It’s not hard to see why the Polo is an award-winning car. Motoring Writer KEITH WARD understands why it has enjoyed the sweet taste of success.
NOW into its fifth generation, the Polo seems to have been around as long as its namesake mint with the hole. The four-wheeled version has been crowned European Car of the Year, World Car of the Year and, in BlueMotion form, World Green Car of the Year.
The current Polo is longer and wider than its predecessor, with a substantial increase in track. It’s also lower, giving it, say VW, a “more purposeful appearance and dynamic stance.”
Despite the fact the car is not as tall as before, head as well as leg and shoulder-room are all improved, meaning it can accommodate five average-sized adults. It stands 229 mm or about nine inches shorter than its Golf sibling, with a family resemblance. It is considerably lighter than the model it replaced, contributing to improved fuel economy and emissions.
The standard Polo offers a choice of six engines – four petrol and two diesel – and three trim levels in a formidable 30-strong range priced from £10,085 (three-door 1.2S) to £19,560 (five-door 1.4 GTI automatic).
We tried the 1.4-litre, 85 PS petrol-engined version in mid-range Match trim, at £13,370. All versions come with four airbags, ABS and, for the first time, ESP (Electronic Stabilisation Programme) as standard.
Match features run to such as heated electric mirrors, electric windows all round, front fogs, six-speaker audio, USB and iPod connectors, tinted rear windows, 15-inch alloys, manual air con, height-adjustable front seats and matt chrome touches around the otherwise sombre, but tasteful, cabin. The intermittent setting for the wipers was not working on our car,
The rear divided seats lift and tip forward (with unseemly exposure of their foam innards) to form a flat extension of the normal boot floor. This itself cleverly hides an equal-area lower level. So you get a handy boot “cellar” 140 mm deep.
On the road, the handling and general feel of the Polo is as solidly dependable as you would expect in a VW.
From the 85 PS 1.4, performance through a clean five-speed gearbox is adequate if not inspiring, so overtaking on the open road needs careful planning. At 70 mph in top it spins at a relaxed 3,000 rpm.
In our hands it returned slightly better than its official combined mpg figure, not generally the case. CO2 emissions at 139 g/km oblige you to fork out £120 for the annual tax disc, which you could avoid by opting for the slower BlueMotion, 75 PS, 1.2-litre diesel emitting 91 g/km. But you’d be paying more at the pumps, of course.
An extra fitted to our car, adding £840 to the price, was VW’s impressive RNS 310 touchscreen navigation system with a five-inch colour screen, SD card reader and AUX-in socket for an external multimedia device. More evidence of the “poshing-up” of what used to be modestly furnished minis. And for the Polo, a sweet benefit.
THE VITAL STATISTICS
Model: Polo Match 1.4 5-dr hatchback
Size: Supermini; length 3,970 mm; width 1,682; ht 1,462
Boot: Length 620 ext to 1,230 mm; width 960; vol 280 to 952 litres; rear sill 700 mm
Engine: Petrol; 1,390 cc; 4-cyl; 16v; 5-speed
Power: 85 PS @ 5,000 rpm; max torque 97 lb ft @ 3,800 rpm
Performance: 110 mph; 0-62 in 11.9 secs
MPG: On test 48.1; official combined 47.9 mpg
CO2: 139 gm/k; band E; tax disc £120
Insurance: Group 9E
Warranty: 36 mths/60,000 mile; 36 mths pain; 12 yrs anti-rust; 12 mths breakdown
PRICE: £13,370; as tested incl sat-nav, alarm, mats leather st wheel £14,670