Trying to surprise your wife is not always an easy job. I promised that I would get her a "good" car on the day I set out to find her new wheels. I also proclaimed to her that I would have this sorted in time to be back home by lunch. When we met, she owned a Holden Epica. Being a Holden devotee I knew this Korean taxi was nothing more than a 'blow in' from overseas… a car that should never have graced my driveway, and which did not deliver on the promised sales Holden was chasing at the time.
Being a car nut, I believed I would have my wife a new little car in just a couple of hours. But something odd happened. As I dropped past all the big name dealerships, walked the showroom floors, and perused their huge lots filled with cars, nothing jumped out and grabbed me. I had around a $20-$25K budget that was burning a mental hole in my pocket like a faulty Samsung. My wife, being a classy lady, needed something to suit her taste and personality. Something with some sophistication, that was not too in-your-face, and not too generic or boring. She liked cars with zip and some style, despite being cornered into buying her previous car.
When I entered the home of the "people's car" – Volkswagen - the Mark 7 Golf had been a raging success and was in short supply. I liked the look and feel of the Golf. They drove well and had a fluidity to the experience that was unique to VW. Their cars dripped with perceived quality. With no new Golf 7's on the floor I started to become anxious, as it was now close to lunchtime. Over 3 hours had passed into my search and I had come up with nothing.
Enter the young and somewhat keen-looking sales guy, "Hey buddy, I can see you are struggling, can I help?"
Crap, was it that obvious? I unloaded my brief like a helpless addict and was steered towards a little silver Polo demonstrator. A Polo... hmm.
Being a man, I asked "how big is the engine?"
"1.2 litres mate." He could see the disdain on my face, "Don't be fooled by the numbers…"
Hmm, I was definitely being fooled; 1.2 litres is tiny and my ego was struggling.
"Trust me, if you drive it you'll be impressed," he said
I don't like any car salesperson telling me to trust them. Being short on ideas and options we took the mini kraut for a spin.
Once I had found a good seating position and familiarised myself with the nicely appointed cabin, I let rip and thumped the loud pedal. Okay, I can see where you are coming from. This car shocked me. It pulled hard through the gears without struggling. It did not feel like a little engined car that was going to pass out at the sight of a hill or overweight passenger. It felt ridiculously perky and it confounded my logic.
It was actually fun to drive and had some balls despite the small package.
After looking through its features and experiencing its thumping stereo I was hooked. How much? 22.5K driveway. Being of ethnic descent I offered 20K cash… oddly it did not work. How could I have found the only salesperson in Melbourne immune to cash? We bantered back and forth and I settled on the original figure on one condition… it had to be delivered that afternoon. After all, I had promised wifey some wheels and lunch was waiting.
A firm handshake sealed the deal like a child friendship promising to be BFF's. I headed off to the bank and then home to lunch feeling pleased with the new "toy" about to grace the man cave.
We picked up the car later that day and it was our new baby for about 18 months until the real ones popped out and the need to repeat this process reared its head.
Living as a couple (without children) the Polo made sense and was great. We drove it everywhere, including a big interstate trip. The little Euro motored up and down the highway like a V8, barely pulling 2000rpm at 100km/h and it did it effortlessly with the AC blowing and a full load whilst still returning around 5-6 litres per 100 kilometres. Very impressive, as my V8 Holden needed far more fuel and prodding to do the same.
Space inside was small but very inviting. The leather steering wheel, white lit gauges and amenities felt modern, solid and pleasing to be around. The car was stable at all speeds, the steering was both light and direct and the car actually exceeded all my automotive expectations. Being a "Comfortline", the spec list was good: cruise control, Bluetooth, full electrics and a basic infotainment unit that played music at deafening volumes without breaking down. In fact, it had an amazingly strong and deep bass that bellowed with superb clarity to keep all but the most hard-nosed clubber pleased.
My mates were surprised by the purchase. One being a VW fanatic wondered what took so long for us to get on board, while others needed more persuading to see its virtues. What cemented its worthiness for me was the time it dusted my best friend's daily VS Acclaim Commodore. Thinking it was a fluke, we repeatedly did some runs off the lights to discover the diminutive Polo accelerated faster than a 3.8-litre V6 Commodore. It walked the "Aussie 6" both off the line and in gear - thankfully wifey does not read these reviews...
This ownership experience highlighted a number of things for me. 1) - you cannot judge modern cars based on engine capacity. Cars like the Polo will surprise and delight you with their eagerness to please. 2) - modern cars are very well thought out when compared to older cars. Cup holders, media connectivity, stability control and general ease of use put them miles ahead of cars from just a decade ago. They feel safe and are safe, and I suppose if you value living, they are a worthwhile investment from that point of view.
Would I recommend a Polo? Absolutely yes. I would love to try the new 2.0-litre GTI just to see how far they have come. What also came as a surprise was the cost of servicing through VW compared to other brands I have had. For example, our previous Jazz was almost half the price for routine servicing through the local Honda dealer. Clearly the performance and complexity of the little Polo must come at a price. The Polo runs a turbocharged engine with a DSG gearbox, whereas the Jazz on the other hand uses a naturally aspirated engine backed by a CVT transmission.
Despite some loss of the folding stuff, the fun and pleasure derived from driving the Polo easily outweighed the outlay. In summary, the Polo is a concentrated version of the Golf in a smaller, more agile product that has made me appreciate the might of German engineering prowess. Peace.