There are two kinds of car buyers out there: one that gets lured easily by the superficial: styling, lifestyle promise, pointless tech; and another that puts value on what’s underneath: the platform, running gear, engineering. It may not look it, but the Volkswagen Polo appeals mainly to the latter set. It’s certainly not the sexiest girl out there, but it’s the one with the intelligence and integrity that makes you want to take it home to mama.
Stating the obvious, the Polo looks pretty much like any other Volkswagen. And in that regard, it’s pretty boring. There’s no line out of place, but it’s not exactly a standout either. It’s as if the designers simply shrunk the Golf to two-thirds its size to arrive at this hatchback’s design. Look closely though and it does have more rounded contours compared to its larger sibling. Plus, the conservative nature does mean it ages better than most. It’s hard to comprehend, but the Polo’s design first came out in 2009 making this design effectively 7 years old. If there’s one sticking point in the local model, it’s the unwieldy fender gap. The “rough road package” effectively adds crossover-like ground clearance and combine that with the skinny wheel and tire package, and the result is a less than planted stance.
Underneath the conservative skin though lies the Polo’s greatest asset: the PQ25 platform. The same one that underpins the Audi A1, it gifts this entry-level Volkswagen solid driving dynamics. It does tend to lean through bends, especially when pushed, but there’s plenty of grip and remains predictable. The ride is generally plush, but larger bumps can send a thunk almost unfiltered into the cabin. The steering is on the light side aiding low-speed maneuverability at the expense of feedback. Still, as the speeds go up, everything tightens up. It’s the easiest small car to drive long distances. With the exception of the excessive tire rumble (curse those Apollo tires), the Polo has unmatched smoothness on the highway. If there’s one noticeable problem though, it’s the weak biting brakes.
Hand-in-hand with the solid platform is the Polo’s equally commendable drivetrain. The 1.6-liter gasoline motor may seem weak on paper (105 horsepower, 153 Nm of torque), but the on-road performance is actually quite peppy. The long travel accelerator and heavier-than-usual curb weight takes some getting used to, but once adjusted for, the power is there. The engine initially sounds rough, emitting a diesel-like clatter at speeds close to idle. Plus, there’s some innate vibration that permeates through the firewall and into the foot well. Performance-wise, there’s noticeable momentum to overcome just to get it motivated. Once it moves though, the low-end punch is good, making scooting between traffic lights a breeze. And unlike other sub-compacts, the Polo doesn’t lose steam at higher speeds. In fact, the gruff-sounding motor sorts itself and lets out a nice, throaty note at higher revs. The 6-speed automatic also reacts snappily enough, although there’s noticeable shift shock along the way. That said, the added mass does penalize fuel economy, mustering just 6.71 km/L (average speed 13 km/h). It goes up to 10.10 km/L, but at a higher speed (average speed 25 km/h).
Despite its naughty bits being great and all, they seem to be clothed in the plainest pair of mom jeans possible. Apart from the bland exterior, the interior itself doesn’t stray too far from the proven Volkswagen formula. Again, nothing is out of place inside the Polo, but there’s not a single oooh or ahhh point. Ergonomically, it feels like a larger car. The front seats are supportive and thanks to its wide array of adjustments, as well as the tilt/telescopic steering wheel, finding the comfortable driving position is easy. Every touch point is nicely textured and well-wearing (extra love goes to the flat-bottomed steering wheel), but they’re also extremely hard to the touch. There’s not one soft bit in here, even the small fabric insert on the door panel. The gauges are straight-forward in their presentation, though the multi-information display does look like it’s been nicked from a 1980s calculator.
Space-wise, there are no complaints here, except perhaps for the sharply angled A-pillar that results in banged heads upon entry. Once inside, the interior is actually good for 4 adults. The front seats, apart from being supportive, provide enough room to be considered as comfortable. There’s also a good amount of storage space too from the large glove box to the recessed cubby hole just behind the fixed cup holders on the center console. The rear passengers aren’t so lucky though. There are three adjustable headrests at the back, but because of the limited elbow room, only 2 adults can realistically fit in there. The luggage space is surprisingly deep, but narrow although the 60/40 split-fold rear seats can bump up the load space to 952 liters.
Though Volkswagens are notorious for being overpriced and under-speced, the Polo is actually well-priced in this form. Outside, it has front and rear fog lamps and 15-inch alloy wheels while inside, it’s got a full-featured infotainment system (RCD20) with Bluetooth and steering wheel controls, dual SRS airbags, anti-lock brakes, and rear parking sensors. The equipment is still not close to the top-range Japanese offerings, but at P 950,000, it does manage to come across as a much more solid offering than the other European sub-compact, the Peugeot 301. The Polo scores a knockout punch there.
The Volkswagen Polo hatchback doesn’t come across as the sexiest or snazziest choice in the sub-compact segment, but underneath the staid and somber design is a commendable performer. The solid dynamics, running gear, and creature comfort features help make for an interesting ownership proposition. It’s not exactly love at first or second sight, but once you get it, it’s for keeps.
2016 Volkswagen Polo 1.6 MPI Hatchback
|Ownership||2016 Volkswagen Polo 1.6 MPI Hatchback|
|Vehicle Classification||Sub-compact Car|
|Body Type||5-door Hatchback|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||105 @ 5,250|
|Nm @ rpm||153 @ 3,750|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 91~|
|Observed Fuel Economy / Average Speed||
6.71 km/L (average speed
10.10 km/L (average speed 25 km/h)
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,170|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Torsion Beam Axle|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Apollo Alnac 185/60 R 15 T (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||No|
|Other Safety Features||None|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front and Rear|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|No. of Speakers||4|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|