Volkswagen Polo 2010 Review

Volkswagen Polo 2010 Review


One of the best things about playing mini golf is that you get much of the pleasure of golf only condensed down into a simpler form. While the concept of mini golf works well as an activity for dating teen couples it hasn’t always worked so well for Volkswagen’s Polo. The Polo model has been around for 35 years making it only slightly younger than its Golf big brother. The Golf has gone on to be one of the most successful cars in history while the Polo has seen solid sales but has still shivered in its shadow as a smaller, less attractive substitute. Now, the Polo has entered its fifth-generation and unlike the Mark VI Golf is an all-new vehicle designed entirely from scratch.

The new Polo was created as a poster boy for VW to show its current focus on technology and simple modern design. It’s working well with the new Polo already winning the European Car of the Year Award for 2010. Car and SUV had some seat time in the latest Polo to see just what makes it so special.

The Polo sits wider and lower than the previous model and has received the new VW corporate front grille. Slightly larger in every direction it still retains the look of a mini Golf but has simple, mature lines. The wide gaping air intake denotes a sense of purpose and there are some classy touches like L-shaped rear lighting and colour coded wing mirrors with integrated turn signals. There is a general feeling of quality to the Polo exterior with its ultra-bright paintwork, tight shut-lines and four doors that close with a reassuring thud.

In the cabin, quality is equally impressive with texturised soft touch plastics that would be at home in a vehicle twice the price. The Polo’s dashboard is conservatively styled in black with silver accents, it looks smart and all switchgear is thoughtfully laid out and easily operated on the fly. The seats are height-adjustable, supportive and on the NZ-spec Comfortline trim level are finished in a thick-stitched cloth. Interior space is excellent for a B-segment vehicle with front occupants well catered for in terms of shoulder and leg space. With four adults in the car the front seats will need to be adjusted to give the rear seat enough leg room for longer journeys, head room is ample all around. Luggage capacity is 280-litres in the hatch expanding out to a capacious 952 litres with the rear seats folded to create a flat floor. The rear floor can also be lowered or used to hide away items. Standard interior equipment includes climate air-con, cooled glove box, single disc CD stereo, heated electric mirrors, leather-covered steering wheel and hand brake, electric windows and a full size spare. Overall, the Polo has raised the bar on interior build quality for entry-model cars with and shows that VW’s commitment to style and refinement filters all the way down.

Here in NZ the Polo is currently available with a single engine option before a 1.2-litre TSI engine arrives in mid 2010. Till then, all new Polos come packing a 1.4-litre naturally aspirated 4-cylinder petrol engine, it produces 63kW of power and 132Nm of torque. It’s a spirited little motor that isn’t a rocket off the line but once up to pace moves with decent pace. There is however a noticeable lack of torque and with passengers onboard the Polo can labour when asked to climb hills or overtake with haste. On regular city duties the Polo performs with genuine pep thanks largely to VW’s slick 7-speed DSG transmission which draws out all available power from the small engine. The twin-clutch box is an intelligent piece of kit that delivers silky seamless changes and won’t hesitate to drop down two gears on demand. It may seem overkill for some to have a 7-speed transmission mated to a small engine but it works well and contributes towards a very impressive 5.8l/100km fuel economy.

On road the Polo is a smooth operator with a ride quality that is focused on comfort rather than sporty dynamics. The suspension tune and chassis set-up make for minimal fatigue on long trips but come at the cost of being able to throw the Polo round corners like rivals Mazda2 and the Ford Fiesta. However, there is plenty of grip on offer and the Polo stays composed during cornering only showing a tendency to understeer when pushed hard. The electro-hydraulic steering can be vague at times but is precise and responsive. Most buyers will be very happy with the Polo’s handling abilities and those who want a more sporty ride can always wait for the GTI variant.

The level of cabin refinement during driving is exceptional with a near silent engine, no wind noise and only minimal tyre noise entering the tranquil cabin. Most road bumps and dips don’t disturb occupants and with the front seats pushed back it’s easy to feel like you’re in a larger more expensive car. VW has said its goal with the Polo was to deliver a level of quality in visual and technical terms of a vehicle several classes higher. That’s been achieved.

In terms of safety the Polo has a 5 star Euro NCAP safety rating and comes equipped with a full Electronic stability control programme with ABS brakes, traction control and an electronic diff lock. There are front, side and curtain airbags ready to pop and a passenger airbag deactivation feature for child seats.

Bottom line, the Polo is a class act and it offers a new level of quality and refinement in a small hatchback. It has clean modern styling inside and out and smooth no-fuss driving characteristics that will suit most buyers in the segment. With the 1.4 engine it can’t quite match the fun dynamics of the Ford Fiesta or the power output of the Honda Jazz but it has a large car maturity and true German build quality. While it still shares its good looks with its bigger brother the Polo is more than just mini golf it’s rapidly becoming a stick-swinging sport all its own. Priced at $28,500 it’s at the higher end of the scale for a small hatch but you get a lot of technology, style, spaciousness and ride quality for the money. If you’re looking for a classy city car be sure to take a closer look.

Price: $28,500

What we like:

  • High level of quality and refinement
  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Sharp styling
  • Safety credentials

What we don’t like:

  • Light steering feel
  • Lacking funky fun appeal
  • Could handle a stronger engine

Words and Photos: Adam Mamo

Other reviews of interest (click link):

Toyota Yaris Edge (2010) — Road Test

Volkswagen Polo TSI (2010) — Road Test

Suzuki Alto (2010) — Road Test

Ford Fiesta Zetec (2009) — Road Test

Holden Barina (2009) — Road Test

Peugeot 207 XT (2009) — Road Test

Hyundai i30 2.0 Elite (2008) — Road Test

Volkswagen Polo (2010) – Specifications

Engine
Cubic capacity, litres/cm 31390
Max. output, kW(bhp) at rpm 63 @ 5000rpm
Max. torque, Nm at rpm 132Nm @ 3800rpm
Gearbox, standard 7-Speed DSG

Weights, kg
Min. unladen weight 1104

Top speed, kph
with automatic gearbox 177

Acceleration,
in seconds from 0-100 kph with automatic gearbox 11.9

Fuel consumption, litres/100 km
urban 7.7
extra-urban 4.7
combined 5.8

CO 2 emission, g/km135 – Euro 5

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