city and the ride feels more relaxed, all while resisting body roll and feeling firmly in-touch with the tarmac.
As well as 10mm lower sports suspension the Sports Package also adds 17-inch alloy wheels, rear tinted glass, front foglights with static cornering lights and tire pressure monitoring.
Noise levels are low. The interior is a pleasant place to be and the isolation from wind and road noise ranks highly among the light car class.
Because the engine revs are kept low, freeway speeds are attainable with minimal noise or vibration.
Same goes for idle - the engine purrs away softly and is really only obvious as the start/stop system cranks back into life.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 34.96 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: All Polo models come standard with stability control and traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist and six airbags (dual front, side, and full-length curtain front and rear) as well as Multi-Collision Braking, to prevent roll-on accidents in a collision.
Add the Driving Comfort Package and the Polo also gains adaptive cruise control, a Driver Fatigue Detection System, City Emergency Braking, plus auto lights and wipers.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The just-landed new Mazda2 features a very slick interior with sophisticated electronics. Renault offers the very seductive Clio in either luxo Dynamique or sporty GT spec.
The Toyota Yaris ZR has had a recent facelift too, and this time it’s certainly not for shy types. Ford’s Fiesta Sport teams a zingy 1.0 litre engine with sharp dynamics.
- Renault Clio Dynamique and GT (all-new)
- Mazda2 Genki (all-new)
- Toyota Yaris ZR (update landing soon)
- Ford Fiesta Sport (recently updated)
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Polo is impressive buying. The generous equipment list, well-built interior and on-road 'zing' make this a very appealing car. Volkswagen is also to be commended for the broad inclusion of advanced safety.
Although it costs extra to add ‘the lot’, the price of additional safety features like radar cruise control (in a light car) and city braking are within reach of most.
And that’s on top of a vehicle that drives well, with a strong engine and really good handling.
Shoppers looking for a little more in a light car than just the basics should find the Polo 81TSI Comfortline a comfortable match to their discerning needs.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
The 2015 Volkswagen Polo range is available now, with retail pricing as follows:
- Polo 66TSI Trendline 5MT: $16,290
- Polo 66TSI Trendline 7AT: $18,790
- Polo 81TSI Comfortline 6MT: $18,290
- Polo 81TSI Comfortline 7AT: $20,790
- Metallic paint: $500
- Driver Comfort Package: $1500
- Sport Package: $1500
MORE: Polo News and Reviews