Volkswagen Polo: Quite pleasant. Probably
Volkswagen has a new Polo. It seems to be very Polo-ish, says William Scholes
IT is almost two full years since the Volkswagen press office sent a car to Northern Ireland, writes William Scholes.
This means it is almost two full years since motoring writers, this correspondent included, have been able to measure Volkswagen's cars against the sort of roads and conditions encountered by Northern Ireland motorists.
A lot has happened in those two years. There's been a Brexit referendum, a royal wedding, a slump in the sales of diesel cars and Donald Trump was elected to the White House.
Volkswagen has also launched a lot of new cars. We bring you news of one on these pages today.
It's the new Polo. In well-worn VW tradition, it is an all-new car which has been carefully designed to look almost identical to the old car it replaces. It also looks a lot like the larger Golf.
Volkswagen's commitment to steady evolution rather than radical revolution is one of the building blocks of the company's success.
By now, the formula is well-honed. Few brands of any sort communicate their identity as consistently, and with as much confidence and assurance, as Volkswagen.
That communication might not extend as far as letting its cars lose on Northern Ireland's motoring writers but, still, when it comes to its bread and butter models, VW has a winning formula - why mess with that, especially when the Polo and Golf have been so outstandingly successful through the generations?
In the case of the Polo, the nameplate's bloodline dates back to 1975. And while the newest Polo is larger than the original Golf, it is still identifiably a Polo and still Volkswagen's interpretation of the small hatchback.
By now, the formula is well-honed. Few brands of any sort communicate their identity as consistently, and with as much confidence and assurance, as Volkswagen
These days, thanks in part to expectations laid down by Volkswagen itself, we expect our small hatches to be all things to all people.
They need to be safe, refined, spacious and laden with the sort of technology that would once have been the preserve of larger, more expensive cars.
The Polo duly obliges. There's a five-star Euro Ncap rating, with the crash-test body rating the Polo as top of its class among the small cars that it smashed to smithereens in the name of road safety last year.
It is based on a platform derived from that which so distinguishes the Golf, and shared with its Volkswagen Group siblings, such as the Seat Ibiza.
That not only contributes to making the Polo strong but also to freeing up more space in the cabin for passengers and their luggage.
The more modern underpinnings mean VW has been able to give the Polo the in-car tech already familiar from its larger cars. That means touchscreens, up-to-date infotainment and sat-nav, and the option of the smart digital dashboard first seen on Audis.
Volkswagen says it has loaded more sound proofing and insulation into the Polo this time, all in the name of making it a quieter and comfier mode of transport.
Small, efficient engines dominate the line up. Petrols are 1.0-litre three-cylinder units with 64bhp or, with the addition of a turbocharger, 94bhp and 113bhp.
There is also a 1.6-litre diesel, which can be had with either 79bhp or 94bhp.
At the top of the range sits the 197bhp 2.0-litre petrol turbo GTI version.
The Polo is available only as a five-door this time - an increasing trend with small hatches - and with a typically VW extensive selection of trim and options
Because I can't tell you too much else owing to the lack of first-hand experience of the car, here is some scintillating information about them.
Entry level S trim includes air conditioning, an 8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth and DAB radio.
A so-called 'beats' model appears to be aimed at younger buyers and those disinclined to use a capital B
Move up a notch to SE and you gain a leather-trimmed three-spoke steering wheel with buttons, a trip computer, a 60:40 split in the folding back seats, an adjustable load floor and electrically adjustable door mirrors.
Next up is a so-called 'beats' model, which appears to be aimed at younger buyers and those disinclined to use a capital B. It has an upgraded sound system and, for no apparent reason, a stripe running over the car's bonnet and roof. These decals, VW says, are "slightly offset from centre" and create a "truly eye-catching exterior". Mmm...
The plushest model is the SEL, with ambient lighting, front sports seats, climate control, sat-nav, 16-inch alloy wheels and front and rear parking sensors.
A sporty R-Line adds racier bumpers, gloss black air intakes and grille and 16-inch alloys.
A range of 'style packs', which amount to contrasting trim for the dashboard and seats can also be ordered if you wish to personalise your Polo a little further, though VW is some way off Mini of Fiat 500 levels of customisation.
Prices start at £13,860 for the S, which can be had only with the 64bhp engine.
The same engine can be had with SE trim from £14,635. The most expensive SE is a 79bhp diesel, at £17,455.
A be-striped beats starts at £15,685 and SEL models range from £18,185 to £19,535.
R-Line models start at £17,835 and go up to £20,285, with GTI versions costing £21,145 or £22,645.
Those, mind you, are starting prices. You don't need to dwell too long on the options list - by adding, say, metallic paint, a style pack, adaptive cruise control and the 'active info display' digital dashboard, too also balloon those starting prices by more than £1,000.
That doesn't make the Polo the cheapest supermini on the forecourts. But then again, this is the Volkswagen Polo of small hatchbacks, a touchstone of quality and dependability.
I have no idea how it drives - I refer you to the opening paragraphs - but I would be surprised if it was anything but pleasant.
AT A GLANCE
Volkswagen Polo 1.0 SE 95PS
Engine and transmission: 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol turbo, five-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel-drive; 94bhp, 129lb.ft
Performance: Top speed 116mph, 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds
Fuel consumption and CO2: 64.2mpg (NEDC combined), 101g/km
Car tax: £145 in first year, then £140 annually
Benefit in kind: 21 per cent
Euro Ncap safety rating: Five stars (96/85/76/59), 2017