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Driven: Volkswagen expands Polo size and appeal

Juiced up: The new-generation Volkswagen Polo has grown considerably over its predecessor and now offers more boot space than any car in its class, and even more than vehicles in the segment above.

Sixth-gen VW Polo positioned to capitalise on meagre entry-level light car offerings

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Volkswagen logo13 Mar 2018

VOLKSWAGEN Group Australia executives say they are confident the new Polo can punch above its weight and steal attention away from entry-level small cars thanks to its “segment-busting dimensions”, high-levels of standard equipment and turbocharged engines.

Last year Volkswagen Australia recorded 6515 Polo registrations, a 20.4 per cent drop over its 2016 result, as the superseded model was in run-out. This downward trend continued in the first two months of 2018 with the Polo sliding another 17.4 per cent year-on-year.

However, now with the sixth-generation Polo on stream, Volkswagen Group Australia product planning manager Jeff Shafer said he expected sales to turn around, but he would not be drawn on specific targets.

“We’ve got reasonable expectations for the new model, I think it ticks a lot of boxes and that will, as it finds its way into the market, (translate) to a reasonable volume level,” he said.

“We expect that it will be a strong seller, there’s a lot of factors that go into it.

“We want to look at the segment overall, so how the market is shifting and I guess, achieving a reasonable share of sales.”

Mr Shafer said the new Polo is positioned as a premium light car and would not be heavily discounted, with VGA instead targeting sustainable numbers over its model life.

“When we look at a new model, the first thing we want is the model to be the benchmark for the segment, so we’re not about chasing volume and I think that’s reflected in how we equip the vehicles, how we price the vehicles and how we, I guess, offer them to the marketplace,” he said.

“There are offers that will be at the market from time-to-time, and certainly we want to launch with a nice value story, but I think that when you look at sales volumes, there’s certain brands – which I won’t name – who have certainly artificially stimulated their numbers in particular months and they’ve really chased a number, and I don’t think that’s really the intention for us.

“We’d rather be sustainable over the life of the vehicle than be erratic with ‘boom and bust’ sort of cycles.”

As previously reported, the new Polo range will kick-off from $17,990 before on-roads for the base 70TSI Trendline manual and moves up to $19,490 for the more powerful 85TSI Comfortline. A Launch Edition variant is also on offer priced $1000 above the 85TSI Comfortline on which it is based.

Volkswagen is currently offering its new Polo at driveaway prices that match the recommended retail of the 70TSI Trendline, and is $1000 more than the cost of the 85TSI Comfortline and Launch Edition.

Mr Shafer said the price position of the new Polo, as well as its equipment levels, will get the attention of buyers who may be looking at entry-level small cars from the segment above that offer less torque, gear and storage space.

“We’re certainly looking to be competitive and have a good value product out in the market, but at the same time, we need to be reasonable about how we bring that to market,” he said.

“It’s got intrinsic value built within the vehicle, so we think that customers who experience the car will be quite pleased with what the value proposition is, so our position is not to be the cheapest in the market, and that’s not just Polo, but it’s the other products in our range.”

Built on a smaller version of Volkswagen Group’s modular MQB platform – that underpins the Golf, Audi TT sportscar and the Tiguan crossover – the new Polo measures 4053mm long, 1751mm wide, 1448mm high with a 2548mm wheelbase.

It is 81mm longer, 69mm wider and has a 78mm extended wheelbase compared with before, and features a boot capacity of 351 litres – 71L more than before and enough to beat out competitors in the small-car class, such as the Mazda3 (308L), Ford Focus (316L) and Subaru Impreza (345L).

The new Polo’s boot capacity is just 29L shy of its Golf hatchback sibling, while the split-fold rear seats can be stowed to swell luggage volume to 1125L.

Head- and shoulder-room for both front and rear occupants also rival small cars from other brands, but despite its segment-defying space, Mr Shafer said he expected the new Polo will not encroach into the Golf’s territory.

“I think whilst we want the Polo to be a volume player within our portfolio – I think it’s currently our fourth largest seller – it’s not about outright numbers. I think we’d be much happier selling fewer cars without massive discounts …. than just I guess, by market share,” he said.

“I think customers might cross shop the two (Polo and Golf), but we don’t really think there is that much overlap in what customers are looking for.

“We think it (Polo) has got the goods to go up against those entry small cars, but having said that, Golf is another step beyond that in terms of its size and what it offers.

“I think the two will find their own space and Golf is doing a really good job for us … so I think they exist in their own space in that regard.”

At $17,990, the five-speed manual 70TSI Trendline produces 70kW of power from 5000-5500rpm and 175Nm of torque available from 2000-3500rpm. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission bumps pricing up to $20,490.

Fuel economy in the 70TSI manual is rated at 4.8 litres per 100km, while the automatic returns 5.0L/100km.

Standard equipment includes 15-inch steel wheels, multi-function instrumentation display, leather multifunction steering wheel, 8.0-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth connectivity, two USB ports, air-conditioning, heated and electrically adjustable side mirrors, power windows and a six-speaker sound system.

Safety features also include autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, driver fatigue detection, low pressure tyre indicator, reversing camera, cruise control and six airbags.

Stepping up to the 85TSI Comfortline costs buyers $19,490 for the manual and $21,990 for the automatic, with the former upgraded to a six-speed unit, while the latter retains the seven-speed DSG.

The more powerful 85TSI engine means fuel consumption is increased to 5.1L/100km in the manual, although the automatic’s rating remains steady at 5.0L/100km.

Equipment upgrades include 15-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rearview mirror, front centre armrest and comfort cloth upholstery.

Based on the 85TSI Comfortline, the Polo Launch Edition adds another $1000 to cost for three-pedal and self-shifting versions, but also gains 16-inch alloys, wireless device charger, tinted rear windows, front foglights and smoked LED tail-lights.

Options are limited to the Driver Assistance package available on Comfortline and Launch Edition Polos for $1400 – which adds adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor, front and rear parking assist, rear cross-traffic alert and power-folding door mirrors – and premium paint available on all grades for $500.

While prices have crept up $800 on the outgoing base-level Polo, Volkswagen claim to have added “thousands of dollars in value with additional standard features”.

Volkswagen will launch a new flagship Polo GTI mid-year powered by a 147kW/320Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, as well as a audiophile-focused Beats edition with a 300-watt sound system and R-Line styling package for the first time in the light car.

2018 Volkswagen Polo pricing*
70TSI Trendline$17,990
70TSI Trendline (a)$20,490
85TSI Comfortline$19,490
85TSI Comfortline (a)$21,990
*Excludes on-road costs

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