The Volkswagen Polo was first introduced to South Africa in 1996 as the Polo Classic sedan. The hatchback, known as the Polo Playa, joined the line-up two years later and since then has gone on to sell over 172 000 units up to the end of 2009. The Polo is one of VWSA’s top selling vehicles and accounts for 33% of the company’s local market share.
Understandably then, this new version of the car is important for VWSA and even more so, when you consider the Uitenhage plant is the sole supplier of right-hand-drive Polos in the world. As a result, 55 000 new Polos will be exported this year, to countries such as Japan, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
Being awarded the contract to produce the new Polo is no mean feat. Preparations for the production of the new Polo, as well as future models, began in 2008 with investment in new technologies, facilities and equipment at the Uitenhage plant, enabling VWSA to build cars to worldwide quality and process standards. By the end of 2009, Volkswagen South Africa had invested R3.5 billion in new plant, local content development and new product. A further R500 million will be invested this year – 2010 – to complete the process and ensure that the company is ready for future opportunities both in South Africa and in global markets.
South Africa has another claim to the new Polo, that of South African born designer Oonah Scheepers, who worked closely with the reknowned Walter de Silva and VW Chariman, Dr Martin Winterkorn, to deliver a 5th generation Polo – 3rd in SA – worthy of the 2010 European Car of The Year award. “The new Polo stands for German engineering craftsmanship and superior cutting edge technology. At the same time it is a fresh, youthful and cosmopolitan car. The fifth generation Polo was designed to address customer expectations with even greater uncompromising standards. That is why we are naturally very pleased to see our efforts validated in the form of this award,” said Dr. Winterkorn.
The Polo began on the sketch pad of VW Head-Of-Design, Walter de Silva. With its distinctive new Volkswagen family face – inherited from Scirocco and Golf, the new Polo has been instilled with a purposeful new stance and appearance. Measuring 3 970 mm in length (54 mm larger than the previous model) and 1 682 mm wide (32 mm wider), the new car offers space for up to five people with between 280 to 952 litres of luggage space available.
The front of the new Polo is defined by body-coloured bumpers beneath the black grille underlined by a large air inlet that supplies the engine and brakes with ample air and includes daytime running lights and fog lights with integrated turn indicators. Just a few centimetres above the road, the narrow body-coloured front spoiler catch the eye. This spoiler has been moved forward, and it makes a decisive contribution towards the car’s pedestrian protection credentials – a contributor to Polo’s 5-Star EuroNCAP rating. Two different headlight clusters are used, depending on the choice of either the ‘Trendline’ or ‘Comfortline’ specification. The ‘Trendline’ version is fitted with single headlights, while the ‘Comfortline’ spec receives dual headlights. Also integrated in the headlight unit are the turn signal lights.
The rear of the car is characterised by geometric lines and sportiness. The design cue from the headlights, with their line breaking off with an upward turn, is taken up again in the taillights. They also display a very distinctive look at night and extend into the Polo’s broad shoulder. Just as on the new Golf, the Polo’s tailgate is opened with the VW logo, which swivels up and functions as a handle. Standard equipment: a roof edge spoiler integrated in the tailgate. The view of the rear also reveals how designers capitalised on the increased track width (29 mm wider in front and 30mm in rear) by ‘stretching’ the wheel arches to create a bold look.
From the side, the new Polo is characterised by a sporty looking front overhang and short rear overhang, with a strong shoulderline and low roof that slopes towards the rear. The five-door Polo also sports what is known as a “three window look”. This refers to the third side window integrated in the C pillar. Pronounced side skirts also add to the strong, solid look of the new compact hatch, whose exterior underwent extensive aerodynamic refinement – even the design of the wing mirrors was scrutinised to reduce drag by 20% over the previous model. The Polo’s underbody was also optimised for airflow.
Safety is paramount and the Polo’s 5-Star EuroNCAP rating is evidence of VW’s commitment to this aspect of the new Polo, which is currently the safest compact car in the world. Contributing to this achievement is the increased structural rigidity of the bodyshell. As an example, deformation and intrusion into the footwell area during a frontal impact has been lowered by 50 percent. In the case of a side impact, the intrusion value was reduced by 20 percent. Despite the additional strengthening and added safety, the 5th generation Polo weighs in 7.5% lighter than the previous model. Standard safety equipment on the new Polo is comprehensive and includes: Driver and front passenger airbags; Three-point safety belts in front with height adjustment and belt tensioners; 3 three-point safety belts in rear; ABS with brake assist; ISOFIX-compatible child seat preparation on rear bench seat; Head airbags including side curtain airbags in front; Safety-optimised head restraints in front wth 3 in the rear; triangular safety reflector for road-side emergencies; electronic immobiliser.
Inside, the new Polo boasts an interior that VW says sets the benchmark for the A0 class – a statement we find difficult to contest. As with the current Golf 6, VW has taken the level of interior refinement and quality to a higher level. One noticeable tactile element is the soft-touch dashboard that has been engineered using PVC-Slush Technology, technophiles can read more here, but suffice to say that the result is a consistent look and feel across the entire dashboard, including over curvatures or areas where a traditional wrap would otherwise have slightly thinned and distorted where stretched. The Comfortline specification level also benefits from a multi-function leather covered steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake, all of which add a distinctly premium feel to the new Polo.
Focus has been given to numerous elements of the interior, one of which is the centre console that is now turned more toward the driver for convenience. The controls on this console are laid out as on the previous model, but they have been completely redesigned. At the very top there are two central air vents, which have high-end bezels with the aluminium look in the Comfortline and high-gloss black in the Trendline. On the console level below this, Polo drivers will find a familiar row of switches with details like the hazard lights switch, which is readily accessible and visible, and push buttons for the heated rear window and optional heated seats. The next level down contains controls for the new radio system that is being introduced on the Polo for the first time. The lowermost console level is home to the completely redesigned user controls for the ventilation or climate control system. A practical feature here is cooling of the glove box.
The instruments of the Polo were also redesigned; they now have white backlighting and are styled like those on the Golf. The fuel gauge is digital in the new generation Polo. Like the bezels for the air vents, the rotary light switch – still located on the right – gets a high-end metallic look in the “Comfortline”. Armrests in the door trim panels can accommodate a 1.5 litre bottle and a folding, front centre armrest, which includes a storage compartment, can now be ordered on the Polo for the first time. Storage trays below the front seats also add to convenience and storage capacity. The comfortable driver’s seat, front passenger’s seat and rear bench seat were all redesigned, resulting in slightly more space available at all five seating locations in the Polo. Rear legroom has grown with an increase in the interior length to 1 674 mm (an increase of 8 mm). Shoulder room in front (1 372 mm) has also increased by 22 millimetres. The rear seats fold down in a conventional 60:40 split for easy loading and extra capacity.
South African buyers have the choice of two petrol and one diesel engine in the new Polo. VWSA will also be producing the two petrol engines for global markets at the Uitenhage plant. Both the 1,4-litre and 1,6-litre petrol engines have been carried over from the previous Polo. Specific power outputs are 65 kW / 132 N.m and 77 kW / 155 N.m respectively and both are mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. A 6-speed tiptronic is available on the 1.6i Comfortline. Fuel economy is respectable with the 1.4i delivering a claimed 6.1 l/100km, while the 1.6 manages 6.4 l/100km.
The new Polo 1.6 TDI is powered by a 1,6-litre common rail turbo-diesel engine with particulate filter. With an impressive 250 N.m of torque available from 1 500 to 2 500 rpm, the car achieves a 0-100 km/h time of 10.4 seconds and reaches a top speed of 189 km/h. Average fuel consumption is a frugal 4.2 l/100km and CO2 emissions are just 109 g/km.
Volkswagen has redesigned many aspects of the new Polo’s chassis with its McPherson front suspension and semi-independent rear suspension. For example, its track width was increased by 29 mm in front and 30 in the rear. The result is a comfortable and confident ride, well matched to the design character of the car. It responds accurately to steering inputs and despite heavy cross-winds on our test route, remains relatively stable even at higher speeds. The brakes are sharp and eagerly dispense with excessive speed. With 250 N.m of torque, VW has equipped the TDI model with ESP as standard.
The Trendline and Comfortline equipment levels have been carried over from the previous Polo. Standard convenience features in the Trendline include electro-hydraulic power steering, power windows in front, central locking, cargo area lighting and tie-down points, warning buzzer if lights are left on, height adjustment for driver’s seat, vanity mirrors in the sun visors, remote control central locking, asymmetrical split and folding rear bench seat and seatbacks and green tinted windows. ‘Titan Black Metric’ fabric seat covers round off the base trim level.
Additional features on the Comfortline models include body-coloured side-mirror housings and door handles, dual headlights and 15-inch alloy wheels. The interior benefits from conveniences such as semi-automatic climate control, electrically-adjustable and heated exterior mirrors, additional height adjustment on front passenger’s seat, various accents in chrome look (instruments, air vents, rotary light switch, radio and climate system controls), storage pockets on front seatbacks, illuminated vanity mirrors for driver and passenger. ‘Titan Black Fonzie’ fabric seat covers are standard with ‘Titan Black’ Alcantara leather trim available as an option in the Comfortline range.
Overall, the new Polo has undoubtedly upped the ante in its class and competitors such as the new Ford Fiesta and Hyundai i20 have renewed, stiff competition.
|Prices (incl. VAT)|
|1.4l 63 kW Trendline||R144 900|
|1.4l 63 kW Comfortline||R161 900|
|1.6l 77 kW Trendline||R166 900|
|1.6l 77 kW Comfortline||R183 800|
|1.6l 77 kW Comfortline Tiptronic||R197 900|
|1.6l 77 kW TDI Comfortline||R209 900|
Prices include a 3 year/120 000 km and 12 year anti-corrosion warranty. Service intervals are every 15 000km.
A VW ‘Automotion’ maintenance plan and a 5 year/60 000 km service plan are also available at R9 141 and R6 856 respectively.