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Volkswagen Polo

A05 Polo

Volkswagen logo1 May 2010

By LUCIANO PAOLINO

VOLKSWAGEN launched its all-new fifth-generation Polo series as separate entities on May 8th 2010 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 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 63kW/132Nm 1.4-litre single-cam 16-valve naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine, in either five-speed manual or new DSG dual-clutch seven-speed ‘auto’ mode.

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

The former employs Volkswagen’s lightweight 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 and 175Nm from 1500 to 3500rpm on 95 RONThe latter 66TDI Comfortline, meanwhile, ushers in a new-generation 1598cc common-rail four-cylinder diesel that produces 66kW at 4200rpm and 230Nm from 1750 to 2500rpm.

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.

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.

Within a year of the Mk5 Polo’s launch came the second-generation GTI, bringing an automatic gearbox and a five-door hatch option to the range for the first time.

Out went the old 1.8-litre turbo for a 1.4-litre ‘Twincharge’ TSI turbo and supercharged induction, mated exclusively to a seven-speed DSG dual clutch transmission.

With no manual gearbox availability, the high-tech GTI drivetrain delivers 132kW of power at 6200rpm and 250Nm of torque from 2000 to 4500rpm. Compared to the old car, the 2011 GTI hits 100km/h in 6.9 seconds versus 8.2s, while its 229km/h V-max is 13km/h faster than before.

Yet it uses less fuel (6.1L/100km versus 8.0 – although it needs to be 98 RON uber premium unleaded) and pumps out fewer CO2 particles (142 against 190g/km).

Helping to contain the performance increase is the XDL device that works electronically with the ESC stability control system (also standard) to counteract understeer by distributing torque to whichever front wheel needs it more while applying the brakes appropriately.

There’s also a Hill Start Assist function that briefly applies the brakes to halt unintentional movement while the DSG gathers its thoughts.

The usual trademark GTI visuals are fitted, including red stripes, a honeycomb design for the grille and bumper air intakes, body-coloured mudguard flares and rear spoiler, circular alloys with red brake callipers, and a rear diffuser donning dual chromed tail pipes.

Tartan rules inside, on sports seats, while the GTI-specific leather-clad steering wheel has the obligatory flat bottom.

Volkswagen has dropped the ride height 15mm and stiffer dampers have been fitted to lower the angles of body roll. 17-inch alloys wearing 215/40 R17 87V low-profile tyres, and larger brakes complete the GTI makeover.

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