The updated Volkswagen Polo will launch in Australia in September without a diesel engine due to low demand for the outgoing oiler and efficiency improvements for the petrol engine.
Volkswagen Australia confirmed its switch to a petrol-only line-up for the facelifted Polo at the city car’s international launch in Munich, Germany, this week. It will be the first time a diesel Polo hasn’t been offered in Australia since 2005.
The decision pass on the all-new 1.4-litre three-cylinder turbo diesel engine in the Polo means the cheapest diesels in the Volkswagen’s local range will be the van-based Caddy Life 250TDI at $29,990 and the Golf 110TDI at $34,790.
Volkswagen Australia communications general manager Karl Gehling says the company anticipated an overwhelming customer preference for the turbo petrol engine in the refreshed Polo line-up, hence its decision to leave the diesel out of the range.
“The diesel take-up with Polo is so small,” Gehling said. “As fuel economy of the petrols gets better and better there’s less take-up on the diesels.
“The reduction in fuel consumption means we see that there is even less likely to be demand for a diesel, especially in Polo. In smaller cars the difference between the most efficient diesel and the most efficient petrol … the gaps are tiny.
“We never rule anything out, but at this stage we’re not planning to bring it.”
The local division will also ignore the tiny 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine inherited from the Up! micro car, believing the non-turbo 44kW and 55kW units aren’t right for the Polo in our market.
The new three-cylinder diesel engine produces identical power and torque figures to its 1.6-litre four-cylinder predecessor, though its 66kW is available 700rpm earlier at 3500rpm and its peak torque band expands to 1500-2500rpm (previously 1750-2500rpm).2
In Europe, the engine is also available in a less powerful 55kW/210Nm tune, and in the efficiency-focused Polo 66TDI Bluemotion variant, which incorporates aerodynamic enhancements and other fuel-saving measures to reduce consumption to just 3.1L/100km, which Volkswagen says makes it the most frugal five-seat diesel car in the world.
CarAdvice had the opportunity to drive the new Polo 66TDI back-to-back with the new 66TSI petrol variant in Germany this week.
Unsurprisingly the diesel engine is noisier and less refined than its equally powerful 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol counterpart. It’s particularly evident at start-up, idle and at low revs, where traditional diesel engine rumble and characteristic three-cylinder thrum combine to form a grumbly partnership. Beyond 3000rpm it’s loud and sounds like it’s working hard, and vibrations can be felt through the throttle pedal and footwell.
It’s brilliantly torquey through its mid-range, however, where all 230Nm is at the driver’s disposal. Here it pulls strongly and – thanks to its 70Nm advantage – feels even more effortless than the refined petrol. Volkswagen claims the 66TDI is 1.5 seconds faster from 80-120km/h than the 66TSI (9.5sec versus 11.0sec in fourth gear).
The combination of the diesel engine with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (DSG) is effective, though the transmission’s eagerness to grab high gears in the pursuit of increased efficiency means it spends more time operating at those lower, gruffer engine speeds. The five-speed manual feels a better match, where the driver can more easily hold gears and keep the engine revving where it feels most comfortable.
There’s currently a $4750 gap between the $19,490 Trendline petrol DSG and the $24,240 Comfortline diesel DSG – a difference that would likely be mirrored by the 66TSI Trendline and the 66TDI Comfortline in the updated range.
Though the diesel is more fuel efficient, the performance, refinement, still-impressive economy and cheaper price tag of the petrol make it arguably a more attractive option.