Design and Engineering

Design and Engineering

Good The fifth generation Volkswagen Polo arrived Down Under in May 2010 with a mature and simplistic design - a refreshing difference over most other Supermini’s. It is now larger than ever before (almost the same size as a Golf from the 1990’s), more rigid, stronger and safer, yet also lighter. Build quality appears excellent, the doors close with a reassuring ‘thud’ like sound and we love how the large VW badge on the rear of the Polo flips to open the hatch (just like in the Golf).
Not so good The restrained design is almost the opposite of the competing Ford Fiesta (a far more radical shape), however this has enabled Volkswagen to target male buyers equally, rather than most brands which focus solely on females when advertising Supermini’s. The entry level Trendline grade makes do with undersized 14 inch steel wheels (in comparison the optional sports package on the Comfortline grade = fantastic looking 17 inch alloy wheels).
Interior and Styling

Interior and Styling

Good Significantly improved cabin design and quality over the previous generation, lots of soft touch dash plastics and useful storage compartments = a small car footprint with true big car refinement. Up front visibility is excellent and cabin room is great. All grades feature a steering wheel that adjusts for both rake (up and down) and reach (in and out), remote central locking, classy white lit instruments, hill-start assist and heated and electric exterior mirrors. The Comfortline grade’s additions include cruise control, a multi-function steering wheel, passenger reading lights, front centre armrest, front-seat map pockets and a multi-function trip computer – with this level of trim and at this price point, no competitors feel as premium inside. Boot space is 10 litres larger than the previous model (now 280 litres) and grows to 952 litres with the 60/50 split folding rear seat folded down.
Not so good As with the exterior the interior design is restrained from ‘flashiness’, so some may find it a little dull (but not us); the door trims are finished in hard plastic rather than the lovely soft touch ‘rubbery’ plastic on the dash; the Trendline grade misses out on the more expensive Comfortline’s aluminium-look trim surrounds as well as the upgraded audio system and a leather-clad steering wheel = the entry level grade doesn’t feel as special inside.
Performance

Performance

Good A wide selection of engines to choose from (all with four cylinders) – the entry level 1.4 Trendline is fitted with an updated version of the previous 1.4L petrol engine with 63kW of power and 132Nm of torque; the 77TSI Comfortline (likely to be the top selling grade) uses the companies new 1.2L turbocharged petrol engine with an impressive 77kW and 175Nm and the 66TDI Comfortline employs a 1.6L turbo diesel engine with 66kW and a healthy 230Nm. The 'hot-hatch' GTI grade features a super-charged and turbo-charged 1.4L petrol engine with an addictive 132kW and 250Nm! All grades are available with a five speed manual gearbox (apart from the 77TSI which is fitted with a smooth shifting six speed manual) or a seven speed DSG (dual clutch) automatic transmission. The 1.4 Trendline is willing and remains quiet when cruising at highway speeds; the 77TSI’s 1.2L engine is very impressive, offering excellent mid-range punch (thank the healthy torque levels), is happy to cruise around town at low revs (truly amazing for such a small engine), feels super smooth and offers a lovely amount of punchy ‘oomph’; the 66TDI’s engine is surprisingly quiet (on the move), produces bucket load of torque when pushed, yet offers excellent economy. The GTI is one FAST little supermini!
Not so good The 1.4L Trendline grade sounds a little coarse at high revs and lacks torque – think twice before overtaking on a hill or with a full load aboard; the 77TSI’s 1.2L engine decreases in power above 5,500rpm so no point in revving to the 6,000rpm limit (however this is almost a mute point as the 77TSI is no hot hatch – ‘rev heads’ should wait for the upcoming Polo GTI). The 66TDI turbo diesel sounds a touch gruff at times and the accelerator pedal must be pushed right down into the carpet to feel the full force of 230Nm of torque. Whilst we’re fans of the trick DSG gearbox, it can be a little sensitive to throttle inputs at initial takeoff.
Ride and Handling

Ride and Handling

Good Suspension follows typical Supermini segment norms by employing MacPherson struts and coil springs up front and a Torsion beam axle, trailing arms and coil springs in the rear; steering is an electro-hydraulically powered rack and pinion set-up; the brake system uses 256mm by 22mm vented discs up front and 230mm by 9mm solid discs out back. Great all round ride and handling balance; the ride across all grades is smooth and comfortable, the handling is relatively nimble with well dampened suspension, the 77TSI grade’s handling with the optional low profile 17 inch tyres becomes almost sports like. But the strongest praise goes to the very high level of refinement – engine noise is impressively muted and road noise is kept to a very low level in the cabin (better than a number of vehicles from the size up small and even the medium passenger segment).
Not so good The suspension has been set up more for comfort than class leading handling, as a result the Polo doesn’t quite match the benchmark set by the Ford Fiesta (or Mazda 2) in dynamic capabilities. And whilst the suspension is comforting over rough secondary roads it can result in a little too much bounce. Driving enthusiasts will note the steering lacks sufficient feedback and can feel a little vague (but to be honest how many Polo’s are going to be driven as if they are on a racetrack), for regular day to day driving the steering is suitably light and easy to turn.
Buying and Owning

Buying and Owning

Good Class leading five-star safety – all Polo grades come standard with six airbags, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control. Expect resale rating for this generation Polo to remain impressively high for a number of years going forward; compared to the previous Polo this one has higher specification levels yet is priced lower. We think the best value Polo’s are the two Comfortline grades rather than the entry level (three doors only) Trendline grade, Volkswagen obviously agree as they forecast approximately 85% of sales to the Comfortline 77TSI and 66TDI grades.
Not so good The least expensive five door Polo is almost three thousand dollars more expensive than a number of entry level five door competitors (however, if you compare features and standard safety items the price difference drops fast). The 77TSI grade requires more expensive premium unleaded fuel; metallic paint is a five hundred dollar option.