Polo looks a winner
THE battle for 2010 Car of the Year honours begins right here and now. The first serious contender is the new Volkswagen Polo, a mini-Golf with a starting price of $16,690.
It will have to battle a wide range of new stars, from the boxy Toyota Rukus and BMW’s classy GT to the Series II Holden Commodore VE.
The Polo has not done well in Australia, partly because it was too expensive and partly because the previous models were . . . well ... tinny little cars without much charisma.
The latest, fifth-generation, car changes the pattern. It has everything from clunk-close doors to impressive equipment and real driving enjoyment.
The basic engine doesn’t have much punch, and there’s steering kick over corrugations, but the new Polo finally shows similar strengths to last year’s carsGuide winner, the Golf.
Volkswagen Australia product marketing manager Vladan Dimic says: ‘‘We are confident we have created a car that is the right package for the target customer. We want it to be the third volume pillar in Australia after Golf and Tiguan.’’
The new Polo is a complete makeover, unlike the previous car, which was basically a facelift.
The body structure is new and stiffer, and it has the promise of five-star ANCAP safety, including six airbags and stability control. There are two petrol engines and a turbodiesel, and a seven-speed DSG manumatic gearbox.
Two bodies, three and five-door hatches, have Trendline and Comfortline equipment packages.
Volkswagen says the car has $1000 of no-cost safety equipment, as well as a remote control that can open and close the windows, white-lit dials and a new steering wheel. Yet prices are generally lower, by $300 in the case of the manual three-door Trendline that opens the batting.
The engines range from the 1.4-litre four with 63kW/ 132Nm to the 1.2-litre turbo with 77kW/175Nm and the 1.6-litre turbodiesel with 66kW/230Nm.
Both petrol engines have improved fuel injectors and an electric turbo wastegate.
It has a wider new suspension, MacPherson struts in the nose and a torsion beam axle in the tail, anti-skid four-wheel discs and alloy wheels on all but the base car.
The petrol engines use premium unleaded. Still, VW says economy is improved by up to 24 per cent and quotes 4.6 litres/100km consumption and 121g/km CO for its best performers.
Two optional equipment packs are available: the $900 comfort deal that includes rain-sensor wipers; and the $770 audio package with the Bluetooth phone connection that should be standard.
THE new Polo has more than ever before. You see it in the bigger body, feel it in the slightly roomier but much higher-quality cabin, and enjoy it in a car that is as good to drive as anything in the baby class — except my personal favourite, the Fiesta — and equal to the best on
quietness and refinement. The doors close with a thunk, the seats are supportive, the steering is light and direct, and the suspension soaks up most bumps and undulations without a drama.
It’s a European car with a Japanese starting price — though the five-door comes from South Africa— which means it will get on to a lot more shopping lists.
I drove all varieties of the new Polo and enjoyed the two extremes, the basic three-door with a 1.4-litre engine and the DSG turbodiesel five-door.
The starter car is quiet and responsive, though big hills show a lack of pulling power, and it rides best of the bunch, despite steel wheels.
I was not worried about a five-speed manual gearbox and I like the three-door body, though rival brands say it’s not a winner and VW only expects to sell one car in five without back doors.
The turbodiesel flagship is punchy and very well equipped, but you pay for the luxury.
And there is still a little kick through the steering on bumps, as well as suspension that feels a little bouncy at times.
But overall, there is a lot to like in the new Polo and very little to criticise.
Will it be carsGuide Car of the Year? Based on a relatively short first drive, it’s going to take a good car to beat it.
Right package: the well-performed Volkswagen Polo, with a bigger body, roomier feel and much higher-quality cabin, is a European car with a Japanese starting price.