You’ve seen how our long-term 2018 Volkswagen Polo has handled the city, and no surprise, it performs as well as a small hatch should. But now it’s time to take ‘Ginger’ – as James Wong has affectionately named it – on a road trip.
The itinerary is a 1500-kilometre round trip on the east coast between Melbourne and Moruya, NSW, to see my folks. Unlike the last trip I did in the 2018 BMW M140i, it’s just me and the Polo this time around.
Although I was going for four nights, I did pack a large suitcase, because that’s what girls do, right? The boot holds 351-litres of stuff, which was just enough to hold my case.
I left at 4 am, so there were a good few hours of driving in the dark. Once off the freeways, I encountered a lot of tight turns at dark intersections, so the cornering lights really helped light the way. But it would have been nice if the halogen headlights matched the LED daytime-running lights.
An annoying detail I noticed was the high beam symbol in the instrument cluster was hidden behind the speedometer needle when driving at 100km/h.
There’s plenty of storage in the cabin for food wrappers and my phone, even though the handbrake lever takes up some room. The door pocket fitted a 1.5-litre water bottle and was easy to access at all times.
The Polo does have Apple CarPlay, although sometimes I drove through areas with no reception, and the GPS signal was lost. This is where an inbuilt satellite navigation would’ve been handy.
The Polo is very quiet on the road, with minimal road noise, and no doubt any passengers would easily drift off to sleep on a long journey.
It was my first experience of driver fatigue alert, where the car senses you are losing concentration, and a warning appears on the dash for you to take a break. It pops up on average every three hours, and if you don’t pull over, it reminds you again 10 minutes later. I found myself relying on this system, and would heed its advice.
The cloth seats of the Polo are very comfortable making for easy long stints behind the wheel, and the driving position at its lowest point is at a pleasant height too.
The Polo’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine pumps out 85kW of power and 200Nm of torque and is adequate once you get up to cruising speed. There were a few uphill overtaking lanes, and the little Polo sometimes struggled to overtake trucks.
The trip was made much easier with adaptive cruise control, part of the optional Driver Assistance Package, but was turned off once I encountered mountains and heavy rain for a good four hours. Thank goodness for automatic wipers.
It is comfortable cruising on the highways, but once you’re making your way through towns and find yourself at almost every red light, the Polo can get frustrating. Its seven-speed DSG is clunky at low revs, and the rattly idle stop/start function takes an eternity to get the car moving. It was switched off pretty quickly.
You don’t typically see a Polo on dirt roads, but around Moruya, I managed to accidentally find some. With Mum on board, she was even impressed at how well the small hatch handled large rainwater-filled potholes and corrugations. Riding on 16-inch wheels, vibration through the car and steering wheel was minimal, and noise suppression through the wheel arches was very good.
Ginger got to Moruya without a petrol stop and had 25-kilometers of range left in its 40L tank. Volkswagen claims a combined fuel economy of 5.1L, but this drive saw an indicated 5.9L/100kms with an average speed of 50km/h, thanks to a stack of roadworks along the way.
After arriving home and crunching the numbers, the Polo completed 1509kms using 70.5L of petrol, at a cost of $98.70.
The prospect of driving a small hatch a total of 18 hours over a long weekend was originally met with thoughts of loud road noise, uncomfortable seats, and a rough ride.
However, the Polo impressed. Sure the drivetrain could be improved, but it has proven to be a happy little hatch that’s economical, quiet, and comfortable out on the open road.
MORE: Long term report one – Introduction
MORE: Long term report two – Infotainment
MORE: Long-term report three – Urban driving
MORE: Polo news, reviews, comparisons and video
MORE: Everything Volkswagen