Here is the first drive review of Volkswagen’s latest iteration of its Polo hatchback, featuring a 1 l, TSI power plant
The polo hatchback continues to be a top-selling model in the Volkswagen India product portfolio. In the latest version to be introduced, the Volkswagen Polo has been offered with a brand new BS 6-compliant Turbo Stratified Injection (TSI) petrol engine. Besides the new powertrain, a few other aspects of the car have been refreshed in the Polo, which is now only available in petrol version. We recently had an opportunity to drive the new Volkswagen Polo 1.0 l TSI and experience the latest avatar of this hatchback, which has been tuned to enable a cleaner driving experience. The car also features subtle changes to the exteriors and interiors, and it retains the true essence of the Polo, combined with a few tweaks and restyled elements.
POWERTRAIN & DRIVE
The most important of all changes in the new Volkswagen Polo TSI is the powertrain, which is a 999 cc, in-line three-cylinder TSI petrol engine that is turbocharged and BS 6-compliant. The engine develops a maximum power of 108 hp from 5,000-5,500 rpm, with peak torque of 175 Nm between 1,750 and 4,000 hp. The engine is mated to a new six-speed manual transmission, and claims to offer a fuel efficiency of 18.24 km/l.
The first presumption to the downsized engine would be that the vehicle lacks the power to carry it around. However, much to the disagreement of the previous assumption, the car does not feel over-burdened by the smaller capacity 999 cc engine in city runs, which probably do not even reach engine speeds that spool the turbocharger. Talking about the TSI engine, there is a decent amount of wait before the turbocharger offers its gush of power at around 2,000 rpm. The car does not feel sluggish below 2,000 rpm, but definitely feels much more agile post that engine speed.
The turbocharger in this three-pot engine enables the car to reach 100 km/h without any challenge, and enables the car to cruise around that speed in sixth gear at 2,500-3,000 rpm. This ensures the car stays closer to the high fuel economy figure that it claims to offer. We did not have the car long enough to do justice to the recording of the average return on fuel. However, the car begins to gasp for breath beyond 135 km/h on quick speed-ups. This may not be the case on highways though, which provide more tarmac to attain higher speeds safely.
The Volkswagen Polo 1.0 l TSI has a raspy engine note due to the three-cylinder format, which creeps into the cabin up to an acceptable limit. The transmission is a new, six-speed unit, which has been tuned to offer longer hold in each gear. This also means that the driver needs to cut down to lower gears to navigate a reduction in speed to be able to ensure the car moves along swiftly. At certain times, one will have to play with the throttle and clutch if a low speed wants to be achieved at a higher gear. The clutch on the car we drove was a tad on the heavier side, but it seems to offer the correct amount of pedal feel to smooth manoeuvring of the vehicle through the gears. The sixth gear can be reserved for highway driving alone, since the optimum usage of this gear cannot be achieved on city roads.
The Polo TSI comes with Electronic Power Steering (CEPS), and for suspension features McPherson struts with stabiliser bar upfront with semi-independent trailing arms at the rear. The car is shod with 6Jx16-inch alloy wheels wrapped with 195/55 R16 87H tyres. The car’s suspension set-up has been tuned aptly for Indian road conditions, offering the magical balance between a supple ride along with adequate grip to attack corners aggressively. The 195 section tyres combined with a well-weighted steering offer decent levels of feedback to the driver, which is something that VW owners would presumably expect!
The new Volkswagen Polo 1.0 l TSI continues to feature the exact same dimensions as the previous versions, and a simple glance of the silhouette of the car will result in one assuming the car to be an older model. This is because of the small changes that feature in the exterior of this new BS 6 Polo. This new Polo now looks closer than ever to its GT, and besides the GT badges and blackened body parts, it is identical. The front-end now features honeycomb design on the main grille as well as the one running on the lower part of the bumper. The grille features the ‘VW’ badge boldly, with a single chrome garnish to the bottom, giving it a clean finish.
The car now comes with slim skirting right around the car, except the front, where it is seen flanking the two corners of the bumper. This thin skirt runs across the body side under the running boards, and culminates in the rear bumper. The skirts on the rear bumper flow into a faux diffuser that is present on the bottom of the bumper. All the skirting on the Polo is finished in black plastic, which provides a contrast to any of the seven body colours offered by VW. In addition, the car is offered with alloy wheels in grey colour, which gel well with the overall sporty visual appeal of the Polo.
Once inside, the Polo TSI features an all-black interior, with highlights of brushed silver for the air-conditioning vent surrounds and door levers, and a glossy-grey outlay for the centre console. The car comes with a sporty, leather-upholstered flat-bottom steering wheel with multi-functionality to manage radio, music and phone as well as voice controls. The steering wheel is of appropriate size and thickness, with grooves that enable ergonomic control of the car. Behind the steering wheel is the simple, yet informative instrument cluster that has the largest dials – speedometer and tachometer in an analogue form. In between these meters is the multi-information display that provides the driver with all the data required for smooth driving of the vehicle.
The seats are finished in fabric upholstery, featuring a dark grey colour theme and contrasting design sequence in red, black and light grey. The front seats offer respectable levels of bolstering and knee room, and when combined with the four-way adjustable steering column provide a good position for the driver – regardless of height and build. However, the rear seats offer limited knee room and under thigh support, even though the back of the front seats have been carved out to offer more leg room. In addition, the raised centre tunnel and rear AC vent together will make the centre position in the rear bench an uncomfortable place to be seated.
SAFETY, COMFORT & CONVENIENCE
The Polo continues to be a safe car, like it has always been; featuring dual front airbags and ABS as standard. The car is constructed with a galvanised steel body that is enclosed by a laser-welded roof to be as safe as possible. This quality of build is also evident with the entire exterior showing very neat shut lines, while the plastics and panels fitting just right across the interior of the car. The car also retains its trademark ‘thud’ while shutting the door, which seems to be a benchmark of its own for vehicles to possess, while displaying well-rounded build quality.
The car is offered with certain convenience features; one of the most important of them being the cruise control that can be selected with the help of the buttons placed on the turn indicator stock. It is easy to turn on and use, thereby helping the driver to maintain a steady speed on highway travels. Other features offering ease in use of the car include automatic rain-sensing windshield wipers, auto-dimming inside rear-view mirror, climatronic automatic air-conditioning with rear AC vent and voice commands to send out messages, make calls and play music.
The scratch-resistant dashboard of the Polo 1.0 l TSI houses a touchscreen infotainment system that is simple to use and intuitive in nature. The touch function is also just right to enable easy usage while on the move as well. The infotainment system offers multi-media connectivity, with smartphone pairing. The clarity of sound whether it is in the case of music or phone calls is of the top level.
The new Volkswagen Polo 1.0 l TSI is offered only in the Highline Plus trim, which is priced from Rs 8.02 lakh onwards, ex-showroom. This car has been offered by VW to address the BS 6 emission standards, while also offering a reasonable rate of fuel economy. Downsizing of engines, together with forced induction is the route OEMs are taking to achieve the balance between reduced emissions and increased powertrain efficiency, and the Polo 1.0 l TSI seems to have achieved this goal to the nearest point as it reasonably can.
TEXT & PHOTO: Naveen Arul