What is it? The new Volkswagen Polo isn’t really a new Volkswagen Polo. Volkswagen’s marketing department would sure like you to think of it as an all-new motor vehicle but, in reality, it’s just a refreshed version of the Mk5 that’s already been on sale in South Africa since the beginning of 2010. What you are looking at here is nothing more than a mid-life face-lift that equips the best-seller with a line-up of economical new turbocharged engines, some revised exterior/interior styling cues, plus more up-to-date technology; particularly when safety and entertainment are concerned.
How does it look?
If you happen to catch the new, uh, face-lifted Polo whiz-zing by whizzing past in traffic, then my guess is that you’ll probably struggle to point out any immediate differences. But creep up on one lurking in a car park and you will then notice that Volkswagen has bolted on a new front apron with a lower air-intake that no longer grins like the village idiot. Free from that foolish smile, the Polo now wears a much more aggressive face which, of course, makes it look quite a bit sportier. Although absent on entry-level Trendline models, Comfortline and Highline cars get (just like on the Golf Mk7) a thin strip of chrome piping that that runs between the two headlamps, effectively linking them together. Comfortline and Highline models also get alloy wheels (15- and 16-inch respectively), while the Trendline has to make do with basic steelies clad with plastic hubcaps. At the Round back, things have been freshened up on all Polo derivatives, thanks to the addition of a new bumper, as well as a pair of redesigned tail lights.
Open the door, slide inside and you will see that the Polo now wears a tweaked centre console that’s home to much more ergonomic ventilation control switchgear as well as a new touch-screen (5-inch) infotainment system. Now standard on the Trendline — a car that, in the past, used to be radioless — the Composition Touch system has a basic monochrome screen that lets you control radio, aux-in and SD-card inputs. There is, bizarrely, no CD player, but USB and Bluetooth can be fitted as an option. Fortunately, all of these things come standard, with the Composition Colour system fitted to Comfortline and Highline models. Those wanting even more can opt for the range-topping Composition Media package that, amongst other things, can mimic the operating system (OS) of your smartphone on its 5.8-inch screen. Initially only compatible with Android devices, Volkswagen assured me that other OS formats made by the likes of Apple and Windows would be supported at a later date. Good to know.
What’s it like to drive?
Although still not as crisp as a Ford Fiesta, the tweaked 2014 Polo does feel annoyingly refined for a small B-segment hatchback. In fact, it’s not that far off from its bigger brother, the Golf, in terms of day-to-day drivability. It rides well, too, theat slightly more comfort-orientated suspension system soaking up the rigours of our ruddy rural blacktop with a minimum of fuss. However, what really makes a difference this time round is the performance of the new 1.2TSI engines that have already been so deservedly hailed in most European markets.
Available in either 66kW (Trendline and Comfortline) or 81kW (Highline) derivatives, they endow the Polo with far better freeway cruising credentials. EIn fact even in cars fitted with the little 66kW engine and a basic five-speed manual gearbox, it’s easy to hurtle a long at way over the national speed limit. 150km/h? 160km/h? No problem. Even more so with the hotter 81kW derivative that comes equip-ped with a sixth gear (seven if you pick the optional DSG) for freer cruising. Both these engines also offer improved fuel economy and less CO2 emissions. The 66kW in particular — on our heated test-drive up to Dullstroom I managed to averaged 6.0l/100km. For the time being, these are the only powertrains available in the Polo lineup, although a batch of new diesel engines can be expected at a later stage. Any special features?
All Polo derivatives now ship with electronic stability control, hill-hold assist and an automatic post-collision braking system. The latter automatically brakes the vehicle after an accident as so to avoid any secondary collisions and/or tries to reduce their severity. Before this type of technology was the preserve of much more expensive cars in the Volkswagen lineup. Highline models get a driver alert system that constantly monitors your driving style and tells you when it thinks you need to pull over for a break — quite a handy feature to have on long trips.
Should you buy one?
Indeed you should. The face-lifted Polo makes an even stronger case for itself, thanks to the addition of those new 1.2 TSI engines. Offering strong performance and enhanced frugality, Volkswagen’s best-seller should now appeal to the buying demographic that’s been considering the similarly capable, but slightly less grown-up, Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost. Sweetening the deal is (finally) a standard three-year/45000km service plan; something that’s been lacking from the Polo ownership experience for far too long. Through our eyes, the R209700 66kW Trendline makes a particularly good buy. Just remember to go easy on the lengthy options list as this can see the price tag on all cars soar to unrealistic heights.
Four versions to choose from
Visually, the new Polo can be identified by a sharper front and rear design. In addition, the new model introduces fresh colours, new interior materials and new specifications. The new Polo now comes in three equipment levels, Trendline, Comfortline and Highline. Customers who want a Polo with rugged but sporty looks can opt for the CrossPolo. Pricing: R188300 (66kW Trendline); R209 700 (66kW Comfortline); R233 300 (81kW Highline); R247 800 (81kW DSG); R241 000 (81kW CrossPolo) .