I have a confession to make- this review is about my wife’s choice of wheels. As a hopeless car nut, my dreams contain soaring Italian V8s, planet-sized brakes and the smell of an E Type’s leather. The 2014 Volkswagen Polo Comfortline has none of these things, and that suits my partner just fine. Just don’t think that this makes it a boring appliance. Indeed appreciating its simple charm for a week makes it hard to justify that a more expensive car would meet my needs any better. What a joy that affordable motoring in the 21st century no longer means gutless, uncomfortable, ‘A to B’ style dungers.
The core of what makes the Polo so enjoyable to drive is its engine. It may only be endowed with 1.2L and the world’s smallest turbocharger but this is a motor with soul. It’s 77kW of power is more than enough to motivate the 1088kg Polo but what’s key to the experience is the 175Nm of torque available from all the way from 1550-4100rpm. This low down drivability makes the Polo as effortless on the open road as in the cut and thrust of city traffic. All this is made easier by the accurate 6 speed manual transmission and precise clutch. There’s even a pleasant ‘zing’ to the sound enhanced by class-leading NVH levels. Four wheel disc brakes (one of only a few small cars with these) provide reassuring stopping power.
Despite performance (8.8sec to 100km/hr) that would have qualified it as a hot hatch only a decade ago, the Polo is Scrooge-like in its disdain for wasting petrol. My wife is a busy lady and spends most of her commute with the foot welded to the floor, and yet its seemingly impossible for the fuel consumption to exceed 6L/100km. 800km per tank is easy, and that means less time idling in petrol station forecourts and more time for the important things in life.
The Polo’s weak link is its steering. Overly light and slow with almost 3 turns lock to lock, it’s kickback free but doesn’t inspire confidence with limited feel. My wife’s model has the optional Sports Package- $1500 buying you firmer springs/dampers, tire pressure monitoring and a very attractive set of 17 inch alloy wheels. The grip that they provide allows impressive cornering grip without ruining the ride. I’m going to have to minus a point for non-switchable stability control though.
The Polo remains class leading in the presentation of its interior. The seats are well padded and pleasingly trimmed. They team with height adjustment and a fully rake/reach adjustable wheel to ensure anyone can find the perfect driving position. The wheel is leather trimmed and features intuitive audio controls. There is a quality feel to all the major touch points and after 20000km everything remains as solid as day one. I dislike that connecting a phone requires a price gouging adaptor but that pales in my hatred for the Bluetooth system. I could forgive the mutant pod sprouting from next to the audio system if it at least worked reliability but half the time it has difficulty switching on or connecting requiring a manual reset. I’m pleased to see that Volkswagen has addressed this in the recent Polo update. In the back you’ll find room for two adults, ISOFIX child seat points and the boot offers both 250L of space and a clever split floor that is a boon for storing items out of sight.
There has been a lot of discussion regarding Volkswagen quality in recent years and with certain models (especially the 1.4L twin charger/DSG combo) issues are hard to deny. I’m happy to report that this Polo has been fault free throughout. With servicing capped at $394 pa it might not be as cheap as the class leaders but it’s certainly not extortionate either. My advice for those who can is to choose the sweet-shifting manual and avoid any DSG related reliability concerns altogether.
Versus the competition, the Polo scores major points with my lady for performance, interior quality and fuel consumption. The six speed transmission is a boon for noise levels on highway commutes too. It’s a small car that doesn’t feel stingy or slow, and one which can bring a smile to my face with every blat down a back road. Rather than just being a user of cars, isn’t that what being a driver is all about?