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Topping a winning formula

May 09 2018 08:42
Glenda Williams

When you’ve got a winning formula, it’s hard to better it. But Volkswagen might have done just that with its latest generation VW Polo. 

The locally built predecessor was a gem of a car. The new, sixth-generation VW Polo, also built locally, is even better.

Longer, lower, wider, more sporty-looking and offering advanced features like Blind Spot Monitor, Park Assist with Manoeuvre Braking, a Multi-Collision Braking System and LED headlights that are normally reserved for premium vehicle classes, the attractively priced Polo’s success looks set to continue. 

In South Africa the compact hatchback is a top seller in the passenger car segment, second only to sibling Polo Vivo. Aside from all it offers, it’s a nod to the superb build quality – inside and out. 

Along with the three standard Trendline, Comfortline and Highline trim lines, also offered are the special edition Polo beats (includes a 300-watt sound system), and R-Line package which features C-shaped front air curtains, side sills, boot spoiler, rear diffuser and 17-inch Bonneville alloy wheels).

The Trendline and Comfortline models come with an agile and efficient 70kW 1.0-litre turbo engine, while the Highline’s 85kw 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder mill offers added power and an additional 25Nm of torque. 

The performance-focused halo model, the Polo GTI, will launch in the second quarter.

Testing one of the more affordable of the five models in the one-litre Polo line-up, finweek took to the roads in the VW Polo 1.0 TSI Comfortline.

Outer appeal

The new VW Polo cuts a very handsome figure. That it looks a bit more Golf-like is bound to delight buyers in the Polo’s price range. 

This is the first Polo based on VW’s modular transverse matrix (MQB) platform that allows for more dynamic fashioning of its larger proportions.

The exterior is now more sporty and masculine. It’s longer by 81mm, wider by 69mm, and 8mm lower than the previous generation. 

The hatchback’s more dynamic and powerful silhouette boasts shortened overhangs, wheels repositioned further to the front and rear, longer roofline and rear roof spoiler. 

An arrow-shaped double line – dubbed the “tornado line” – that extends from the front wings to the tail lights, together with the long line of side windows reaching into the C-pillar, gives the new Polo an even lengthier appearance and visually lowers the centre of gravity.

The visage too has a more dominant stance. The bonnet extends further downward into the redesigned bumper.

Glass surfaces in the shape of headlights (now available with LED technology), fog lights and turn signal lights are plentiful. 

Also forming the revamped face are a new radiator grille, V-shaped air intake and secondary narrow intake that spreads across the entire width of the car. 

At the rear, new trapezoidal-shaped tail lights are worked into the shoulder, the horizontal line below them flowing into the bumper to underscore the car’s width.

Inner workings

Fresh design has not been limited to the exterior. New dashboard and cockpit layouts are a departure from the former generation. 

The previous vertically oriented dashboard is now horizontally styled with a slight angle that favours the driver. 

A harmonious flow of display and instruments includes the 6.5-inch colour infotainment display which is now higher and in the driver’s line of sight. 

This new Polo is also the first to sport digital instrumentation, which adds to the new look and feel.

The compact hatch boasts an impressive list of standard features. On the Comfortline this includes a connectivity package featuring Bluetooth and USB, the “plus” multi-function display, the composition colour infotainment system with six speakers, the leather-covered multi-function steering wheel, LED daytime running lights, front and rear electric windows, front and rear curtain airbags, automatic post-collision braking system and driver alert system.

Options fitted to the test vehicle included the car’s connectivity feature App Connect, which allows you to access apps like messaging, music and navigation on your smartphone, voice control with speed limiter, cruise control and composition media with iPod/iPhone interface, all of which worked efficiently and smoothly. 

Now wider and longer with improved cabin space, the cockpit is well insulated from road noise and offers good all-round visuals. 

It’s easier to get in and out of the rear too. That optimised entry and exit comes courtesy of the longer wheelbase.

Road act

VW’s MQB platform has been adapted for the new Polo. This brings improved body stiffness and enhanced crash properties even while body weight is unchanged, despite the new hatchback’s greater size. 

Superb body stiffness brings on-road stability and a cabin free of squeaks or rattles. The suspension too is bang on, unruffled by speed bumps or rutted roads and offering excellent ride quality.

The VW Polo 1.0 TSI Comfortline is a delight to drive, planted on the tar yet nimble when required. And given that the engine is no more than a one-litre, it is surprisingly sprightly and responsive. 

VWs new generation TSI engines with start-stop technology and regenerative braking bring improved power and torque output to the drive. 

The car’s small but extremely efficient and perky engine is more than adequate for a lively driving experience. 

Quick off the line with superb pull in first gear, the compact hatchback negotiates inclines decently, cruises effortlessly and has ample overtaking ability.

The manual five-speed gearbox is refined with slick gear changing and the clutch engagement is dynamically balanced with little exertion required to operate.

Keen to test the car with five adults to determine space and the effect of weight on performance, four adult humans piled in, my Labrador – seated regally in the rear – standing in for the fifth anthropoid.

Despite the added weight that included some goodies in the boot, the car performed admirably, even on inclines. 

Space, too, was generous, with ample legroom and headroom at the rear, a prerequisite for long jaunts. 

The week of the car test was marked by continuous rain and flooded roads and, one late afternoon, hail… lots and lots of hail. 

After I sought refuge in undercover parking waiting for the extreme conditions to abate, we were back on the sodden and somewhat icy roads. 

The short story is that the Polo’s windscreen wipers, headlights, demister and heater were all put to the test and worked a treat. 

And on-road performance in the wet with the car’s 15-inch alloy wheels was confidence inspiring. 

I have but two minor gripes. One has to do with low-down torque in second gear on inclines, and the other is the car’s noisy unlocking mechanism. 

Both of these trivial irritations, though, pale into insignificance given the vast number of superior attributes that this car offers.

Back in the day – no rolling eyes please, hear me out on this – things were made to last, the product of quality materials and precision workmanship. 

And with the VW Polo, this still holds true. That this comes with handsome design, top-notch fit and finish and advanced features in an affordable package is all the more appealing. 

This article originally appeared in the 10 May edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here, or sign up for our weekly newsletter here.

motoring  |  cars  |  auto industry
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