VW Polo: ‘Virtually every component is new’
0-62mph 10.8 seconds
Top speed 116mph
After a sorry litany of rusting, incompetent and comically unreliable runabouts, our first proper car was a maroon-coloured VW Polo with hardwearing “salt and pepper” fabric seats. We bought it as a hand-me-down from a distant aunt and its first journey was a heroic stint from England to Scotland to show off our first-born to my much-loved grandparents (living proof that a fruitless diet of mince and tatties will give you at least 90 years on this planet). Sitting on our mantelpiece to this day is a picture of my wife changing the baby’s nappy on the rear parcel shelf as the rain lashes down… We remember our early cars with the same nettle-sting clarity as when we recall teenage summers of stolen cider and stolen kisses.
Anyway, this is all to say that when I got behind the wheel of VW’s latest Polo I was feeling rather wistful. However, other than the name, there isn’t much to link my early 90s model with this one, the sixth edition of the VW’s world-thrashing supermini, but the reverie added a patina of wonder to the drive.
Compared to the outgoing model, the MK V, virtually every component is new. You’d have thought that after 40 years of forensically finessing its Polo, VW would have run out of ideas, but no. There are improvements across the board and this new one is the most advanced generation yet. It’s packed with class-leading technologies. It may be the biggest Polo yet, but it’s still a compact and petite car. However by making excellent use of the available space you’d easily think you were sitting in a Golf (the next model up the VW pecking order). More than 14m Polos have been built, with about 1 in 10 making their home in Britain. We are the car’s biggest market worldwide. Whatever Polo has, we Brits want it.
From the outside, this Polo is quite different from the smooth lines of the model that went before. The previous one had so few protuberances it looked like a large, sucked lozenge. This one looks busier. Its sides are enlivened (that’s a fun word, isn’t it?) by two long creases. All the old-school angles and folded-paper corners remind me of two things: my dear old maroon Polo and the Seat Ibiza. Style and tech usually flow down from the top of VW’s pyramid (and, lo, Bugatti begat Lamborghini and Bentley and Porsche and Audi and VW and Skoda and Seat), but here there’s some reverse blowback and the Ibiza’s style is informing the Polo’s. No matter, the Seat is an excellent car, who wouldn’t want to follow it?
The Polo comes with a range of engines, from a non-turbo 1-litre 3-cylinder up to a 2-litre GTi. For me, the engine to go for is one of the small petrol units. Being a 3-cylinder power plant produces an unusual rhythm, but you soon get used to it. And your wallet won’t have any trouble adjusting to the awesome consumption figures! You also get a generous garnishing of technology options. Choose from an 8in infotainment screen, radar cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitor, switchable dampers, LED headlamps, park assist that does the steering and braking, various connectivity options and a wifi hotspot. You can select from five dashboard decors, nine seat-cover options and 12 different exterior colours. Sadly, maroon is no longer available.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010