Volkswagen’s serious entry into India is via the Polo and its success is crucial for the success of the company in India. The German firm has left no stone unturned to spread the word about its new offerings with mega ad blocks in news papers and choppers with the Polo banners but does the Volkswagen Polo cut the mustard? Well it’s high time to find out in a exhaustive road test of the new Volkswagen Polo.
Exteriors – The small size segment is heating up and with majority of the sales in our country being of small cars, it is essential for the cars to stand out. The Polo stands out and does it in style. The mini-Golf look at the front and the fantastic subtle yet stylish appearance makes one believe that Audi designed this car (that is what a stranger asked us, Is this an Audi?). The overall proportion of the car is compact, slim and curvy. The side profile makes it look aggressive while the rear has the classy VW tail lamps and the neatly integrated rear spoiler. The paint quality deserves a special mention here.
Interiors – If the exterior can be called outstandingly stylish, the interiors are just opposite. The dashboard is plain and simple and really doesn’t go with the fantastic exteriors. Everything is practically thought about except a few things like lock/unlock feature on the co-passenger seats or the lack of it, no climate control, no (audio) controls on steering wheel, wrong side indicator stalks, manual operated rear view mirrors, no rear power window controls for the driver and no keyless entry. The lack of equipment on a car that has been positioned as German engineering is evidently shocking. However since our test variant wasn’t the top variant of the Polo we can give all that a miss.
Front seats offer very good support. Adjustable rake and reach steering wheel along with height adjustable driver seat makes it very easy for the driver to get that perfect position. However tall drivers will find their left left scrapping the center console.
Rear seats offer decent support but sloping headline does no favour to the rear passengers. Legroom is adequate and the rear bench has just about decent amount of legroom. Boot space is one of the best in the hatchback segment.
Built Quality – One of the main reasons why the Polo commands a premium pricing is that it is German. Volkswagen is known for integrating quality in its cars and the Polo is no different. Everything seems and works just fine. No squeaks and certainly not a single rattle. This can be attributed to the fact that the Polo has only 50% local content. Local content will go as high as 85% in the next few year (we really don’t know if VW would cut prices then). Doors shut with a LOUD thud and road noise is kept far at bay. Insulation is top notch and the only noise you ever hear, is of the 3-pot motor. The wipers are the last generation single blade style which do the job decently. Considering the Polo is the latest design, we wonder why the car didn’t have twin wiper blades like the Punto.
The biggest glitch in the Polo’s quality was the wiper defect. The driver side wiper just wont go up (when you want to clean the car). It would hit against the hood.
On the Move – The Polo’s 3 pot motor starts with a diesel resemblance and settles into a silent idle. Till 2000Rpm everything is well muted but the engine noise becomes quite evident as the revvs rise. The multi information display is uber cool and has back lit facility through out when the engine is live. It omits various parameters like distance to empty and seat belt warning. The fuel meter is the coolest we have seen on any car yet. Air conditioner is a chiller and managed to keep the cabin cool amidst the 40 degree C summer heat of Mumbai.
With the 1.2L engine being tuned for fuel efficiency, the above view is not a common sight. Recommended fuel 95/91 RON.
The gearbox is undoubtedly the best in the small car segment. Gears slot in like a knife through melted butter. Infact you would love the gearbox so much, you will just find reason to shift around through the gears. Clutch is light and that is no surprise considering this is a petrol car with a minuscule engine.
One of the coolest boot opening mechanism we have come across till date.
Ride, Handling and Braking – Volkswagen engineers have tuned the Polo to suit Indian roads. The ground clearance has been increased to ensure the Polo doesn’t scrape the worst of breakers. But what is worth noticing is the fine balance between the ride and handling characteristics of the car. It rides very well isolating the passengers from all the bumps on the road and transmitting very few inside. Even on the worst of roads, the Polo showed that it is indeed German, with the car absorbing the worst of bumps with aplomb.
Handling of the Polo is one of the strongest points of the car. Although not the best handling hatch in the country (everyone knows which car takes the honours), the Polo can take to the twisties like Sachin can to batting. Our test car came equipped with the highline spec rubber (185/65/R15) and had fantastic balance. No twitch or oversteer. Brakes are very very good and well modulated too. However the weakest link here (the Apollo Acelere rubber) play spoil sport on heavy braking leading to lock ups (no ABS here). Why oh why are all manufacturers so hell bent on giving us crappy JKs, Apollo’s and MRF tyres?
Performance – On paper, the Polo seems to be powered by a rather sad and unenthusiastic 1.2L engine. However on driving the car, everything seems different. Yes, the 3 cylnder engine is not refined and on start up makes you feel you are in a diesel car. But that is where the paper perception ends. The car is very very peppy to drive. VW has re-tuned the engine for more clicks (the same engine did duty in the Fabia) and that is quite evident. The car pulls neatly at low revvs. Infact it is one of the few cars in which you can comfortably drive around at 20kmph in 3rd gear without even being close to stalling. The car pulls neatly till 100kmph after which progress becomes slow. However for most buyers, the engine strikes the right notes with fantastic driveability.
Volkswagen claims a 0 – 100 timing of 14.2 seconds, and our average test run with camera equipment and passengers showed the above figure. We expect the Polo to nudge 100kmph in less than 15 seconds though. Mid range is decent and the car does move forward with slight urgency between 2000-4000Rpm. Once the car crosses 5500Rpm, power starts trailing off and the engine cuts off at 6000Rpm. Cut off is smooth and the limiter does not bounce of like it does in other cars.
In neutral the car wouldn’t revv over 3750Rpm but who really revvs in neutral?
Conclusion – The Polo is an almost perfect car which strikes all the right notes. In a price sensitive market, Volkswagen has managed to price the car very competitively. The car feels fantastic to drive with the light steering, clutch and fantastic gearbox. Everything has been engineered with utmost thought and soon the Polo starts becoming fun to drive (even with a 74hp engine underneath). For enthusiasts the upcoming 1.6L petrol will satisfy their needs, but for the rest, the current 1.2L petrol is more than adequate for the urban run. The primary reason why VW got 5000 bookings for the Polo whereas Ford managed more than 10,000 bookings is the fact that diesel Polo deliveries have not commenced yet. Once diesel deliveries start, expect the Polo to command a huge waiting period. Value for money is crucial to an Indian buyer and the Polo has been very aggressively positioned to ensure it attracts the aam junta (common man).
|Exterior Color||Deep Blue Pearl|