Yes I know, it's another review on another VW... however hear me out, because I actually think it's one of the overlooked gems in the small car market. Admittedly, I did buy this car second hand, which meant I didn't have to cop the usual Euro price premium over its typical rivals. However the car was basically brand new, having done only 5000km and was barely a year old at the time I bought it. I mean, how could I resist really? Especially with those tartan covered cloth seats!
I really believe Volkswagen nailed it with this this model, especially in terms of looks and design language. The amount of times people have mistaken it for a Golf is actually becoming a bit of a laugh for me. Yes it's a little subtle for some, but I really think it is a very smart, suave and sophisticated little hatchback. The interior seems to follow suit, with only a small amount of hard plastics, though everything that you interact with frequently has a premium and quality feel. The infotainment is both quick and easy to use, and it includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Furthermore, once the Bluetooth is set up, it connects almost instantaneously after turning on the ignition.
This brings me to the way it drives. Now, in terms of engine and drivetrain I have to come clean. As with all of my previous cars, I have ended up doing a little fettling around. However it's nothing crazy, and I believe it has really enhanced the driving experience. I had a Racingline panel filter installed, along with the inlet pipe and turbo elbow, which allows more air to flow into the turbo, thus allowing it to spool faster. I also managed to squeeze a Turbosmart dual-port blow-off valve in order to get that infamous turbo whoosh sound, because who doesn't want that, right? But I digress. The engine and drivetrain is where I truly think the Polo comes into its own, especially with 141kW and 320Nm in a car that weighs just over 1200kg. It just has a really sweet and pleasant mid-range punch that leaves you constantly downshifting to feel it surge all over again. Not only that, but the little six-speed manual gearbox only encourages you more - there's just so much torque on offer, which is again why this little car is so addictive to drive.
The only areas I'm left wanting are in the ride and handling departments. Don't get me wrong, they're still good in their own rights, but in my opinion nowhere near as sharp and as buttoned-down as they should be. The suspension, for me, is set up just a little too stiff for the average Australian road. It's generally fine and adequate, but definitely starts to wear you down over a long journey. Also, heaven forbid you push the Sport button, which stiffens up the dampers and only proceeds to make even the smoothest roads feel uncomfortable. The handling is similar, as it's good to a point, but then begins to show it's very apparent limits. Again I'm not saying it's bad by any means, but it definitely could have been better, at least in my humble opinion.
Overall though, I really do believe this is a hidden gem of the Volkswagen range. It somehow manages to do a bit of everything in a compact and well presented package - especially given that the new model has already been released, and seems to have lost its small car roots and character.