Motoring Review- Volkswagen Polo

Steve Walker takes a look at the Volkswagen Polo, recently declared European Car of the Year for 2010 ...

The fifth generation Polo has arrived but what can we expect from the latest version of Volkswagen’s flagship small car? The answer won’t surprise anyone who has followed the fortunes of VW over recent years: the fifth Polo is a lot like the preceding four – solid, stylish, excellently engineered and looking a lot like a little Golf. It also sets lofty standards that only the cream of the current supermini crop can hope to beat.

Volkswagen doesn’t appear too fond of big surprises. You can almost imagine what the marque’s new models will look like before they appear but then, they do generally turn out to be rather good. We’re told that the fifth generation Polo is sharper, safer, stronger, larger, more refined, more efficient and more technologically advanced than ever before and that it’s also lighter than the car it replaces. The Polo might not be flash or showy but it gets the job done and dislodging it from its position at or near the top of the supermini class is a thankless task.

The Polo engine range includes normally-aspirated and turbo petrol units as well as TDI common-rail diesels. The familiar 1.2-litre petrol opens proceedings and is offered in 60 or 70PS states of tune. That engine gets a five-speed manual gearbox but by stepping up to the 1.4-litre 85PS engine, customers secure themselves a six-speed manual and open up the option of the advanced seven-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic gearbox. You can also talk to your dealer about a clever 1.2-litre TSI engine which uses Volkswagen’s acclaimed turbocharging technology to develop 105PS. In the diesel range are two 1.6-litre TDI engines, the first with 75PS and the second with 90PS. Both get the five-speed manual gearbox.

Three and five-door Polo models follow on with the styling theme debuted on the Scirocco coup� and subsequently adapted for the MkVI Golf. The thin grille serves visually to widen and lower the car, giving it a more planted and sporty appearance. The lines are typical Volkswagen, clean and unfussy, the design team led by Walter De Silva playing upon VW’s classless image and steering well clear of the gimmicky styling devices we see elsewhere in the market. The car certainly looks compact and nugget but it’s also substantially larger than its predecessor. The track has been widened front and rear, the overall width is up by 32mm to 1,682mm and the height is dropped by 13mm to 1,454mm – all this proving that the Polo’s more dynamic stance isn’t merely a stylist’s illusion.

Naturally, this Polo’s more generous dimensions, including an overall length that’s up by 36mm to 3,952mm, equate to a more spacious interior than the previous generation car. Passengers benefit from increased leg and headroom as well as more space in the rear for luggage. There’s a 280-litre boot which increases to 952- litres when the rear seats are folded down. Volkswagen has worked on another low key but high quality cabin environment for the Polo with soft touch plastics and subtle aluminium detailing. Optional convenience features include an air-conditioned glovebox, an MP3 player connection point, a multifunction steering wheel and a touch screen satellite navigation system.

Volkswagen knows the cars the Polo has to beat and the manufacturers of those cars know the Polo is gunning for their products. The Polo traditionally retails at a slight premium over the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Renault Clio but its superior residual values, derived from the perceived and actual quality of the product plus the brand equity attached to the VW badge, help make it competitive.

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Engine and trim level availability is the same for three- and five-door models. This means the starting point for the range is the 1.2-litre 60PS engine in S trim. An S A/C model is offered as an option adding climatic air conditioning. Moving up the range takes buyers to SE and Moda, and then to SEL with the highest level of specification. Three petrol engines (1.2-litre 60 and 70 PS and 1.4-litre 85 PS) and two diesels (1.6-litre 75 and 90 PS) are currently available.

A detailed safety specification is always included on the Polo but this model is the first to fit ESP stability control as standard. There are also four airbags, ABS brakes and ISOFIX anchor points for child safety seats. As you ascend the range, more safety equipment becomes available.

This Polo, despite its increased dimensions, is 7.5 per cent lighter than the old model. That’s going to bring advantages in terms of handling and performance but also in the area of economy. The high-tech engines will also help lower costs and Volkswagen has a trademark BlueMotion derivative in the pipeline that offers super low economy through use of more advanced features. The BlueMotion Polo uses Stop-Start technology to cut the engine when it’s stationary, regenerative braking to recycle energy and keep the battery topped up, a longer ratio gearbox, improved aerodynamics and low rolling resistance tyres. The result is a stunning 85mpg and CO2 emissions of 87g/km.

In many respects, the Polo might be more of the same from Volkswagen but this is a company built on continuity and the painstakingly evolved MKV car is that continuity made metal. Supermini buyers seeking some extra quality, class and prestige will continue to find the Polo happy to oblige.

Facts at a Glance                                                                                                       Car: Volkswagen Polo                                                                   Prices: �9,435-�14,910 – on the road                                                Insurance Groups: 2-4                                                                    CO2 Emissions: 112g/km-139g/km                                                    Performance: [1.2] 0-60mph 16.1s/top speed 98mph                       Fuel Consumption: (urban) 38.7mpg/(extra urban)62.8mpg/(combined) 51.4mpg                                                                                    Standard Safety Features: four airbags, ABS, ESP                                Will it fit in your garage? 3970mm long, 1682mm wide, 1462mm high

Available at TL Darby Brigade House, New Street, Burton on Trent, Staffs, DE14 3QW Tel: 01283 531331

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