2018 Polo Adds Pomp

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Words: Peter Louisson
16 Feb 2018

But while Tiguan is flavour of the moment here, more popular even than Golf, the smallest Dubbie, the Polo, is also a significant mover for the brand.

It was the 10th best selling car globally last year, with 653,000 new owners. Kiwis bought over 600 of them last year, and distributors EMD ran out of stock by October. On a global basis, it is no slouch either, with over 17 million sold to date since its mid70s launch.

New gen-VI Polo has just gone on sale. It’s bigger both in the metal and on the inside - it is said to be similar in size to fourth-generation Golf - but is little more expensive than the outgoing version. However, it looks more upmarket, rather closely resembling its bigger sib and is none the worse for that. The interior is a revelation. Not only is there clearly more distance between front seat occupants, but out the back there’s now over 350L of luggage space, up from 280L, making it one of the bigger hatches in its small car class. Contributing to both is a 94mm stretch in wheelbase and 69mm increase in width. Length is now 4053mm.

Polo variants are clearly differentiated, with a special midrange version called Beats likely to appeal to the youth group (and perhaps the young at heart if they have a musical bent). For this be-striped model has a 300wpc sound system developed by Dre’s old company, now owned by Apple. We listened to a tune or two while on the drive programme and a bit of spoken voice on RNZ. It sure didn’t sound like the kind of audio you get in a regular small car. Six main drivers here, along with a dedicated subwoofer. And the rest of the car is a bit special too, with an offset racing stripe, bigger smarter wheels, and a Jazzy Jeff interior featuring contrasting colours, flash seat coverings and special ‘Velvet Red’ matte paint across the dash.

The Beat variant goes for just south of $30k, in seven-speed DSG guise. Opt for the base Polo TSI and you can find yourself at the wheel of a manual for rather less, $25,490 but you only get a five-speeder if you like to shift gears yourself. That’s a bit rude of the bean counters we reckon, not fitting a six-speeder, so better to go for the seven-cog auto TSI, with a twin-clutch transmission, at $27,990, even if it is a bit slow to get underway in stop-start situations. At least our mechanically identical Beats variant seemed that way.

There are new engines too, or a new engine actually, at least for the cooking Polos. The 1.2L turbo four pot makes way for a 1.0L turbo triple in two output guises, 70kW (as in TSI and Beats) and 85kW as in the R-Line version, also auto only, which is on sale now for $32,990.

As is usual, safety enhancements are to the fore with autonomous city braking and pedestrian detection, collision alert, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert all present and correct. Moreover, new to Polo is a keyless entry and pushbutton start system, along with folding heated mirrors. All Polos come with an eight inch touch screen too. 

Underpinning the smallest VW in NZ is the ubiquitous MQB platform so while the little car ain’t so little any more it’s no heavier either, and with a tiny turbo engine up front feels nicely balanced on road, and goes well, making the most of its low down torque (175Nm from 2000-3500). Overtaking requires a bit of road, as you’d expect of something with a 0-100km/h time of 10.8sec, but fuel use of 4.7L/100km overall is the upside. We liked the quiet engine, it’s triple thrum muted, and equally quiet and refined ride. It doesn’t mind a bit of serve into corners either.

Midyear the range topper arrives (along with the R-Line variant) in the form of the Polo GTI, its motor uprated from 1.8 to 2.0L, with power and torque figures of 147kW and 320Nm, respectively. Expect it to run 0-100 in the low sixes for it managed 6.6sec in our hands late in 2015. This energiser bunny has a sticker price of $38,490.

EMD expects to sell around 800 of the new Polos this year.

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