- Efficient and punchy turbo engines
- Well-appointed cabin feels special
- Quiet and comfortable to drive
- No three-cylinder motor offered
- Handling still not as sporty as the Fiesta
- Reversing camera a pricey option
Volkswagen has applied a number of updated to the Polo, to keep it at the front of the small hatchback pack.
Already an excellent choice among hatchbacks, Volkswagen's latest updates extend the Polo's position as the most refined of the European city cars. The changes on the surface are limited – you'd have to be a real trainspotter to pick the freshened fascia and updated light graphics. In fact, the best work on the updated Polo has been done under the bonnet, and in the cabin. Chasing Cars drove the new Polo across Burgundy, in France's east.
ChasingCars.com.au borrowed this vehicle for our Volkswagen Polo review:
- 2015 Volkswagen Polo 66TDI Comfortline (top trim), with the 1.4-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder and five-speed manual, in Pepper Grey with black cloth, priced around $22,000 on road.
When it comes to pleasure behind the wheel, the more adventurous city cars are the Ford Fiesta and the Peugeot 208 – both of which have foregone their fourth cylinder in favour of perky and economical turbo three-cylinders. So has the Polo – but only in Europe. Volkswagen Australia has remained conservative, and for 2015, sadly, the Polo will miss the new petrols. Instead, it will be offered with a single 1.2-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol. However, there will be two states of tune.
The entry-level 66TSI, so named for its 66 kilowatts, is perfectly refined in town, where the turbocharger and the healthy 160Nm of torque mask any power deficiencies. This motor can feel a little breathless on hills and on the highway, though, where both gearboxes rely on their lower gears to extract enough boost. That can make the driving experience a little noisy.
In the absence of diesels for 2015, the Polo is best with the faster 81TSI, which matches 81kW of power with 175Nm of torque. With just 1.1 tonnes to move, this engine is capable in a variety of driving situations, while matching the combined economy figure of the 66 – just 4.8L / 100km.
The Polo's chassis remains stiff, but the handling errs on the side of being easy to drive in town. The Polo's sporting aspirations are limited. You can option up a Sport pack which adds bigger wheels, but there's no increase in power to compensate for the drop in ride quality. A six-speed manual is standard, but we recommend the seven-speed double clutch automatic. Volkswagen have sorted the jerkiness of earlier iterations of this gearbox, and it's now a great option for town use.
The Polo defies its size over imperfect roads, where it proves it is capable of soaking up bumps, potholes and ruts with aplomb. Road and wind noise is pleasingly low. It's in areas like this that you know you're in a Volkswagen.
The previous Polo felt more special inside than its major rivals – the Ford Fiesta, Mazda 2, and Toyota Yaris. For 2015, the best parts of the new Golf are passed down to the smaller of the two brothers. The result is a cabin that is seriously quite refined: we've come to expect a lot from Volkswagen, but with a large, standard touchscreen, driver-inclined dash, and abounding soft touch materials, the Polo does an excellent job of imitating something much more expensive.
The seat patterns have been moderately revised, and the accommodation up front remains perfectly comfortable for use around town – although, on our longer test route through the Côte d'Or in the east of France, the lower cushions did feel a little hard after the hundredth kilometre. Most drivers find getting comfortable very easy, though, thanks to an abundance of seat and steering wheel adjustment. It's a shame that the plastics that surround the gearstick, where the driver's knee naturally lies, are too hard to rest against.
Opt for the five-door model and you'll be surprised at the generosity of room in the back: while this may be a city car, children and smaller adults benefit from decent headroom and adequate legroom. Visibility for all is good, with large windows letting a good amount of light in.
Some small cars woo buyers with swooping, modern shapes and lines. The Polo is not one of these cars. Its traditional shape is criticised for some for its conservatism – but what it allows is practical space for both passengers and cargo. As a result of the higher and longer roofline, there is more room in the Polo's boot than in most competitors: with the seats up, 280 litres; drop those, and this expands to an admirable 952 litres. There's also a false floor system in the boot to ease loading shopping, or alternatively, to create more room for suitcases.
Efficient use of space within the cabin make the Polo feel spacious: the dash is a scaled-down version of the Golf's, and while key features lie close at hand, the fascia is shallow, affording more space for the knees of the front passengers.
The car is narrow, though, and cubby space does suffer, with a narrow bin between the front seats. The door bins are flexible enough to support smaller water bottles, though. The glove box is chilled, which is great for keeping a drink relatively cool.
You do need to be realistic about what you can carry in the Polo with all five passenger seats in place, but two stacked small suitcases would be possible; the weekly groceries or a couple of school bags would be swallowed with ease.
RELIABILITY & RUNNING COSTS
The Polo carries Volkswagen's German badge, but it is actually constructed in South Africa. This isn't uncommon among premium vehicles, though – the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class also hails from the southern tip of the African continent. So, you needn't worry too much about quality. Volkswagen's servicing arrangements for the new Polo are comprehensive. A capped price regime lasts for a generous six years, with servicing an annual occasion (or every 15,000 kilometres), priced at $490 per visit.
The Polo's five-star crash rating from both ANCAP and Euro NCAP remains. Six airbags protect you passively; electronic stability control and brake distribution are standard. Both manual and automatic models benefit from a hill holding assistant. It's a shame, though, that a reversing camera is only available as part of the expensive $1,500 Driver Comfort package. It's unacceptable that the camera is not standard equipment.
The ultra-frugal diesel models, like the 66TDI we drove in France, will not be coming to Australia: instead, a single petrol engine will be available, in two states of tune: a 66kW model, and a feistier 81kW range-topper. Both claim 4.8L/100km on the combined cycle if equipped with the automatic. Your mileage will vary, but with the diesel we managed in the mid-fours, making us a little disappointed the oil-burners won't be making their way here.
VALUE FOR MONEY
It would be very unfortunate to leave the Polo off your shopping list if you are in the market for a city car. No, they're not fashion forward, but they're well-built, they drive well, and they represent pretty good value.
Choosing a model isn't too difficult: there are two engines. The most basic, the 66TSI Trendline, is a little light on equipment, but it is available in manual guise for a very competitive $16,000 on road. It's better to spend a bit more on the 81TSI Comfortline, available for $19,490 in manual, and $21,990 with a dual-clutch automatic.
Options are limited to metallic paint (tick), the Driver Comfort package ($1,500, bundling a crucial reversing camera with some intelligent safety features, plus automatic headlights and climate control), and the Sport package ($1,500, mainly adding bigger wheels that make ride quality a little worse, but they look cool).
If you do miles on the open road, take the 81TSI Comfortline auto with the Driver Comfort package. If you're looking for a basic city runabout, basic motoring is cheap and cheerful in a 66TSI Trendline manual.
Ford Fiesta Sport EcoBoost ($22,525 list | $26,225 on road): the Ford uses a superb three-cylinder turbo petrol that has a well-earned reputation for fun and efficiency. The handling is also top-class. The Fiesta's interior packaging is dating fast.
Mazda 2 Maxx Sport ($18,580 list | $22,057 on road): the Mazda 2 is about to be replaced with an all-new model, which will be highly competitive inside and out against the Polo. In the mean time, the outgoing car can be had with deep discounts if you like its cute style.
Toyota Yaris ZR ($22,690 list | $26,227 on road): while it's $2 more expensive than the Ford, and like the Polo, it's had a recent update, the Toyota feels neither as special, nor as sophisticated, as either the Ford or the Volkswagen.
|Power||81kW @ 5600rpm|
|Torque||175Nm @ 1400–4000rpm|
|Power to weight ratio||70kW / tonne|
|Fuel consumption (combined)||4.8L / 100km|
Transmission and Drivetrain
|Drivetrain||Front wheel drive|
Dimensions and Weights
|Cargo space (seats up)||280L|
|Cargo space (seats down)||952L|