Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI (2014) Review

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South Africa loves the Volkswagen Polo, it’s consistently been a top seller in the market over the generations. Currently it’s SA’s second best-selling passenger vehicle behind its sibling the Polo Vivo.

2014 marks the introduction of the face-lifted model with a new Highline model joining the range. So will it continue its sales storm in the wake of strong competition from the tiny turbo brigade?

Choose your 1.2 turbo

Currently there’s only a 1.2-litre turbo petrol to choose from, but there are two different power outputs to differentiate the models. Our test unit here in Cornflower Blue has the entry 66 kW variant with 160 Nm of torque. Top of the range models in the new Polo lineup get an 81 kW and 175 Nm version of the same 1.2-litre.

Our 66 kW felt very refined and smooth, with no excessive lag at low RPM. It never felt hard pressed to get on with speedy town driving and proved to have a perfect blend of power, torque and fuel economy. Speaking of the fuel economy, VW claims a combined figure of 4.9l/100km.

We were particularly impressed by the 5.5l/100km figure we cracked over our test week as it became a team game to see if we could drain the seemingly never-ending 45-litre tank the Polo has. Whilst its fuel economy might not rank right up there with some of the 3-cylinder turbos doing the rounds in the competition, the added torque benefit of slightly more capacity does make the Polo easier to live with come freeway time.

Inside Talk

The Volkswagen Polo has a solidly built interior. The finishing and sense of quality you get from a Volkswagen product still shines through. The updated multimedia interface is easy to work with and if you spec the more sophisticated ‘composition colour’ system as our car had, you get two extra speakers, CD player, MP3 functionality, SD-card input and USB and Bluetooth connectivity.

The multimedia unit also allows you to adjust vehicle settings like how many doors unlock when you press the remote, how long the lights stay on once locked, auto wiper and a few other vehicle adjustments. It’s great to see this tech trickling down to the entry level products. The rest of the inside of the Polo is ‘as you were’ and a mix of soft touch rubber and robust plastic, it’s never been a stylish place to be, but classy and functional best describes its insides. The seats are nice and firm and have a sense of durability about them too; you’ll struggle to get larger people in the back even though the facelift is a minute 2 mm longer.

Drive Time

The new Volkswagen Polo has an impressive ride to add to its arsenal. Driving over some of the bumpiest roads in the Western Cape, the Polo felt planted and safe, soaking up the bumps well, only when the corrugations in the road got excessively large did the Polo get a bit crashy on the ride. Still it’s nicely planted, firm feel inspires confidence as the small proportions make it an easy car to get comfortable with.

It has a decent array of safety systems too, the regular ABS and EBD are on board, and a nifty new driver alert system detects waning concentration and alerts the driver via an acoustic warning, and a message appears in the instrument cluster recommending a break from driving.

Final Word

From the outside the Polo may not look distinctly different, there’s the odd change to the bumpers front and back, but it’s nothing to shout about. What is to shout is the 1.2-litre engine that does a great job of straddling the line between fuel economy and driveability.

Ride and handling wise the Polo remains a class leader; it’s comfortable and simple to live with on a day-to-day basis. The interior carries all the essentials and whilst style and swoopy lines has never been Volkswagen’s highest priority at least the Polo has a practical and user friendly inside. The Volkswagen Polo does have strong competition from top sellers Clio and Fiesta; squeeze in a Peugeot 208 in there if you’re looking for something a bit different. We can’t even quibble about the expense of the VW any more as it’s pretty much spot on with the equivalent competitors.

Second opinion

The new Volkswagen Polo is good. Annoyingly good. In fact, I'd go as far to say it's faultless. Volkswagen has done a sterling job here and the new Polo offers a terrific combination of comfort, premium feel and a great engine in one sweet little package. - David Taylor 

VW Polo 1.2 TSI 66kW Comfortline Price

Base Price: R213 400 Price as tested: R221 750

Options fitted: Park distance control: R3 000 Cruise Control: R1 700 Light and Vision package: R3 650

Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI quick specs

Engine  1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo
Power  66 kW
Torque  160 Nm
Transmission  Five-speed Manual
Wheels  15-inch alloys
0-100km/h  10.8 seconds (claimed)
Fuel economy  4.9 l/100 km (claimed)
We like: . Small turbo engine . Quality feel . Road manners

We dislike: . Possibly a bit bland inside

Also consider: Renault Clio Ford Fiesta Peugeot 208 Suzuki Swift