Blue Polo falls short of green claims

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IOL mot apr29 vwblue2

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Polo BlueMotion comes with numerous aerodynamic enhancements, including flat grille.

ROAD TEST - VW POLO BLUEMOTION:

Volkswagen's Polo BlueMotion looks incredibly promising on paper and the biggest of its many claimed attributes is that combined cycle fuel consumption of just 3.4 litres per 100km.

And we're not talking about some pie in the sky hybrid vehicle that hardly anyone can afford or a miniature car that's going to turn you into a contortionist and then topple over in the first mild breeze it encounters.

This is a version of the VW Polo, a classy, practical and popular hatchback that deservedly shares SA's Car of the Year title in 1.6 TDI form - only the 1.2 TDI BlueMotion is 0.8 l/100km less thirsty and nearly R35 000 cheaper at R176 300, making it affordable to a large segment of the car-buying population.

“Where's the catch then?” I wondered when it was announced. Sadly that catch reared its head when I took my first test drive of SA's most economical car.

So bad was the lag and the general lack of shove below the 2500rpm mark that it was incredibly frustrating to try and drive economically and I eventually gave up on that idea, got generous with the revs and the consequent fuel consumption was not peachy.

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Then, without having even said anything to Volkswagen, they phoned me, apologetically revealing that there had been a diagnostic fault on that car and that they'd like to fetch it early and replace it with a Touran.

To cut a long story short, I did get to have another go in that same Polo BlueMotion test unit after they'd fixed it and put on some decent mileage - and the difference in driving characteristics was immense.

Sure, there was still a bit of lag but nothing out of the ordinary for a small diesel and the car was actually driveable at lowish revs in most instances. So I continued my economy escapade, keeping a light foot while driving at a reasonable pace and keeping up with traffic.

In the end, I achieved urban consumption of 7.1 litres per 100km and highway consumption of 5.1 litres per 100km, which is similar to what other colleagues have reported but still way above the aforementioned claims. Yet even if we ignore VW's bold claims, the BlueMotion is still rather frugal.

Although there are some aerodynamic enhancements and an idle-stop system contributing to its fuel sipping abilities, its main weapon is a 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbodiesel engine. Despite its diminutive size, it manages to push out 55kW at 4200rpm and 180Nm at 2000 and on the few occasions that I wasn't chasing economy figures, it actually felt really strong for something in its price range.

As for the rest of the driving experience, road holding is neat and the steering feels good, but the ride is a tad firmer than I'd expect on anything this side of a hot hatch. Another refinement issue is that too much engine noise makes its way into the otherwise serene cabin.

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The Polo has what's undeniably the classiest cabin in its segment, its combination of a neat design and soft-touch surfaces making it feel like a downscaled Golf in every respect. I wasn't a fan of the light-blue seat trim though - it's a bit course and I can imagine it getting dirty very quickly.

Another niggle is the cramped footwell, but the rest of the interior, including the rear cabin and boot, boasts enough room to compete with the best in this class.

Now, assuming those problems I experienced during my first test were isolated to that specific car - I think this new diesel Polo is an excellent.


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Sandy Forsyth, wrote

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07:13pm on 4 May 2011
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The problem with most car reviewers is that they want to push the car to the limit of power and speed. By those standards the Polo is hopelessly underpowered. And when you flog a small motor your fuel consumption is high. But the Polo is a state of mind - a small diesel deoesn't pretend to be a perfromance vehicle ansd the car isn't designed to produce GTI results. My second tank is giving me 4.9l per 100km, driving from Kommetjie to the middle of Cape Town every day. With only 600km on the clock, the motor is still stiff, so I expect better from the next tank.

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Anonymous, wrote

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02:30pm on 4 May 2011
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One comment refers to the extreme differences in prices between South Africa and the rest of the world. As this article is on the 1,2L Polo. I have done a direct comparison with Germany, were I live. Same spec, same colour just not right hand drive. ZA- R 176’300 DE- 17’893 € Today’s exchange rate is +- R 9.70 to the Euro. Making R 2’737.90 more than Europe. Not 3 times the rest of the world I would say. Or is my math that bad?

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Alf, wrote

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09:34am on 4 May 2011
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Car pricing in South Africa remains unreasonably high because South African consumers choose with their hearts than their heads. There are and there will continue to be (think the upcoming Kia Rio) cars that offer better value in this segment, but VW fans will still go a buy this overrated car.

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Pauline, wrote

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06:34am on 3 May 2011
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VW is lying but as usual, SA motoring journalists will lap up ANYTHING VW dishes up. This car is grossly underpowered and the consumption is not exceptional at all compared to other (much more) drivable cars.

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Get Real, wrote

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05:18am on 3 May 2011
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The lesson here is that the term "green" is nothing but a rhetorical device to market products to the guilt ridden masses who are too lazy to research all the green claims. From solar panels, windmills, compact fluorescent, or hybrids it is all hype to dupe the ignorant masses.

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navin osman, wrote

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12:48am on 3 May 2011
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im driving the entry level fiat 500, also a 1.2 but a petrol. the cabin is that much better looking and feeling than that of the polo. also, im getting 4.9l100km on the long road, and 6.2driving city.i do have a heavy foot, and this little 1.2 moves...quickly! not only is the fiat cheaper, but its also a full house kit. with 7 airbags, abs, electric windows,electric mirrors, remote control central locking, traction, awesome sound system, onboard computer, power steering etc etc.

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Anonymous, wrote

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11:10pm on 2 May 2011
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I own a Citroen DS3 THP, a 1.6 turbo-petrol capable of actually moving at a very decent pace. I recently drove from Cape Town to Johannesburg, enabling cruise control on 100kmh in 6th gear wherever possible (2000 rpm) and achieved a trip average of 6L 100km. Before departing I filled up with 42 litres of fuel, and after 710km I filled up and it took 42 litres again. After that I got bored of my economy run and hammered it the rest of the way. The point is petrol technology has come so far, what's the point of a slow 1.2 diesel that wont be able to safely overtake a truck, endangering your and your passengers lives, if it cant demonstrate any clear benefits? If it could do 3.8 I would probably buy one as a runabout, but the theory of tiny engine economy rarely proves true in real world circumstances. Especially when the company behind the theory is VW, and the subject of the theory is one of their vehicles..

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Anonymous, wrote

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06:01pm on 2 May 2011
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over 1927km in a Opel Monza 1.8L 19878 fully laden with 4 adults travelled from Bloemfontein to JBay ECape via Nieu-Bethesda,Graaff Reinet, Valley of Desolation, Uitenhague,Humansdorp,are just a few places that we travelled since Easter Good Friday till 1st May. Fuel consumption 6.3km100km. Travelling @ +120kmh @ times ... so much for the latest cars!!

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Flatsix, wrote

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05:51pm on 2 May 2011
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The claims are not VW's as your reporter should well know. The figure applies to an EU-sanctioned Combined Cycle and provides a reference figure for comparative purposes only. The fact of the matter is that whatever others may shout about, this Polo will use less fuel than any other car available in SA in give and take driving. It wasn't designed to rip the tar out of the ground as seems to be the ambition of so many of SA's drivers who can't seem to think beyond 0-100 kmh.

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Simon, wrote

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04:16pm on 2 May 2011
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Hi Jason, To describe the fuel economy ratings of new cars as "claims" is inaccurate. The BlueMotion's 3.4l100km rating is not a claim, it's a fact - an utterly repeatable, rock solid, reliable fact. If you could recreate the conditions under which the car was originally tested, you'd get exactly the same results - 3.4l100km - every time. The problem is that it's very difficult to recreate the test conditions. Cold day? Windy? A bit of a hill? Another car cuts you off and you have to brake suddenly? Any of these would make it more difficult to meet the car's official rating. You might as well try to test the car's top speed while driving it up a hill - obviously you're going to be disappointed. The purpose of the rating is to enable cars to be compared with each other, not to predict real-world performance. There are various standards for establishing these ratings - the BlueMotion's figures are derived using the European standard, but the Americans and the Japanese use different methods. The European figures tend to be quite tricky to achieve in the real world. The American ones are easier to meet, and the Japanese ones are crazy difficult. Feel free to criticise any testing methodology you like, but don't pretend that VW is lying just because you couldn't match their numbers.

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herman, wrote

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02:37pm on 2 May 2011
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Re my livina I just want to add that the 6.9l100km was exactly the same as nissans claim of 6.9. So even though it was a poorly build car (another story) i got what I paid for and Nissan still has credibility in my books.

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Christopher Holmes, wrote

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01:18pm on 2 May 2011
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It seems to me that the motoring world in general exaggerates the frugality of their cars. My Honda Jazz EX-S automatic has a sticker on the windscreen that proclaims a combined total of 6.7L100km. I wish! I am a frugal driver, and the very best I've achieced on the open road is 6.8L100km, my average being in the region of 9.5L100km. I drive with a very light right foot, and anticipate traffic light changes so as not to brake too much. The situation in which they come up with their magic figures must be absolutely ideal with no other cars on the road!

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Anonymous, wrote

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10:31am on 2 May 2011
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I drive a 2008 BMW 320d (125kw and 350Nm torque). On the open road I get 4.9l100km and thats driving at 120-130 without trying to be super economical. I'n town I can get it down to about 7.5 if I drive carefully. Now this is an engine that has double the Kw and double the torque and it still manages comparable figures. I think VW is taking a big chance with their impossibly low figures.

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Danie S, wrote

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10:10am on 2 May 2011
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Owned 2005 Opel Corsa Classic 17DTi and averaged 5.4 l100 km over the 150 000 km (55kw165Nm, best 4.8 - worst 6.3). Seems better bet, apparenty new Opel Corsa in same region?

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ME, wrote

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12:44pm on 1 May 2011
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My 1.6 Corolla Sprinter average on the open road is 6.9l100km and average of 7.5lkm - why this blue thing - Yaris T1 average 5.8l100km - with a 53KW engine

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Anonymous, wrote

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11:05am on 1 May 2011
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the consumption is so high because even with sensible driving you have the rev the !@#$ out of it to get anywhere. I drove a brand new one from VW 2 months ago and didn't like it at all. You put you foot down, wait till kingdom come and then by the time you get there you sitting at about 30km per hour. Very very frustrating. If you rev it hard its hardly okay and you still pushing it to go faster. Also a 1.2 diesel, not sure how long that motor under that stress (being such a small diesel) will last and with the stop start its going to make for very expensive repairs later on.

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Gerrit, wrote

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10:57am on 1 May 2011
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I drove a 1.6Hdi Citroen C4 for 126 000km and averaged 6.3 L100km over that distance. I currently drive a C5 2.0 Hdi Citroen and I am averaging about 7.7 L100km. Bear in mind that the C5 is automatic and weighs about 1.8 tons.

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Anonymous, wrote

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09:37am on 1 May 2011
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I have a 15 year old 328i BMW with 240000km on it that was paid for years ago and uses about 7,5L per 100km open road and around 9L in town. I don't see the point of spending hundreds of thousands of rand on a new car that hasn't moved the goalposts that much further

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herman, wrote

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07:56am on 1 May 2011
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Fact is vw is lying. Other reports also dont come close to their claims. I got 6.9 with my no-frills 1.6 livina in town, so would expect much better from a so-called bluemotion. Remember the first 1.4 polo diesels? When last did you see one on the road? I wonder if all of them are on a scrap yard already.

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Elayne Henderson, wrote

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08:04pm on 30 April 2011
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Can any one tell me why the cost of new cars are almost 3 times the price of anywhere else in the world. I have just bought a Kia Sportage 2012 model. I got the basic 2X4 model and paid 65,000 AED. ( that is United Arab Emirates Dirham.) At todays conversion that is R117 520. New in SA for a 2010 cost R285000. I know that we pay more tax in SA but is the tax almost 2 12 X the price of the car. What do we get in SA for this high taxing of cars. Both are imported into the relevant country. And why are second hand cars just soo expensive. I was lucky to get R9500 for my Sportage 2001 when I traded it in.

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