Launch Review: Volkswagen Polo
Kariega - The people over at Volkswagen have always had a South African favourite in their stable. The Beetle, Golf, Citi Golf and in modern times the Polo.
There’s more than 18 million of them that have been sold worldwide since first introduced and the local plant in Kariega has played a large part in that.
Currently the plant is geared to make the full range of Polos, which includes the older-generation Polo Vivo as well as the GTI. In fact, the GTI is only made here, no small feat for a country that is the second largest market for Polo GTIs after Germany and in the top 10 when it comes to Polo ownership.
Capacity at the plant is 165 000 cars a year or 680 cars a day, five days a week and of that 75 percent are exported. They also happen to build engines which are exported to India and Malaysia.
The popular hatchback has been upgraded to keep it relevant, especially when it comes to digitalisation and connectivity, which research shows is what owners have as a high priority.
They are available in entry-level Polo, Polo Life, Polo R-Line and of course the GTI.
Modern cars have become exponentially bigger and the Volkswagen Polo is no different and is currently as big as a Golf 3, with the internal dimensions bigger than a Golf 4. That’s good news for us taller folk and with a comfortable driving position there was enough rear legroom for two adults.
Inside there’s nary an analogue switch or dial as the whole cabin switches to digital across the range. It looks very tidy and uncluttered, both when the car is running and switched off, but I still believe a volume dial wouldn’t be amiss. Still, it’s something you’re likely to find more often in a premium segment so kudos here to VW for taking the Polo a step up.
Build quality is outstanding and if you consider it is available with features like front and rear park distance control, Composition Media, a high-res and easy to use infotainment system, inductive cellphone charging, dual zone air-conditioning, electric folding mirrors, leather wrapped multifunction steering wheel and lumbar support for both driver and passenger, it’s easy to see why the Polo is likely to continue featuring high on the sales charts.
Driving the three pod Life version with 70kW and 175Nm, you’re struck how comfortable it is and easy to manoeuvre. There’s a seven-speed DSG automatic version and a five-speed manual option which we drove.
Gear changes are slick and easy with a light clutch action that allows you to move through the rev range as the little 1.0-litre motor thrums quickly to the redline.
It’s comfortable both as a highway cruiser with the adaptive cruise control set, easily keeping up and passing slower traffic as well as through tighter suburban streets thanks to its light and direct steering.
At the end of February there will be an 85kW and 200Nm version available in Life or R-Line specification.
The fun drive though is the GTI, powered by a 2.0 litre turbocharged mill that’s good for 147kW and 320Nm, powering the front wheels via a seven-speed DSG transmission. In sport mode it produces lovely snap, crackle and pop noises from the tailpipes as you gear down and up again through the corners.
It’s well balanced, keen to play and doesn’t mind if you drive it hard with steering to match. I found it to be more GTI than its bigger Golf GTI sibling, probably because it looks cheekier, especially in Kings Red, and it is a little less sophisticated, smaller and more engaging.
A light bar connecting the LED headlamps and two-piece LED daytime running lights add to the exterior appeal.
Inside, red surfaces and digital needles add a sporty vibe as do the sports steering wheel, pedals and bucket seats although the red overlay on the dash hints at a younger market where I would have preferred the more subtle faux carbon fibre found in the rest of the range.
Either way, the Volkswagen Polo hits all the correct notes and will no doubt continue to be a well-rounded favourite among buyers.
It comes with a three-year/120 000km warranty and a three-year/45 000km service plan that’s optionally extendable to 10 years/300 000km.
Volkswagen Polo Pricing (February 2022)
Polo 1.0 TSI 70kW Manual — R311 800
Polo Life 1.0 TSI 70kW Manual — R350 000
Polo Life 1.0 TSI 85kW DSG — R370 700
Polo R-Line 1.0 TSI 85kW DSG — R421 900
Polo GTI 2.0 TSI 147kW DSG — R489 400