Owner Review

2018 Volkswagen Polo 70TSI Trendline review

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I understand the lack of insight two months of ownership provides, but I thought potential buyers may benefit from my experience with the recently released AW Polo in all its base-model 70TSI DSG glory. I’ll comment specifically about the drivetrain of the Polo, because it’s often an issue of contention in the comment section.

I endlessly toiled with the idea of so many different cars to replace the most reliable car I’ve ever owned (Mazda 2), to which many of you are probably thinking I’m mad at this point: replacing a mechanically unsophisticated, base-model Mazda 2 with a complex beast like a three-cylinder Polo with a notorious seven-speed dry-clutch DSG. But essentially, I was looking for a compact city car with highway prowess, on a strict budget, and that’s exactly what I’ve bought.

I first test-drove the Polo as soon as it launched. It was a 70TSI DSG and I was immediately blown away with its grown-up behaviour. I’ve always enjoyed test-driving Volkswagens, particularly the MK6 GTI/GTD twins I drove five years ago, and the AW Polo was no exception.

The DSG isn’t perfect, and I’ll never contest that. Combined with stop/start activated, smooth launches away from traffic lights are a rare encounter, but once on the boil, the Polo comes into its own. Riding the torque wave with seven speeds at your disposal, I’m often at the front of traffic in an effortless fashion. Launching stumbles are also easy to avoid and it’s not often discussed in professional reviews – stop/start off, chuck into S, slowly feed pressure onto the go pedal and it’ll grab gears 1–2 in a heartbeat… And off it goes. I’ve never realised how suitable a small-capacity turbo is to my driving style, but it’s a match made in heaven.

Passengers simply cannot believe there’s a 999cc engine under the bonnet, and sometimes I can’t either. The three-cylinder motor has a charming and typical thrum with a hint of induction whistle, and offers enough punch for urban driving, with only highway speeds (90km/h+) betraying the Polo’s otherwise impeccable highway presence.

It isn’t all rosy in the dynamics department. I’ll admit that it can’t hold a candle to my past DE Mazda 2’s darting between alleyways and twirling around roundabouts, but I think the eco-spec tyres may have something to do with that. The handling lacks the balance of the Mazda, but the refinement is an enormous improvement and a trade-off I was happy to accept. I outgrew the hardcore Fiesta ST I owned years back, within six months, so I didn’t want to put handling at the top of the must-have tree.

Fuel economy hovers around 6L/100km in mixed driving, with longer trips dropping into hybrid territory – the best being 4.8L/100km so far, even within the first tank of fuel. Service costs aren’t cheap and I’ve factored it into the ownership costs, as well as an additional two-year factory warranty that is currently standard until the end of 2018.

Besides a rattle in the infotainment system to be rectified at the first service, the interior feels very solid. With soft-touch plastics across the dashboard and a conservative and considered design, it was an easy sell for just on $20K. The infotainment system is brilliant, but it’s worth noting that voice control is not activated as standard. You can use it with CarPlay, but need to use the screen first rather than a button on the steering wheel. I’m really thrilled with the system's clarity, as it sure beats the Bose system in my GH Mazda 6 that when new was twice the price.

The boot and cabin are also the perfect size for my needs. With the false floor dropped (full-sized spare beneath too), you can fit two full-sized suitcases standing tall with room left over. It’s very practical and thoughtfully packaged – I do wish that a centre armrest could be optioned at the dealer, though.

I hear constant horror stories of VW ownership day after day, and be assured that my eyes are open to the possibilities that it won’t be as reliable as my Mazdas of the past. But I am truly infatuated with the maturity and refinement of this not-so-tiny tiddler, and prepared to take the risk for what feels like the best brand-new car for a tight budget.