We own a white manual 2018 VW Polo 85TSI Comfortline, which includes the Driver Assistance Package.
I couldn’t find a car in its class that was safer than the Polo 85TSI with the Driver Assist’ Pack. Our car has both forward and reverse AEB, manoeuvre braking, front and rear parking sensors with rear cross-traffic alert, a reversing camera in the rear badge, automated parking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, proactive occupant protection, fatigue monitoring, multi-collision braking, as well as tyre pressure monitoring to avoid having unsafe tyre pressures. It even has automatic folding mirrors, and the passenger mirror automatically dips when reversing.
There’s also an indicator on the driver's screen about whether the rear passengers have their seats buckled. If you ever accidentally stall the car, the stop-start immediately springs the engine back to life, which is a great safety feature in my opinion.
The three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine is very efficient in nature. The official combined usage is 4.8L/100km, with 4.1L/100km extra urban usage. I’ve found that usage about right, being just under 5L/100km for mixed usage of driving to work and some weekend driving. It does require at least 95RON PULP.
There is an engine stop-start function, but it only occurs when you’re stationary with your foot on the brake and clutch disengaged – so I feel like it’s the right implementation.
The car also tells you which gear you’re in and when you should change gear. I think this is to encourage more fuel-efficient driving and I find it pretty neat.
This isn’t a race car by any means (hello 999cc), but I think the combination of the turbocharged 85TSI engine and a six-speed manual makes a really fun drive, as it’s got a good amount of punchiness and lots of torque. It makes this cool grumble that sounds a bit like a small diesel, and I like the gear ratios. I don’t think the DSG would be anywhere near as much fun in this car.
RIDE QUALITY / HANDLING / DRIVER TECH
The car is great for city and country driving, as it feels solid and handles corners with ease. Occasionally at high speeds on freeways, it can feel a bit ‘light’ and like it’s moving around a bit in the lane. I’m not sure if this is because I’m used to the active lane-keeping assist in our other car, or whether it’s just the trait of a light car travelling at high speed.
Despite this observation, I still love the way this car handles – it’s not too bumpy, and the noise suppression is good as it’s quiet at almost all speeds. You do hear the engine during low-speed acceleration, but that’s a positive in my opinion.
The adaptive cruise control works well and it’s (obviously) not stop-and-go since it’s a manual transmission.
The halogen headlights aren’t great, but we don’t do a lot of night-time driving in this car.
INFOTAINMENT & CONNECTIVITY
The six-speaker sound system with 8.0-inch glossy touchscreen from the Golf is fantastic: it’s loud and clear. It doesn’t have satellite navigation, which I don’t mind at all since I use Apple CarPlay and Google Maps or Waze, which have a lot better maps than any sat-nav I’ve seen (and yes, Google Maps works offline in the country without mobile reception).
There are two USB ports and a power port. The driver's info screen between the dials is monochrome, but it has some retro appeal. I use it to show the digital speed readout, which is missing in a lot of other cars in this class, or even bigger entry-level cars like the Mazda 3. It also shows when to change gear on this screen, and rear passenger seatbelt indicators.
INTERIOR COMFORT & PACKAGING
The build quality is pretty good. The interior is simple – some would call it bland, but I like simple colours. There are quite a lot of hard-touch plastics, mostly in the doors, but this is an entry-level car so that’s kinda to be expected. The leather-wrapped flat-bottomed steering wheel and leather-wrapped handbrake look like they are from a much more expensive car.
You get auto up-down on all windows and auto-locking doors, which aren’t available on many, if any, similar cars.
It also has rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlights, and a coming-home function that allows the lights to remain on after you’ve locked the car.
There’s also a cool trick to quickly cool down our car in summer, where all four windows lower by holding down the unlock remote button as you're walking towards the car.
The space is amazing for a small car. I’m over 6ft 5in and I have plenty of headroom, and while the back row isn’t massively spacious, our three small children can fit easily. The rear windows are a decent size, which helps with rear passenger comfort, and makes the kids in the back less likely to be car-sick (unlike a Mazda 3). The rear air vents are under the seats. The boot seems very practical with its two floor heights, and it is more roomy than a new Corolla.
VALUE FOR MONEY
The price for our exact car, which includes the driver assistance, on the VW car configurator is over $25,000 drive-away. Since we wanted a manual and we were happy to accept a white one, the dealer had four identical white 85TSIs with DAP as undriven demonstrators, and I was able to get over $5500 off the list price. That made it very good value for money in my opinion, considering the safety tech you get is better than much more expensive cars.
Our car also came with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre VW warranty and roadside assist.
The downside to owning a manual is resale value; however, we’ll most likely hold it for five years, and the starting price was low enough to begin with to not really matter about what we'll eventually get back on it.
The servicing costs are quite high, especially for the manual that should be less in my opinion, but the 12-month/15,000km intervals are good – a Suzuki Swift costs more to service with its six-month/10,000km intervals.
Comprehensive insurance is very cheap, which reflects how safe and secure these cars are.
FIT FOR PURPOSE
Our car is for solo commuting to work on weekdays and having a bit of fun on weekends. It does this well. We’re happy with it.