REVIEW: Volkswagen Polo Sedan lives in the shadow of its hatchback sibling

Published Apr 18, 2023


Johannesburg – It’s safe to say that Mzansi has a huge love affair with the Volkswagen Polo and it’s not hard to see why.

For more than two decades now, the locally-built hatchback model has impressed us with its high-quality feel, decent performance and relative value for money, although we have to admit it has become quite expensive lately.

While the hatch accounts for the lion’s share of sales, VWSA continues to offer a sedan model imported from India. The latest generation model, introduced in late 2022, continues to be the nation’s second-best-selling sedan behind the Corolla Quest, with 359 units sold last month.

Given the waning demand for sedans here and abroad, it’s easy to see how the four-door Polo would live in the shadows of its hatchback sibling. Unfortunately, having spent two weeks behind the wheel of the automatic and manual models, I think there’s another reason. I hate to say it but the overall level of quality of the interior of this sedan just doesn’t match up to the hatchback.

The exterior design is as impressive as you could expect at this level, and not only is it somewhat larger than its predecessor, with its length having grown by 171mm, it also looks like a more substantial car.

It could easily pass as a modern-day Jetta successor – especially given that the latter has been discontinued locally – and it’s quite practical too. Sitting behind my driving position I had fairly ample legroom and that’s quite important considering how popular this car is with Uber and other ride-hailing entrepreneurs.

Out on the road the Polo Sedan impresses with its comfortable ride quality and sure-footed roadholding. It seems to take South Africa’s increasingly rough tar roads in its stride.

Unfortunately, the four-door loses a few marks on the performance and acoustic front.

Unlike the hatch, which is fitted with 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engines, the Polo Sedan is currently only offered with a normally aspirated 1.6-litre unit, although a TSI option is set to become available later this year.

The 1.6 produces 81kW and 152Nm, but there is a fair amount of car to lug along so at times you will have to work the engine quite hard. Unfortunately, things get rather noisy when you do this, and at times I felt like I was driving a Citi Golf with a boomy exhaust from the 1990s. Not an altogether unpleasant sound, but I feel that a sedan at this level should have better sound-deadening properties.

That said, when you’re cruising on the highway and your momentum is established, it is a fairly serene experience, although the five-speed manual model could probably use an extra gear to keep the revs down at cruising speeds.

The automatic model has a conventional torque converter gearbox with six forward ratios and while it cruises nicely on the freeway, in urban settings it got a bit busy at times, something that would likely be solved with a turbocharged engine.

As for economy, Volkswagen claims an overall figure of 6.2 litres per 100km, but expect it to consume upwards of 7.0 litres/100km in the real world, and if you’re only driving it in town it can easily breach the 10 litres/100km mark if you’re not careful.

As mentioned, the interior is not quite as well finished as I remember the hatchback being, although overall build quality is solid enough.

I was going to moan about the beige seat upholstery in our test cars, which get dirty really quickly, but it seems that Volkswagen has changed to a darker grey-and-black fabric that’s much more suited to our market.

Earlier models had beige seat upholstery but newer versions have this grey-and-black combo as seen on the VWSA website.

Beige interiors are all the rage in this vehicle’s home market of India, and sometimes South African importers struggle to secure a darker colour for our market. Clearly someone at VWSA has managed to pull a few strings though.

The Volkswagen Polo Sedan is available in two trim flavours, with the standard version, available in manual guise only, packing the basic comfort and safety amenities.

However, the specification in the Life model that we tested is quite generous to say the least.

For starters it swops the base model’s 7.0-inch (17.8cm) infotainment system for a 10-inch (25.4cm) unit, and also gains a reverse camera, wireless phone charging, wireless App-Connect, automatic climate control, keyless entry and start as well as a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel.

There are no options, besides the five exterior colours, as pretty much everything you’re going to need in the Life model is already standard. Except for side and curtain airbags, which is a bit of a worrying omission at this level.

The Polo Sedan is sold with a three-year or 120 000km warranty and a service plan that’s valid for three years or 45 000km.

The base model is priced at R332 400, while the Life is yours for R360 900 in manual guise and R381 700 as an automatic.

IOL Motoring