After Volkswagen unveiled the Polo at the Auto Expo in Delhi earlier this year, the Polo has already garnered much attention among car enthusiasts and a lot of people who have been looking at purchasing a hatchback have put their decisions on hold in anticipation of this 'little' VW.
The Polo is certainly a very handsome looking car and unmistakably a VW. Granted, it doesn't have the same design flair and pizzazz as some of the more recent entrants like the Grande Punto or the rather aggressively styled i20. However, in typical German fashion, it is rather mature looking and has just that right balance of sportiness without being overly yuppie in its demeanour.The Polo has a very aggressively chiselled front end, with smart headlamps which really sweep from around the front fenders to merge with the slim grille. The big shiny VW badge sits in the centre of the grille and the two chromed horizontal slats do add a bit of sparkle to the front of the car. Also adding to the sharp looking front is the crisply cut chin and front bumper which houses a pair of neatly styled fog lamps, which are standard on the loaded Highline variant. Interestingly VW decided that the slightly smoked effect headlamps which are available on the Polo worldwide may not go down well with the Indian consumer's psyche and went with a shiny one instead.
The neatly styled tailgate with the sporty spoiler looks good and houses the third-brake light. The diesel powered Polo carries a TDI badge on the rear and that's about the only distinguishing factor between the petrol and diesel engined Polo's. The Polo has a boot that's just a shade over two hundred and eighty litres, but the fenders do intrude into the boot somewhat and rob it of some precious stowage area. The Trendline features a full-fold down rear seat where as the Comfortline and Highline feature a 60:40 split rear seat which may be more practical.
The Polo will be available in three trim levels, namely the Trendline, Comfortline and Highline. Common across all the variants is power steering with a tilt and telescopic adjustment, manually adjustable side-view mirrors, HVAC, front power windows (with an Auto down), central locking, body coloured bumpers, tachometer, engine immobilizer, chrome finished door handles on the inside, prismatic rear-view mirror, tinted glasses, height adjustable headrests for the front and rear and a fully folding rear seat (only on the Trendline).
The interior of the Polo is a two-tone affair. You've got the top half of the dashboard in a durable (but hard) black plastic, and the bottom is beige and merges seamlessly with the doorpad design. The beige interior does make the car feel far more airy on the inside than a grey one might, but it is going to need constant attention to keep it looking spotless. The chrome finished door release handle adds a slightly upmarket touch to the doorpad area.
If you've been in Skoda's or other VW's before you'll feel right at home in the Polo. There are plenty of familiar looking bits. Some of the stalks, buttons, knobs come from the giant VW Group parts bin, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, since they're all well made and have a certain quality feel about them. The knobs that control the airflow on the air-con vents feel really good to the touch and have a very precise feel to their operation. Little quality bits like this can really go a long way in giving a car a well-made, quality feel.
The Polo comes with two engine options for now, and both are 75bhp, 3 cylinder, 1.2 litre engines! The petrol is 1198cc with an output of 75bhp @ 5400 rpm and churns out 110Nm of torque @3750 rpm. The diesel is a 1199cc commonrail turbo-diesel which churns out 75bhp @ 4200 rpm and a useful torque figure of 180Nm@ just 2000 rpm. There's also interestingly a 1.6 petrol engine which is listed on the VW website which produces just a shade over 100bhp, but VW state that they won't be launching this anytime soon. That would really make this Polo, truly sporty.
Both the 1.2litre engines are mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, which VW says is the same 'box, but because of the different final drive ratios and the way each of these engines produce their power, the car's really do feel quite different when you drive them. VW says that there's going to be no auto-box for a while at least, so it's just the 5-speed manual for now. Incidentally, this new 1.2 diesel engine that we've got here will debut in Europe later this year.
Most European cars are known for their ride and handling and we have always been quite a fan of the way the VW group cars ride and handle. Comfortable through bad patches, surefooted and safe at speed and very neutral and safe at the limit. The Polo is no different from its other siblings and distant cousins, in this respect. The Polo sports struts in the front and a torsion beam with gas dampers at the rear. The suspension setup was slightly tweaked for our road conditions and the ground clearance upped by 50mm and the car now has a ground clearance of 168mm. The car has a slightly stiff ride at low speeds, but the ride at higher speeds is excellent and the car feels thoroughly composed even when caught out by really bad patches or mid-corner bumps. The Polo's suspension really has been tweaked to strike a perfect compromise between firmness and agility. The brakes on the Polo felt progressive and quite meaty with enough grabbing power. The Polo uses discs upfront and drums at the rear and only the Highline trim gets ABS. We'll know just how good they are when we put it to our braking tests in a short while.
The engineers have designed the Polo for the Polo Cup, which really says it all. The kind of stress racing can put on a chassis, has ensured that the Polo's chassis is engineered for so much more than what it will be subjected to. The chassis is absolutely brilliant and even on really twisty patches the tyres on our Polo were giving up well before what this chassis is really capable of. The Polo has electro-mechanical assist for the steering, which weighs up well with increase in speed and has just the right amount of feedback coming through to your fingers on the steering wheel. The one noticeable area that really needs improvement is reducing the tyre noise that filters through at even moderate speeds and this somewhat breaks the calm of the cabin. There is a drone at speed on concrete patches and this is a shame, since no doubt VW, like all other manufacturers would have worked hard on keeping NVH to a minimum.
The Polo is really a brilliantly made quality-hatchback with a legendary badge. It has a lot of things going in its favour. Great build quality, a fantastic 6 years Anti Corrosion Warranty, excellent ride and handling package, brilliant chassis dynamics and a badge which really says that you're a cut above the rest. That said, we feel the pricing is a tad high vis-à-vis the features it packs in. At 4.34 - 5.72 Lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) for the petrol and 5.32 - 6.70 Lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), one really wishes that VW would reconsider their pricing for the diesel, which will no doubt see fair numbers. There's also the issue of rear legroom for tall passengers, which is a significant concern, since this is one segment that really wants it all! And lastly, the cost of ownership which VW says will be competitive when spares prices are announced next month.