TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
The sixth-generation Volkswagen Polo arrived in Australia in March and retains its sharp entry-level pricing while adding new standard features including automatic emergency braking, an 8.0-inch infotainment screen, and a choice of gutsy 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engines.
It’s also a lot bigger than the model it replaces, with plenty of leg and shoulder room and relatively large boot space.
The Polo currently comes in two specifications – the 75TSI Trendline, and slightly pricier 85TSI Comfortline – that will soon be joined by an all-new Polo GTI.
The 85TSI has a gutsier 85kW version of the three-cylinder engine that’s a little more powerful than the 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo of the previous model. It’s available with a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual clutch automatic and is priced from $19,490.
Options include premium paint ($500) and a $1400 Driver Assistance package that adds adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and power folding mirrors. It also brings a proactive occupant protection system, which senses if the car is about to be rear-ended and flashes the hazards, closes the windows and sunroof and pretensions the seatbelts.
- The sixth-generation Polo has an all-round competence that see it retains the marque’s status as the light hatch segment benchmark.
- It’s big for a light car, even bigger in fact than the Mk 4 Volkswagen Golf of 20 years ago. The wheelbase is 92mm longer than the previous model, which opens up plenty of rear-set legroom. It’s wider, too and easily seats four adults in comfort.
- It has a 351-litre boot which is big for a car in its class, and rivals bigger hatches such as Mazda 3 and Ford Focus.
- The interior and dashboard design are uncluttered and have a premium feel.
- The front seats are adjustable and can drop down nice and low for a sportier driving position, which is unusual in the light car segment where seats often resemble bar stools.
- The infotainment has been upgraded to include a big 8.0-inch screen and support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
- Automatic emergency braking is standard across the Polo range, while the Comfortline gains automatic dusk-sensing headlights, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
- The new Polo is a delight to drive. The 1.0-litre turbo engine has one cylinder less than the 1.2-litre turbo it replaces, but generates a little more power and torque, which makes for a zippy drive.
- The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic selects gears intuitively so you’re never wanting for power when driving through bends or when having to slow and regain speed on the freeway. It also does a good job at slow speeds, which isn’t always the case with such gearboxes.
- Performance is backed up by excellent ride and confidence-inspiring handling, even over bumpy roads that would make life unpleasant in some of its light hatch rivals.
- The steering has a well-oiled, premium feel.
- The new design is polished, but somehow lacks the youthful charm and attractiveness of the previous Polo models.
- The premium-looking cabin is undermined by the omission of push-button start and climate control air-conditioning, even as optional extras.
- It’s a lot more like the Golf, to the point where it can now be compared as a rival to the bigger hatch that doesn’t cost a lot more. Conversely, any Golf buyers looking to save some money might now be attracted to the Polo.
ARE THERE ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
There’s no shortage of decent light hatchback options on the market, but then there are others that fall well short of the Polo’s league. Models that do give it a run for its money include the new Citroen C3, Mazda 2 GT, Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo and the Suzuki Swift GLX Turbo.