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Car reviews - Volkswagen - Polo - 70TSI Trendline

Our Opinion

We like
Superb engine performance and economy, amazing ride comfort and quietness, impressive active safety, high-quality dashboard, large boot
Room for improvement
Back seat stripped of amenities, very firm seats, tall-geared five-speed manual, steering should be sharper

The game of Polo has moved up one class and this Volkswagen is certainly a class act

Volkswagen logo1 Nov 2018

Overview

 

WHEN playing a game of polo, a mallet-swinging horseback rider must drive a small white ball through the opposition team’s goalposts. With the new-generation Polo, however, Volkswagen is determined to not only drive a wedge into the light car class, but tear segment traditions in half.

 

The previous-generation Polo, which launched locally in 2010, was always – in its loftier model grades especially – a ‘cut above’ other three- and five-door hatchbacks in terms of its smooth turbocharged performance, silken ride quality and outstanding rear-seat comfort and amenities.

 

Now, however, the South African-built five-door has secured the additional size to match its purported upper-class aspirations. It now sits not just above rivals, but beyond them, and according to Volkswagen Australia it is now able to play both on small hatchback as well as small SUV turf.

 

With this entry-level Polo 70TSI Trendline now more expensive than old rivals, it will also need to bring more than just a larger footprint to the playing field if it is to become a successful model.

 

Price and equipment

 

The previous-generation Polo called retirement this year with an entry-level Urban model grade priced from $16,990 driveaway, complete with features that have now been deleted in this new entry-level 70TSI Trendline priced at $17,990 plus on-road costs.

Gone are 15-inch alloy wheels, replaced by steel wheels and hubcaps, and the vanity mirror lights, rear map reading lights, even the glovebox light and all overhead grab handles have been ditched. In their place, however, comes a larger and higher-resolution 8.0-inch touchscreen (up from 6.5 inches) as well as ‘city’ (or sub-30km/h) autonomous emergency braking (AEB) standard for the first time.

 

Meanwhile, auto-off headlights, reversing camera, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshifter, cruise control, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology, remote central locking, and power windows (with all-door automatic up/down) and mirrors continue as standard.

 

Although now much smaller in size, a $17,690 Mazda2 Maxx exclusively adds 15-inch alloy wheels, digital radio and sub-30km/h AEB in reverse gear, while a six-speed automatic transmission is only a $2000 option. Here, Volkswagen charges $2500 for its automatic seven-speed dual-clutch – dubbed DSG – transmission, equating to a hefty $20,490 total for auto buyers.

 

Interior

 

The first thing that will hit taller drivers is the realisation that they will not nearly hit the roof in this new Polo. The previous-generation Volkswagen light car suffered from a terribly high driving position, in addition to a fairly narrow driver’s seat.

The new-generation five-door is actually lower the old one – as evidenced by its more squat proportions on the outside – but the seat drops suitably.

 

Especially in terms of width, the 70TSI Trendline feels like a half-a-size larger than before, and with its intuitive, bright touchscreen, classy and traditional analogue instrumentation, and neat leather-wrapped steering wheel, the Polo can feel as though it is playing more than a bit of Golf.

 

The lack of a centre console storage bin, the entirely hard door trims – now bereft of the previously standard cloth inserts on the rear doors – and slightly too-firm seating can give the game away that this is a light car and not a small car, but that is about the extent of the evidence up front.

 

One row behind and the tilted-up seat base is still among the best in the business, though legroom is still not quite up to the lofty standards of the Kia Rio, for example, which measures up with an even longer hatchback body.

Most disappointing is the lack of any storage beyond a bottle holder in each back door, while at night only the glow from front map lights will bring illumination to rear riders.

There is no arguing with the 351-litre boot, though, which shames a Mazda2’s 250L cavity and eclipses the Rio’s 325L space. With a split floor and full-size spare wheel underneath, it is brilliant.

 

Engine and transmission

 

By about triple the margin of any rival, the Polo’s new 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder is the finest engine in its class, with only its Skoda Fabia cousin sharing in on this flawless petrol unit.

It might have only 70kW of power produced from 5000rpm until 5500rpm, and 175Nm of torque delivered between 2000rpm and 3500rpm, but these figures do not tell the best on-road story of all.

 

Despite a merely respectable 1111kg kerb weight – the Mazda2 and also Suzuki Swift clamour around the 1000kg mark – this turbo-triple manages to be both extremely effortless yet energetic everywhere, and ever-efficient and effective.

 

It pulls from 1000rpm in any gear, yet sings towards 6000rpm, always being both wonderfully refined and beautifully characterful. Even the tall-geared five-speed manual transmission does not warrant a negative remark, given how smoothly it shifts and how well the engine covers the gaps.

 

Volkswagen claims urban fuel consumption of 6.0 litres per 100 kilometres, and even in dense traffic we all-too-easily managed 6.9L/100km. Its extra-urban claim of 4.1L/100km tallied 4.9L/100km in the real world, while its combined claim of 4.8L/100km blew out to 6.3L/100km with a bit of enthusiastic driving thrown in.

But even so these are among the closest figures we have achieved to a laboratory-assessed claim, sealing full marks for the 70TSI Trendline’s drivetrain.

 

Ride and handling

 

Tested on the same urban arterials and country backroads as the Polo Urban was last year, the new Polo 70TSI Trendline proved by some margin quieter and better controlled.

In terms of suspension finesse and road noise isolation, this light car really does stride past rivals and into the next class.

In short, Volkswagen has updated its light car to feel exactly like a downsized Golf over any surface. It barely makes any audible thud over potholes, reins in speed humps instantly, deftly keeps its body level over uneven ground at speed, and even the modest tyres hug the road through bends.

If there is a criticism, it is only that this Polo feels grown up to such a degree that it lacks the frisky playfulness and dartiness of a Mazda2 and Suzuki Swift in particular – both of which are smaller, slower, firmer and louder, to be sure.

The handling is terrifically taut, with an electronic stability control (ESC) completely trusting of the chassis’ inherent excellence, but ‘mature’ is the word.

Where the 70TSI Trendline could improve either way is with additional steering sharpness. Again, there is nothing wrong with the consistently light and linear response through that leather-rimmed wheel in isolation.

However, again, the Mazda2, Swift and even Ford’s dated Fiesta are more engaging for the driver because response to corner turn-in is just so much quicker.

Safety and servicing

 

Six airbags (including dual-front, front-side and curtain), ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), rear-view camera and low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB) are fitted to the Volkswagen Polo 70TSI.

 

The Volkswagen Polo achieved five stars and scored 36.7 out of 38 points when tested by ANCAP in 2017.

 

Volkswagen’s capped-price servicing program consists of annual or 15,000km check-ups at a total cost of $2444 over five years or 75,000km – which is higher than average for the light car segment.

 

Verdict


Other light car rivals tempt with longer warranties and cheaper servicing, while some match the Polo 70TSI Trendline for cabin space, eclipse it for amenities, and challenge it for handling fun.

 

Quite simply, however, there is not a single model in the light car class that better blends smooth and engaging performance with such sterling economy, plushness and quietness.

This Volkswagen is an absolute delight to drive, as well as now being nicer to sit in for the driver and front passenger, complete with an upmarket dashboard and connectivity, and impressive active safety technology.

No, the new-generation model does not quite offer the rear-seat presentation and comfort to venture onto small car and small SUV class turf, but it does drive with greater distinction than several models in those segments.

 

For $17,990, the manual 70TSI Trendline slogs it out of the park.

 

Rivals

 

Kia Rio S from $16,990 plus on-road costs

Roomier inside with greater back-seat amenities, the Rio S is let down by a yesteryear engine.

 

Mazda2 Maxx from $17,690 plus on-road costs

Extremely cramped and noisy, but also great value and brilliant fun through corners.


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