VOLKSWAGEN'S new Polo, its latest weapon in a considered attack on the competition, will be available at dealerships this weekend and the manufacturer has good cause to be excited.
Packed with classy inclusions and ground-breaking technology, this new car has been designed with both driver enjoyment and efficiency in mind. There are just two variants - the 66TSI and 81TSI - in manual and DSG dual-clutch auto transmissions, a reflection of a concerted effort to simplify the range and the choices on offer.
There is no diesel, which accounted for 15% of the run-out model's sales, with Volkswagen citing improved petrol economy figures as the basis for their decision.
The interior of the new Polo owes much to its Golf 7 bigger brother, with that influence evident in the new centre stack, flat bottom steering wheel, the 3D instrumentation and the intuitive customisable MIB multimedia interface, operated though a 12.7cm touch-screen.
Plastics are generally soft-spring and textured, with the other materials and trim used adding to a surprising feeling of quality.
The entry-level Trendline is decidedly simpler and darker, but not oppressively so, while the Comfortline uses chrome highlights, seat trim and steering wheel controls to jazz up the funky factor.
Front seats are pretty supportive and comfortable across the shoulders and in the small of the back, while the rear pew appears flatter and unsurprisingly shorter under the thigh.
Head and legroom are pretty standard for this segment, with the back seat best suited to children.
On the road
To be honest I was not expecting the 1.2-litre direct injection engine to really impress, thinking that it was likely to fall short of the 1.4-litre multi-injection unit it replaces. But the surprise was pleasant in its entirety, as not only was the new Polo up to the task but it also managed to deliver a zippy fun drive.
True, our launch course was not the most challenging of loops, but it did present the Polo with the tricky bits it would have to negotiate in everyday life, as well as a few sticky bits to keep it honest.
The steering wheel is comfortable in the hand and the Polo needs very little urging, with the electro-mechanical steering providing a tad more feedback than you would think. The car feels really well planted, giving the impression of a much larger vehicle and is nicely balanced, keeping its poise even when pushed sharply around corners. There was some whistling around the window seals but road noise is otherwise negligible, except in the 66TSI manual where the throaty engine sounds are a welcome soundtrack in the cabin.
The Polo makes light work of bumps and is easy to manoeuvre, a bonus in snarly city traffic. We loved the attitude of the entry-level manual tearing around Brisbane's hinterland with nary a care in the world. Interestingly, it managed adeptly with two adults even up steepish gradients but the 81TSI DSG, which doesn't dare miss a beat, would be our pick if your carry passengers.
What do you get?
The entry-level Trendline comes with enough of the basics to keep you fairly satisfied, including cruise control, height adjustable driver's seat, infotainment system with Bluetooth and audio connectivity, as well as SD card and USB, six-speaker stereo system, one-touch power windows, and ISOFIX child seat anchor points.
The Comfortline adds 15-inch alloys, steering wheel mounted audio controls, centre armrest with stowage bin, leather steering trim and gear knob, rear reading light and map pockets on the back of the front seats.
Five-star safety features number six airbags, stability control and hill-hold assist. Reverse sensors are a dealer-fitted extra.
The Comfortline has the option of the Safety Comfort Pack ($1500) which features Adaptive Cruise Control, automatic climate control air conditioning, automatically dimming interior rear-view mirror, Driver Fatigue Detection system, low tyre pressure indicator, rain sensing windscreen wipers and rear view camera with static guidance lines, and the Sport Package ($1500) which includes 17-inch Mirabeau alloy wheels, dark tinted rear side window and rear window glass, front fog lights with cornering function, low tyre pressure indicator and lowered sports suspension.
Fuel economy has improved by more than 20% on the outgoing model which is one of the main reasons Volkswagen has chosen not to run the diesel model in Australia. Claimed figures of 4.8L/100km and 4.9L/100km for the manual and DSG options are really amazing despite the fact that 95 RON is the fuel of choice.
The outgoing Polo was a firm favourite and this latest edition with a spunky new engine and new technologies is likely to build on that popularity. It is nippy and energetic, great around town and able to hold its own on longer drives too.
Storage options, as you would expect, are limited but do include a chilled glove box, door bins that take a reasonably sized bottle and cup holders. The boot grows from a useful 280 litres to 952 litres with the rear seats stowed, an adjustable luggage compartment floor making a handy addition.
Here too inspiration comes from the Golf 7 with the sharp dynamic lines and updated bumpers, but by and large it is a similar design. There are three new colours - blue, white and red metallic - all premium finishes which cost an extra $500.
This new Polo will certainly play more than a bit-part as Volkswagen strives for world domination. We don't like the fact that you no longer have the option of sat nav or that the reverse camera, even without the Comfort Pack, is not available in the Trendline.
But it is fun to drive, has great economy figures, is practical for a number of otherwise niche markets and is pretty gentle on the hip pocket too.
The DSG Comfortline is our pick but if the budget can only stretch to the manual 66TSI, you will not be disappointed.
What matters most
What we liked: Value for money, fun drive, efficiency.
What we'd like to see: Reverse camera and sensors as standard across the range, option for sat nav.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Capped price servicing is available, costing about $490 for each service, with intervals annually or 15,000km.
Model: Volkswagen Polo.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive light-size hatch.
Engine: 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol generating maximum power of 66kW @ 4400-5400rpm and peak torque of 160Nm @ 1400-3500rpm; 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol 81kW @ 4600-5600rpm and 175nm @ 1400-4000rpm.
Transmission: Five-speed manual and seven-speed DSG automatic in 66TSI; Six-speed manual and seven-speed DSG automatic in 81TSI.
Consumption: 4.8 litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line: 66TSI (m) $16,290, introductory drive-away pricing $15,990, 66TSI (a) $18,790 ($18,490); 81TSI (m) $18,290 ($19,490); 81TSI (a) $20,790 ($21,990).