With industry leading performance, practicality, fuel economy and standard safety features, the all-new 2010 Volkswagen Polo is by far the best European light-car on the market.
It was 1975 when Volkswagen introduced the original Polo which only came to Australia in 1996. 11 million buyers have taken a Polo home worldwide with more than 18,000 Australians among them.
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Thirty five years on and the fifth-generation Volkswagen Polo is now on sale in Australia and what a beauty it really is. Starting from just $16,690 for the 1.4-litre petrol manual, the new Polo is slowly but surely closing the gap between itself and the Volkswagen Golf. Not so much in terms of size but more so in terms of safety, technology and equipement level.
To celebrate the local launch of the 2010 Volkswagen Polo, the German company brought a group of journalists to Brisbane to experience the model which was recently awarded the 2010 World Car of the Year award.
The most obvious change to the new Polo is the exterior as it no longer looks like a 'girly' car. It shares a rather similar design to the Golf and Scirocco and presents a far cleaner front end with Volkswagen calling the front design the "eagle-look". With a series of lines running through the bonnet and side profile, the new Polo gains a far more muscular stance (although it's in no way aggressively styled, just sporty).
As for the rear, it's a very clean look (arguably bland compared to the front) presenting a gorgeous L-shaped light design that is sure to stand out at night.
Before the sporty and range-topping GTI arrives towards the end of this year, the new Polo is currently available in two separate equipement grades: the entry level Polo Trendline and the more equipped Polo Comfortline. The Trendline models come from Spain while the Comfortline grades are sourced from a Volkswagen factory in South Africa.
From the outside they are easily distinguishable by the number of doors with all Trendline variants available with only 3 doors whilst Comfortlines are 5 doors only. Additionally Comfortline variants gain a chrome grille, 15-inch alloy wheels and dual headlights over the Trendline.
Sit inside the new Polo and you'll quickly realise that instant resemblance to the rest of the Volkswagen lineup, a fact that Volkswagen is proud of. For Volkswagen's cheapest car (and it's third best selling model in Australia), any interior resemblance to the Golf and Passat is a very good thing.
There is a certain ambience to the Polo's cabin which is simply not there with Japanese or Korean cars of the same size (and relatively similar price). Be it the lack of hard plastics, the excellent finish to the centre console and stereo surrounds or the comfortable seats, sporty three-spoke steering wheel, white instrument backlighting or even the practicality of the car's storage areas (including a book and sunglasses holder inside the glove box). Whatever it is, it feels much more classy inside than its closest European competition (Ford Fiesta) or Japanese rivals (Mazda2, Honda Jazz, Toyota Yaris).
So now we have a European badged light car that looks elegant and classy both inside and out. Surely there is a catch? Perhaps its underpowered? Nope. Perhaps it's badly equipped? Nope. Perhaps it's not safe? Nope. Perhaps its low price is a disguise for all the options you'll need to tick? Surprisingly no, even the base model Polo Trendline 3 Door 5 speed manual is relatively well equipped given it starts for under $17k.
The first Polo tested today was powered by the new 1.2-litre TSI engine with 77kW and 175Nm of torque. If you're thinking that sounds relatively lackluster on paper, you'll be amazed by how fast it actually feels, especially when combined with the optional 7-speed dual clutch transmission (DSG). 0-100km/h is 9.7 seconds for both manual and DSG (although for most people, the DSG will be quicker).
It's mostly due to the way in which the Polo delivers its power that it feels deceptively quick. With a very smooth and linear power and torque delivery throughout the rev range there is more than enough grunt for a quick overtake and no need to flatten the throttle to get up hills, even with numerous adults onboard.
Swapping to a base model 1.4-litre petrol powered Polo with 14-inch steel wheels was a good way to test out the chasis. Surely if it can ride well on such tiny wheels it goes to show the car's overall handling capabilities.The test car was driven around Mt Cotton's twisty backroads through hard corners and up massive hills. Despite the engine being sourced from the previous generation Polo, albeit with an extra 4kW of power (63kW at 5,000rpm) and 132Nm of torque (at 3,800 rpm), even with steel wheels it still managed to impress with its smooth ride and confident handling characteristics.
Unfortunately time restrictions didn't allow for a quick drive of the 1.6-litre diesel variant (66kW, 230Nm of torque) but despite its very impressive fuel economy figures of just 4.6L of diesel per 100km (4.7L for 5 speed manual), the 1.2-litre TSI is actually a very viable option as it uses just 5.5L of petrol per 100km and is faster to 100km/h (by 0.7 seconds), not to mention it costs $2,500 less.
The new Polo is bigger than its predecessor in all regards, it measures 4,064mm in length (148 mm longer), 1,682 mm wide (32 mm wider), and sits exactly 1.5 m tall (33 mm taller). That means more headroom, rear legroom and overall sense of spaciousness. Open the boot and you get 280L of luggage area (261L for 3 door variants) which extends to 952L when the rear seats are folded completely flat (a process which takes all of 10 seconds).
Spending the last leg of the journey from Mt Cotton to Brisbane airport in the backseat of a Comfortline 5 door variant highlighted the new Polo's roomy rear seats (for its size). Although it technically has five seats, it can realistically only carry four adults for medium to long journeys. Nonetheless it can carry four average size adults for long journeys without any issues. Sitting in the rear for the near one hour journey was no different than being in the back of a Golf.
The new Volkswagen Polo is about the same size as the third generation Volkswagen Golf, so despite being classified as a light car it's by no means a tiny car on the inside. It's a perfect classy first car for young couples or the ideal second car for a growing family. In fact, so good is the new Polo that it may likely steal some sales away from the Golf.
Safety is top notch in the new Polo . Having received a 5-star safety rating from the Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) as well its European equivalent means you don't ever have to worry about the safety of yourself or your occupants. A big pat on the back to Volkswagen here for including all the safety features standard across the entire range. That includes six airbags (two front, two side and two curtain), Electronic stabilization program (ESP) incl. anti-lock brakingsystem (ABS) with braking assistant, anti-slip regulation (ASR), electronic limited-slip differential (EDS), engine braking control (MSR) and a more.
The new Polo is available in seven different colours of which four are unicolour paints (white, red, blue and yellow) available as a no cost option. Silver, grey and black metallic paints are a $500 option.
CarAdvice will soon road test the new Volkswagen Polo and bring you a comprehensive review of the different variants.
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