One day, I felt like I deserved to get behind the wheel of something brand new. I'd deliberately punished myself by driving a bare-bones DE Mazda2 Neo for 2 years to save some money and not stay awake at night worrying about damage from being parked on the mean streets of inner Sydney.
The Mazda2 was a brilliant car and I miss its zippy charm, brilliant short-throw gear shift and low running costs. However, it was time for a mini-upgrade and I'd had my eyes on something with a VW badge, as I've always had a big soft spot for the Golf since I first drove a Mk6 back in 2010.
I kept my budget at around $20,000, and this time around was after fuel efficiency, a spacious interior but compact exterior, up-to-date infotainment system and an automatic. After considering several options over budget, I landed on a humble white VW Polo 70TSI coupled to a DSG transmission. Following a short negotiation period, I picked up Phillip the Polo a week later, complete with Euro plates, window tint, an additional 2 years factory warranty and all its base model glory for around $21000 on the road.
I fell in love with the Polo's refinement very quickly. The interior feels of very high quality, with the CarPlay/Android Auto-enabled infotainment system sitting proudly atop a simple dashboard layout. All tactile switches feel great in hand, dials are legible and overall, it's difficult to fault from an ergonomic perspective. I do wish it had a centre armrest, but this can be resolved by opting for an 85TSI which also adds automatic wipers / headlights, alloys and an upgraded version of the 1.0-litre triple under the bonnet.
Otherwise, it's really comfortable, spacious and feels a little more premium than it's price tag suggests. The boot is also enormous for a compact car, once you drop the false floor.
That 3-cylinder motor humming under the bonnet - it's a gem! It pumps out a meagre 70kW, but it is backed by 175Nm of torque in the heart of its rev range. For daily commuting (with DSG quirks aside - I'll get to that next), it has more than enough guts to zip through traffic and win your next traffic light Grand Prix. Chuck the nicely-trimmed DSG shifter into S and the throttle response sharpens and the triple comes to life. The charming 3-cylinder hum, combined with a hint of induction whistle, gives the Polo some character over its bigger brother, the Golf.
Unfortunately, some marks fall against the DSG-equipped Polo. In super slow urban traffic, and when doing U-turns and tight parking, it isn't the smoothest experience. Combined with an aggressive stop-start system that switches off when you slow down below 8km/h, you can occasionally be caught off guard when entering roundabouts and crossing traffic. It's easy to switch off, but it's much smoother in the Golf.
There is also a fair amount of turbo lag from launch, but once on the run, the Polo feels athletic and the DSG is as smooth as silk. I find it's most comfortable at 60-90km/h, as hitting over 100km/h exposes the tiny motor's limits for highway overtaking. Something to also note, is that the triple has terrible engine braking capabilities, which renders the cruise control almost useless when traveling on a long decline.
The fuel economy has been quite surprising. Over 7500kms of predominantly urban driving, I've returned 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres, which is bang on the same as the Mazda2 - which is disappointing, as the claimed economy is closer to 5L/100km. On the open road however, it's very easy to achieve 4.5L/100km and 700-800kms per tank of Premium.
Servicing also isn't cheap at an average of $500 a year over the first 5 years, but the once-a-year intervals are great for me, as I'm only doing 8000kms per year. I've also had two recall notices within the first 8 months of ownership, for with repairs to the handbrake and middle seat-belt latch carried out free of charge as expected.
The infotainment system is fantastic and punches above its weight for price. CarPlay connectivity is seamless and the sound quality is fantastic. Strangely, the audio quality and volume seems to improve when connected to Bluetooth, as opposed to using CarPlay. I also enjoy some other neat touches, like the global window closing/opening function, premium steering wheel, and forward collision warning (a life saver!).
Unfortunately, 3 months into ownership, Sydney experienced an unexpected hail storm and Phillip the Polo was covered in dents within minutes. Now repaired, but driving a dented brand new car for 7 months does take some of the polish off the experience.
In summary, if i were to describe the Polo in one word, it would be 'lovely'. If I were to have my time again, I'd have stretched further and purchased an 85TSI manual or even further to a demo Golf 110TSI Trendline manual. Another round of revisions to the DSG would be welcomed, as would the standard inclusion of a few more features, but you get what you pay for, and for $20k, it's hard to hold any solid argument against this baby Volkswagen.