I purchased my 2010 Polo 77TSI Comfortline 1.2 Manual at 108,000km for an absolute steal. It'd been well cared for and the seller was genuinely leaving the country.
Upgrading from my beloved 2001 Mazda 323, first impressions were good. I could actually see at night and the wipers worked. However, I soon came to realise that all was not peachy. The best word to describe it might be "calibration"- the way that all the controls work together to drive the car. The manual gearbox has a nice rifle bolt action, but the actual selector rod always thumps into second and the lower gears can be notchy. The throttle pedal has a frustrating soggy electric calibration that only exaggerates the sharp onset of boost.
This leads me to the biggest frustration of all. In all their infinite wisdom, Volkswagen has limited boost in first gear. To protect the transmission in larger engines I understand, but how much torque does a 1.2 petrol make!? In conjunction with poor throttle calibration, it took me months to learn to drive the car smoothly. Gutless first gear hits a flat spot at around 2000rpm, you eventually subconsciously learn to stomp harder just as it hits those revs- up to at least 3400 when you *try* to smoothly engage second. There things change. Around the same time first gear hits a flat spot, second hits boost HARD. Sure it doesn't make a lot of power, but the boost it does have comes ALLL at once. 2000rpm in second sets traction control off in the wet without fail every time, and do NOT hit boost halfway around a corner- traction control cannot save you (do not ask me how I know).
On the other hand, the boost is right where it should be. It starts to come in around 1500rpm and completely tails off at 4000rpm- where it starts to feel like something is pulling against your momentum. I don't really mind this because in 99.9% of driving conditions ,this is where you want your power for overtaking and the like.
So we have a fantastic engine and transmission combo perfectly suited to the size and weight of the car, just poorly calibrated.
Next is the suspension. At 108,000km the front struts were ruined. The car hit every small bump, lurched over every large bump and handled like a sack of potatoes- unpredictable reactions and a strange indecision between under and over steer. My 2002 Mazda 323 had over 260,000km on original suspension and it handled like a race car by comparison- totally predictable dial in under steer as it should be.
I do put a lot of this down to the torsion beam rear end, of which I am not a fan. In addition, I've since installed cheap coil-overs- so I can't really judge what the suspension is like when new. P.S. Don't install cheap coil-overs, they're horrible, and it still doesn't handle.
We may as well try to finish up with the bad. There have been some quality issues.
1. Paint quality is disastrous, stone chips are massive and go straight through to bare metal! I've never seen this on a car before.
2. The chain gave up at 110,000km, I knew it was coming. VW was fantastic and paid 50% despite the vehicle being out of warranty. Watch out for this issue, because it can also come back after the "fix".
3. The fuel lines rattle. Fix #1 is zip ties, didn't work for me. Fix #2 is replacement lines, of which I have no interest in doing. We shoved foam down the routed piping and that improves it.
4. Waste gate rattles. It's just annoying, no issue.
5. Warped front rotors, probably a mechanics fault before I got it but a known problem with the smaller TSI brakes (TDI/GTI brakes don't seem to have the issue).
6. Black plastic and rubber window trim is pitted from the sun (common with any car)
7. Fuel gauge is dramatically wrong. 600km to the first half of the gauge, 200km to the next half.
8. Armrest clip broke, it's been an issue for ten years VW. Just fix it.
Onto the good.
There is no other car on the market with this level of features or quality anywhere NEAR this price range. The car has been bulletproof reliable and incredibly cheap to run- the cheapest parts are actually from the DEALERSHIP!?
Fuel economy ranges between 4.9-5.2L/100km on every tank, city or highway. I haven't noticed any difference between 95 or 98, and I record every tank.
The vehicle is solidly built with every surface, button, panel and trim clearly of high quality and well put together. My parents own a new Passat Highline and there is next to difference in materials used and fit & finish. I never feel like I'm driving a budget vehicle. The plastic headlights haven't even hinted at fading yet, like every car on the road, along with all of the front end plastics, leading the car to look brand new after six years!
Seats are comfortable, though I miss the days of velour, and I appreciate that they're flat- people don't always need sculpted sports seats. The centre armrest is perfect for me, though anyone large has issues with it. The driving position isn't ideal but I sit in a strange position so I can't blame the car. It's also perfect for tall people with a high roof, not that I'd notice (I'm short).
Features are extensive;
- Climate control (Admittedly, the air-con is terrible)
- Touch screen with audio inputs for radio, usb, bluetooth, SD and aux
- The best blue tooth phone set up I've ever used. ALWAYS crystal clear even with music and windows open- so so so easy to use.
- Power windows all round
- Cruise control (it's excellent)
- Central display (I always display speed, I never look at my speedometer, so easy!)
- Incredible factory sound system
- Multifunction leather steering wheel (so useful) and lovely leather gear knob
Thoughtful design features include;
- Hill hold (THE BEST.)
- Hidden washer nozzles.
- Boot release incorporated into VW badge.
- Windows close if you hold lock on the key fob.
- False boot floor with storage for the panel if you need to remove it.
- Well designed storage spaces and hooks around the car that I never use
- The simplest flat folding rear seats I've ever seen. No fancy mechanisms necessary.
In summary, an EXCEPTIONAL little car that has been every bit as reliable as any Japanese car. My only ask is that Volkswagen spend a little more time calibrating simple things to make it more enjoyable to drive- and for god sake I want independent rear suspension on the next generation Polo!