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Launch Story

7 May 2010

VOLKSWAGEN’S reinvented Polo is attempting to move out of its big sibling Golf’s giant shadow by adopting turbo engine and DSG dual-clutch gearbox technology in both petrol and diesel guises, as well as class-leading five-star safety, big car refinement, EU5 emissions efficiency, higher specification levels and lower prices.

But the fifth-generation German light car – known internally as the A05 Type 6R series – is actually two quite separate entities with distinct bodystyles and drivetrains, and is even sourced from different continents.

Kicking off from $16,690 is the three-door hatch-only Trendline from Spain, costing $300 less than before yet gaining a host of standard features including ESC stability control and anti-whiplash front-seat head restraints.

It is powered by a reworked version of the old 1390cc 1.4-litre single-cam 16-valve naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine. With revised electronics and a new injection system, it registers 63kW of power (+4kW) at 5000rpm and 132Nm of torque (+2Nm) at 3800rpm on 95 RON premium unleaded petrol, for a zero to 100 kilometres per hour sprint-time of 12.1 seconds.

In 2007 the previous Polo’s auto went from four to six speeds, but now – in the name of greater efficiency – the Trendline has ditched that for a $2500 DSG option with seven speeds.

Compared with the Trendline’s standard five-speed manual figures, the DSG7’s results speak for themselves: The 0-100km/h rush reduces by 0.2s the average fuel consumption falls to 6.0L/100km instead of 6.1 and carbon dioxide emissions drop from 142 grams per km to 140.

Meanwhile, the five-door Polo is now called the Comfortline, and is forecast to accrue approximately 85 per cent of all sales – at least until the three-door Polo GTI arrives late this year or early in the first quarter of 2011.

Made in South Africa, the five-door Polo Comfortline is available in a pair of high-tech turbocharged direct-injection powerplant models that adopt Golf nomenclature – $19,850 77TSI Comfortline (petrol) or $22,350 66TDI Comfortline (diesel) persuasion.

This means the cheapest Polo with five doors still nudges $20,000, putting about $3000 between it and the five-door iterations of the Mazda2 Neo, Ford Fiesta CL, and Toyota Yaris YR – the rivals Volkswagen says are in the newcomer’s direct crosshairs, although none come standard with quite the same level of safety gear.

Interestingly, the first Australian-bound Polo was the five-door A03 of October 1996, and that cost $19,990 back then.

The 77TSI Comfortline employs Volkswagen’s new 1197cc 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. Mated to either a new six-speed manual or DSG7 dual-clutch gearbox, it delivers 77kW at 5000rpm, 175Nm from 1500 to 3500rpm on 95 RON, a 9.7s 0-100km/h timing, 5.5L/100km and 128g/km.

Volkswagen believes the 77TSI Comfortline DSG7 will be the biggest selling individual model in the local light-car’s line-up. It replaces the old Polo’s 77kW/153Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, and is up to 1.8L/100km more economical and 58g/km cleaner.

Finally (for now) comes the 66TDI Comfortline, ushering in a new-generation 1598cc common-rail four-cylinder diesel that adds about 65kg to the weight of the Polo and is related to the 77TDI and 103TDI units found in the Golf.

Replacing the old manual-only 74kW/240Nm 1.9-litre TDI while costing $640 less and using either a five-speed manual or DSG7 dual-clutch gearbox, the 66TDI Comfortline produces 66kW at 4200rpm and 230Nm from 1750 to 2500rpm, a 0-100km/h scramble in 11.5s, 4.7L/100km (DSG7: 4.6) and 124g/km (DSG7: 121).

So much for the variations in Volkswagen Australia’s smallest model – underneath all are pretty much the same, using a transverse engine layout driving the front wheels, as all Polos have since the first one went on sale in Germany in 1975.

Suspension follows light-car orthodoxy by employing MacPherson struts and coil springs up front and a Torsion beam axle, trailing arms and coil springs in the rear.

Steering is an electro-hydraulically powered rack and pinion set-up, while the brake system uses 256mm by 22mm vented discs up front and 230mm by 9mm solid discs out back. Assisting these are ABS anti-lock brakes with EBD Electronic Brake-force Distribution and BA Brake Assist, along with the ESC, ASR traction control, and EDS electronic limited slip differential devices.

Today’s Polo is the result of a complete redesign inside and out, giving it a stronger familial (i.e. Golf) resemblance than ever. Mature ‘simplicity’ rather than ‘cute’ was the catchcry of design head Walter De Silva – a stipulation first seen in the sadly still AWOL Golf-based Scirocco coupe out elsewhere in 2008.

Uprated body strength and improved rigidity were key goals, as was preserving lightness, so the Polo is almost eight per cent lighter than before yet scores a five-star European NCAP crash-test rating.

Aiding its position as one of the world’s safest B-segment vehicles, the A05 boasts reduced rates of footwell intrusion (by 50 per cent), side-impact intrusion (by 20 per cent), and roof-impact intrusion (by 15 per cent), compared with its 2002-09 A04 9N predecessor.

Dimensionally the A05 Polo is larger than even the second-generation Golf from 1983 to 1991, coming in at 4064mm long (plus 148mm compared to before), 1682mm wide (+32mm), 1500mm high (+33mm) and 2456mm in wheelbase (+2mm). It is 46mm wider in track front and rear at 1464mm and 1456mm respectively.

The upshot is a roomier interior, with space for knees growing by 8mm and front shoulders by 22mm, while boot space is 10 litres larger than in the old car, expanding with the 60/40 rear seats folded from 261 litres to 952L.

An all-new Golf-style dashboard panel faces the driver more than before, and is swathed in slush-tech soft-feel plastics, with instruments now lit in white for increased clarity. Aluminium-look trim surrounds, as well as an upgraded audio system and a leather-clad steering wheel with extra buttons, differentiate the Trendline from the more expensive Comfortline models.

Standard features on the Trendline include dual front, front-side and curtain airbags, ESC, ABS, EBD, BA, ASR, EDS, semi-automatic air-conditioning, remote central locking, power windows, power steering, tilt and reach-adjustable steering, a driver’s seat raiser, hill-start assist, heated and powered exterior mirrors, 14-inch steel wheels and a full-sized spare.

The Comfortline adds two more doors, chrome grille highlights, ‘H7’ instead of ‘H5’ headlights, alloy wheels, cruise control, a multi-function steering wheel, passenger reading lights, a front passenger seat height adjustor, front centre armrest, front-seat map pockets, and a multi-function trip computer.

As with the base Golf, Polo Trendline buyers can opt for a $900 Comfort Package, which adds cruise control, front centre armrest, a multi-function display trip computer and steering wheel, climate control air-con, an auto dimming interior rear-view mirror, low tyre-pressure monitor and rain-sensing wipers.

Meanwhile, the latter four items make up the Comfortline’s ‘Comfort Package’ for a $500 premium, $1500 buys the Comfortline ‘Sports Package’ (17-inch alloy wheels, a dark tint for rear and rear-side glass, lowered ‘Sports’ suspension, front fog lights with static cornering function mounted in the lower bumper and low tyre pressure indicator), and the Audio Package (Media Device Interface and upgraded audio screen with loudspeakers and a dual tuner) adds $770 to the price.

Other key options include $500 metallic and pearl-effect paint (if the four standard colours white, red, blue and new Savanna Yellow are not desirable), a $600 anti-theft alarm system and $2300 Alcantara/Leatherette upholstery on the Comfortline.

Towing capacity is 1000kg with a braked trailer, falling to 530kg without.

Released at the Geneva motor show in March 2009, the A05 Polo was voted the 2010 European Car of the Year, as well as the World Car of the Year.

After the top-selling 77TSI Comfortline, the 66TDI Comfortline is expected to be the next most popular Polo, with the Trendline slated for just 15 per cent – although this is more than double that of the outgoing version.

Furthermore, with the newly available DSG7 gearbox, the company predicts that up to 70 per cent of all buyers will forsake the manual transmission for it.

Volkswagen boss Anka Koeckler will not reveal sales projections but “a significant increase” on the 3000 unit average of the last model is called for.

Last year, Polo sales plummeted 40 per cent to 1404 sales against 2008’s 2362 unit result, but with just the one (though thorough) facelift in 2005, the old model has been on sale in Australia since July 2002.

The new Polo went on sale on May 8th across Australia, almost a year to the day after Germany. To the end of 2009, over 130,000 orders had been taken.

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