Polo 1.6 TDI SEL 5-door
beaten to the title of
International Car of the Year,
the new Volkswagen Polo is in
reality a scaled-down version of
the highly praised Golf...
WITH CUSTOMERS DOWNSIZING because of the economic climate and the huge short-term
success from the Scrappage campaign, the Polo has been catapulted into fourth
position of the UK's new car sales Top Ten chart so I'm taking
a closer look at the product.
I had originally tested the first five-door Polo models last September and now
three-door models have joined the line-up and more engine options, including
BlueMotion versions, are on their way.
One of the issues about testing new models at a media introduction is that you
can only have a relatively short time behind the wheel and so you only gain
a snapshot of what the car is all about good, bad and indifferent. However,
to get a clearer picture sometimes it is advisable to spend more time behind
the wheel and that is what I have done with the Polo, especially as the car
just felt so good and worthy of considerable praise.
Initially VW suggested 60% of UK Polo sales would go to retail buyers but that
figure has probably been higher because of the Scrappage campaign. Around 60%
of Polo customers will choose a five-door model simply because it is more practical.
Trim and equipment levels are S, Moda, SE and SEL and all models include, as
standard, a five-star EuroNCAP safety rating, ABS braking and an ESP handling
The frisky but noisy 1.2-litre petrol engines will be the best sellers because
of their lower purchase price but the 1.4-litre petrol unit, because it offers
more power and torque and is smoother, would be my choice. Around 16% of Polo
customers will opt for a diesel engine but to make this a wise decision customers
really have to cover a high annual mileage. Yes, the diesel unit's fuel economy
is better and the BIK company car tax and road tax are lower but the purchase
price for a 1.6-litre TDI 89bhp engine over a 1.4-litre petrol 84bhp unit is
£1,445 more. Currently the Polo range starts at £9,910 and tops out at £15,775.
For anybody covering less than 20,000 miles a year my recommendation is to buy
the Polo five-door in SE trim and equipment level with the 1.4-litre petrol
engine which carries a 'sticker' price of £13,030 with a manual gearbox. An
auto option adds £1,200.
However to get my longer Polo 'fix' Volkswagen kindly sent me a five-door 1.6-litre
TDI 89bhp diesel in top of the range SEL specification which carries a significant
price tag of £15,775. The same specification model with a 1.4-litre (and more
lively) petrol engine is £14,330.
or diesel powered, the new Polo is well balanced: it feels strong, well made,
safe and offers a good mix of comfort, agility and control. The new models are
also larger than the previous Polo and the equipment levels are high so they
will appeal to downsizing customers. In fact, the Polo is just like a smaller
edition Golf in both looks and driveability. Talking of looks, it certainly
looked impressive parked on my driveway yet another good reason to test
a new model for a bit longer and at home!
new Polo is well
balanced: it feels
strong, well made, safe
and offers a good mix
of comfort, agility
However, the 1.6-litre 89bhp diesel version was a disappointment something
you can only find out when you live with a car for day-in-day-out motoring as
opposed to a short snapshot drive. Because the drivetrain is so highly geared
(for the best possible 'official' fuel economy figures and the lowest possible
CO2 emission figures to optimise road tax and BIK charges), this diesel-powered
model was very hard work.
Even the 170lb ft of torque from 1,500rpm wasn't enough for this engine to be
remotely responsive in fourth and especially fifth gears except during motorway
driving. The car needed to be pushed along all the time and even in slow urban
traffic it was never eager to please and required constant use of the gearbox.
I generally like diesel engines because they are fuel-frugal and responsive.
However, both the PSA Peugeot-Citroen and the Renault-Nissan diesels of this
capacity are all much better to drive than the Polo and just as economical.
Officially this model will return 65.7mpg in the Combined Cycle; my test car
achieved 58.3mpg at best for a 230mile motorway journey at legal speeds. At
worst, the car returned 48mpg for local driving. For the record the CO2 emissions
are a low 112g/km which currently means a £35 road tax charge but under the
new First Year VED rate this makes the Polo exempt although for the second year
onwards this goes back up, to £30.
Against: High purchase price not offset by low running costs and tiring to drive
on long journeys due to the high gearing that dulls the engine's potential.
For: A Polo that looks as good as a Golf, more interior space, better built,
better equipped and with better balance than previous models, high residual
values. All things considered the Polo is a very good supermini, probably the
best, but unfortunately not with this diesel engine. David Miles
Volkswagen Polo 1.6 TDI SEL 5-door | £15,775
Maximum speed: 112mph | 0-62mph: 11.5 seconds | Overall test MPG: 48-58.3mpg
Power: 89bhp | Torque: 170lb ft | CO2 112g/km | Insurance group 13E