The Polo R-Line gives you a taste of what the hot Polo GTI might feel like, but with fewer trips to the petrol station and almost five grand remaining in your wallet. It only packs a 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine producing 66kW (figures that might cause us to point a finger in ridicule), but it manages to get the power down efficiently through the front wheels, accompanied by a satisfyingly raspy engine note.
The main focus of the R-Line is the styling, and VW has done an excellent job. It’s chiseled in the right places and every detail is coherent; it’s sporty, but in a very tasteful way.
It’s also very simple to drive, with the exception of its tendency to make the front wheels chirp with a small amount of wheelspin if you’re a bit vigorous with the throttle pulling away from the lights.
The Polo weighs a paltry 1129kg (unladen weight) which is why it feels so spritely despite its small engine. The 0-100kph time is quoted at 10.9. That’s actually quite slow and it feels quicker than this.
Fuel consumption is quoted at 5.3l/100km combined; on long out-of-town trips you should be able to easily duck into the mid 4-litres per 100km range.
You’ll control the car with a thick-rimmed, R-Line multifunction three-spoke steering wheel. The 7-speed DSG gearbox is (predictably) awesome and is always willing. Seventeen-inch wheels with 215/40R17 tyres are well-suited. The car doesn’t tramline, but does move around a bit on the softer suspension. Late braking into a tight corner feels like you might lift in the inside back wheel, but you’d need to be a maniac to want to do this. The tendency is for understeer if you push it hard.
At 3970mm long it’s relatively easy to find a park, but the omission of reversing sensors is a black mark in my opinion. Reversing sensors should be standard on all cars now, not just for helping with reversing, but for safety (e.g. warning of a toddler behind you, etc). You can, however, purchase this as an option (ParkPilot: $750). The overall safety rating is a 5-star EuroNCAP score as the Polo comes with Electronic Stabilisation Programme (ESP) with Antilock Braking System (ABS), Traction Control System (TCS), Electronic Diff Lock (EDL), Engine Braking Control (EBC) and hill hold control. Six airbags are included, too.
To help keep your car safe, an alarm and immobilizer are fitted as standard.
The boot isn’t huge, but does have a hidden compartment under the floor to segregate parts of your load, or provide a bit of extra security.
I had trouble connecting my iPhone 5 via Bluetooth. It wasn’t intuitive at all, bearing in mind I connect one or two cars per week to my phone and have experienced just about every kind of poorly designed automotive user interface known to Man. Our test model came with the $800 optional colour touchscreen version that comes as standard in the Polo TSI Highline.
The driver’s footwell initially seemed a little cramped but I got used to it after a couple of hours. Other than that, the driving position is great. The driver gets cruise control, height and rake adjustment on the steering wheel, and a pair of R-Line Kyalami / San Remo fabric upholstery sports seats in the front. These have a hidden drawer for valuables.
It’s not as sporty to drive as it is to look at, but it does strike a balance between comfort and poise. If you want better handling, drop the suspension with some aftermarket springs and you’ll have a car that looks the part and will hug the tarmac like a true hot hatch.
Price: range starts at $22,500. R-Line is $33,500. Top-of-the-line GTI is $38,250.
- Love the styling
- Handling is a good balance between comfort and sportiness
- Excellent economy figures
- Lacks features for the price (e.g. reversing sensors)
- Iffy Bluetooth implementation
Words and photos: Darren Cottingham