GET AN UP­GRADE

VW POLO ADDS SPACE, SAFETY AND SO­PHIS­TI­CA­TION

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - JOSHUA DOWL­ING

Lit­tle won­der so many mo­torists are down­siz­ing: small cars are get­ting big­ger. The new Volk­swa­gen Polo is roomier than a Golf from 10 years ago, fit­ting in size — and price — be­tween city hatch­backs such as the Honda Jazz and small cars, among them the Toy­ota Corolla.

It starts from $17,990 drive-away for a man­ual and $20,490 drive-away for an auto, pric­ing it at the top end of its peers but still un­der­cut­ting most ve­hi­cles the next size up.

Ac­cord­ing to VW’s tape mea­sure, the new Polo has a big­ger boot than a Mazda3, Ford Fo­cus and Subaru Im­preza hatch, more head­room than a Kia Cer­ato and more shoul­der room than a Hyundai i30.

It’s no bare bones propo­si­tion, ei­ther. All mod­els — from the base Com­fort­line up — come with low and high-speed au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing with pedes­trian de­tec­tion, a rear cam­era hid­den be­hind the VW badge on the tail­gate, Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto in an eight-inch hi-res touch­screen, cruise con­trol, leather steer­ing wheel, dig­i­tal speed dis­play, two USB charg­ing ports and height ad­just­ment for both front seats.

The $22,990 drive-away Trend­line gains 15-inch al­loy wheels, au­to­matic head­lights, rain sens­ing wipers, auto dim­ming rear view mir­ror, il­lu­mi­nated van­ity mir­rors, front cen­tre arm­rest and map lights.

The $23,990 drive-away Launch Edi­tion gains 16-inch al­loy wheels, tinted rear glass, front fog lights, LED tail-lights and wire­less phone charg­ing.

The new Polo earns a five-star safety rat­ing when mea­sured against the lat­est cri­te­ria and VW has also made ad­vanced safety avail­able in a $1400 op­tion pack. The ex­tra tech in­cludes radar cruise con­trol with au­to­matic stop-and-go in traf­fic, blind zone warn­ing and rear cross traf­fic alert.

Its “ma­noeu­vre brak­ing” func­tion will au­to­mat­i­cally slam on the brakes when driv­ing in for­ward or re­verse up to 10km/h, such as in car parks.

A pleas­ant sur­prise in an in­dus­try in­creas­ingly fit­ting space-saver spares: the new Polo comes with a full-size spare on a 15-inch steel rim.

Less wel­come news for buy­ers on a bud­get: the new Polo — as with other VWs, most Euro­pean cars and some class ri­vals — still re­quires at least 95 RON pre­mium un­leaded. In re­turn, though, the miserly fuel con­sump­tion rat­ings are be­tween 4.8L and 5.1L/100km.

The tur­bocharged 1.0-litre may be smaller in

ca­pac­ity and have three cylin­ders rather than the pre­vi­ous engine’s four but it punches above its weight.

The base model gets 70kW/175Nm and dearer mod­els are boosted to 85kW/200Nm.

These fig­ures out­shine most di­rect ri­vals — in­clud­ing the Suzuki Swift turbo triple — and give cars in the next class up a run for their money.

The more pow­er­ful Polo has the same torque as a Mazda3 and 15 per cent more than a Toy­ota Corolla or Honda Civic.

Trans­mis­sion op­tions are a seven-speed dual-clutch auto, five-speed man­ual (70TSI) or a six-speed man­ual (85TSI).

Ser­vice in­ter­vals are 12 months/15,000km, which means most driv­ers will only need to take the car for rou­tine main­te­nance once a year.

The ser­vice costs have come down slightly ver­sus the pre­vi­ous Polo but they are still a touch on the high side ($1213 over three years for the auto, $1253 man­ual), al­though by no means the dear­est among its peers.

War­ranty is capped at three years, un­lim­ited kilo­me­tres; longer cover­age would be a wel­come de­vel­op­ment and help re­move any nig­gling doubts about long term re­li­a­bil­ity. For the war­ranty pe­riod, there is free 24-hour road­side as­sis­tance.

ON THE ROAD

Cars in the tiny tot class can feel and sound tinny, though they are the hard­est cars to man­u­fac­ture be­cause mak­ers want to save a dol­lar at ev­ery turn.

How­ever the new Polo feels grown up, not only in terms of size but also in the way it drives.

The cabin pre­sen­ta­tion also takes the Polo up a notch. It’s sur­pris­ingly quiet for a small car. The tiny engine isn’t rau­cous and there’s not much tyre noise in­side the cabin.

You can feel the sub­tle rum­ble of the three­cylin­der engine when you floor the ac­cel­er­a­tor but the engine it­self has more urge than you might ex­pect — and enough oomph to keep pace in the daily grind.

The more pow­er­ful engine feels a lit­tle more spritely but if the bud­get doesn’t stretch that far the 70TSI vari­ant will do just fine.

Pre­vi­ous VW twin-clutch autos have been prone to de­layed re­ac­tions and some shud­der on take-off and this has been largely ad­dressed with “wet clutch” tech­nol­ogy.

The Polo has a more rudi­men­tary “dry clutch” au­to­matic gear­box but most of the grem­lins ap­pear to have been ironed out. It shifts smoothly and the de­lays when mov­ing from rest are closer to con­ven­tional autos than they’ve been in the past.

On a cou­ple of tight U-turns on a smooth road, we could feel some vi­bra­tion through the steer­ing wheel; we’re un­sure whether this was a tyre rub­bing on the un­der­body or a trait of the axle de­sign, given the rel­a­tively tight turn­ing cir­cle.

Auto head­lights would be a wel­come ad­di­tion on the base model, es­pe­cially given the

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