Few small cars look as premium and posh as the VW Polo. Volkswagen, however, now wants to push the tempo up a notch in this competitive premium hatchback segment with the updated Polo. While the styling changes are subtle, the bigger change is under the hood. Out goes the old three-cylinder 1.2-litre diesel engine and in comes a new 1.5-litre four cylinder unit, which promises to offer better refinement and make this car a hit with small car buyers. Well, that’s the plan.
You will really have to be a VW fan to be able to spot the differences in the first go. Yes, styling has been updated, but very subtly so. The new Polo gets a new bumper, which looks more sculpted than before and also gets a decent dose of chrome on it. The grille is new and gets a chrome strip running through it. The headlamps have been modified slightly as well. The rear bumper is a new design as well. All these changes do make the car look fresh and it retains its sophisticated looks as before.
The first thing you will notice about the interior is the new flat bottom steering wheel, which is really good to grip and looks sporty as well. The rest of the cabin is more or less the same. The instrument cluster is modified slightly, but then again you will have to be a Polo fan boy to notice the exact changes immediately.
Cabin quality is the best in this class. All the materials used are absolutely first rate. Even the plastics used in the lower end of the centre console look and feel premium. The steering wheel adjusts for rake as well as reach and this along with the height adjustable driver’s seat makes finding a good driving position a real cinch.
The rear seats offer good support as well but legroom is nothing to write home about. Anyone, above six feet tall will struggle for legroom at the back. The beige upholstery also has a tendency to soil rather easily. The boot is well shaped though and can house a weekend full of your luggage.
Engine, Performance and Gearbox
The big change of heart has done wonders for the small Polo. The new 1.5-litre diesel motor is visibly more silent than the older clattery unit. There is a hint of diesel clatter when you start it from cold but once it warms up it settles down into a quiet hum. The engine is also more responsive than the last unit, where you had to wait till 2,000rpm to get the car going.
This is a punchy motor with plenty of pep in the mid-range of the unit. This combined with the slick and positive shifting gearbox makes the Polo a joy to drive around town and even on the highway.
Ride and handling
The Polo is the most stable small car at highway speeds. Period. Very little can unsettle this small car when it comes to highway driving. As speeds exceed 100kmph, the Polo manages to remain calm and composed with very little seems to unsettle the ride quality. The car offers great amounts of confidence as speeds rise. In fact some midsize sedans don’t feel as stable as this car.
Handling is good as well. The steering is light enough for town travel, which means that parking this car into a tight slot is easy but it’s not so light that it will make you nervous on the highway. However, keen drivers will have to look at the Maruti Swift when it comes to sheer thrills.
Safety and Equipment
The Polo comes with two airbags even in its base versions, which means that this is one of the best cars for safety. Top end versions get twin airbags as well. You also get automatic climate control, Bluetooth for the stereo, steering mounted audio controls and a lot more.
The Hyundai i20 and Maruti Swift are the closest rivals. While the i20 is better equipped and more spacious the Swift has the edge in driver involvement. That said, none can match the Polo’s first rate cabin quality and unblemished ride comfort at high speeds.
If you are looking at a solidly engineered small car which has a classy cabin and posh image then this Polo is ideal for you. Also, the fact that it comes with the very desirable VW badge means that resale values will be strong when it’s time to resell, which makes this a great deal in the long run.
Our test drive video of the new 2014 VW Polo