Volkswagen Polo - First Drive!


1. The VW Polo is very good-looking. If not for the Fiat Punto, this would be the best-looking hatchback in the country. The last four generation Polos were cutesy in appearance, but this Polo, the fifth generation version, is more macho and mature in appearance. The Polo has grown up.

2. The new Polo has been styled by Italian designers under the famous Walter d’Silva, the legendary automotive designer who’s the head of design for the entire VW Group. And the Italian-ness shows in the way the car looks – the flared wheel arches, the prominent waistline, the planted stance and the bold front-end.

3. Still, being a VW, it’s not as flamboyant as the Italians would have wanted, perhaps. Where the Polo scores is in its mini-Golf look, as well as its sporty Scirocco-like appearance. By looking like a miniature Golf, VW hopes the Polo will get the premium rub-off of its bigger sibling as well as the characteristics that make the Golf a category leader, especially in Europe.

4. The Polo gets two 1200cc engine options: the 1198cc three-cylinder petrol develops 74 bhp at 5400 rpm and 11.2 kgm of torque at 3750 rpm. The diesel 1200cc three-pot motor, on the other hand, also produces 74 bhp at 4200 rpm but a more significant 18.3 kgm of turning force at 2000 rpm.

5. The petrol engine is a marginally more powerful version of the 1.2-litre 12-valve motor found in the Skoda Fabia. The diesel engine is a new common-rail unit and one of its first applications in the world is in India. It’s comparable to the 1.3 Fiat MultiJet/Suzuki DDiS in output, though remember, the VW engine is one cylinder less.

6. Inside, the Polo can’t be anything other than a car from the VW Group. It comes through in the overall layout of dashboard. It’s all straightforward, neat and well laid-out; there’s none of the flamboyance you nowadays see in terms of colours, materials and design in other competitive cars. You can notice the switchgear which is common to other Veedubs – that too, from the more expensive models.

7. The inside of the Polo maybe simple to look at, but it’s all high quality. Having driven the European spec Polo in May last year, I was doubtful whether VW could translate that specs to the Indian one – and I am happy to say that they have succeeded. Again, the insides of the Polo are pretty ergonomic and user-friendly; it gives you the sensation that you can live with this car for years on end.   8. However, the rear legroom is just about adequate. It’s comparable to the Suzuki Swift rather than the Polo’s own cousin, the Fabia. Though you have good thigh support even for the rear seats, the legroom could have been better – especially for a country like ours. The upcoming notchback version of the Polo will have better rear space, as it will have a slightly longer wheelbase.


9. Getting behind the wheel of the petrol Polo, I can sense the untidy idle with the window down. The inherent problem of a three-cylinder engine comes through – you had it in the Fabia, and you have it here. Agreed VW has tried to make the engine slightly powerful so that people won’t find it lacking in power, still a three-potter is a three-potter. Once on the move, the Polo does not feel stressed-out. It maintains average speeds very well. In stop-and-go traffic, it baulks a bit, so you need to keep the throttle pedal busy.Especially anywhere below 1500 rpm.

10. On the highway, the petrol motor acquits itself very well and there is enough go even when you are already at a 100 kph. It gets a bit breathless when you start climbing and at these moments, you need to use the services of the five-speed gearbox by downshifting and powering up. The lack of one cylinder makes itself apparent in these circumstances.

11. The five-speed gearbox does a good job of extracting the power from the motor. The gear lever is stubby, the throws are short, but it could do with a little bit more enthusiasm. The gearing is devised to minimise fuel consumption, especially in fourth and fifth.

12. The diesel engine is similar to the petrol, there is no life below 1500 rpm. But the torque makes the car much more driveable and offers more gusto, especially while overtaking. However this motor too is after all a three-cylinder plus an oil-burner, but you would barely notice it when you are in the car with the windows rolled up because of the Polo’s solid build quality.   13. Though it runs out of breath beyond 150 kph, the diesel is capable for most applications the Polo will go through in India. Though a bit pricey, it seems to be pretty frugal and does its job.


14. The steering wheel is sporty and perfectly sized. However, it is a bit over-servoed and is lacking in feedback. It is an EPS set-up. It does not load up as well as a hydraulic unit.

15. The Polo’s suspension is tuned for Indian conditions, and it shows. It smothers all bumps effectively – it’s almost as if it’s a bigger car in this aspect. Rear passengers should not have much to complain about.

16. When it comes to handling, the Polo is immensely chuckable around corners. Its wide stance means it is planted while the 15-inch rubber in the top-end Highline is grippy. Unlike the Fabia, which shares the same A0 platform, body roll is limited on the Polo. A car like this deserves more powerful and bigger engines, and that can make it a true fun-to-drive car.

17. The Polo is competitively priced. Though it’s supposed to take aim at the Swift, VW has deliberately priced it at a premium. Just as well. It is a high-quality car, competent in terms of dynamics, good-looking and well-engineered. The key aspect about the Polo is the high expectations that people have about a VW small car, and VW has managed to match it mostly. The engines may not excite enthusiasts, but for most people, they do their job well. Volkswagen can make amends by bringing in the 103 bhp 1.2 TSI, which in fact meets the excise duty regs!