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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Review: 2016 Volkswagen Polo 1.6 MPI Hatchback

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
Year Introduced 2015
Vehicle Classification Sub-compact Car
The Basics
Body Type 5-door Hatchback
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.6
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery EFI
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 105 @ 5,250
Nm @ rpm 153 @ 3,750
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission 6-speed AT
Cruise Control No
Observed Fuel Economy / Average Speed 6.71 km/L (average speed 13 km/h);
10.10 km/L (average speed 25 km/h)
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 3,970
Width (mm) 1,682
Height (mm) 1,462
Wheelbase (mm) 2,470
Curb Weight (kg) 1,170
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam Axle
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Drum
Tires Apollo Alnac 185/60 R 15 T (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 2
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes
Traction / Stability Control No
Parking Sensors Rear
Other Safety Features None
Exterior Features
Headlights Halogen
Fog Lamps Yes, Front and Rear
Auto Lights No
Rain-sensing Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjustment Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Manual
Seating Surface Fabric
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes
Climate Control Manual
Audio System Stereo
SD Card
No. of Speakers 4
Steering Wheel Controls Yes


  1. Just look at its Japanese competitors style and specs(Mazda 2, Honda Jazz), and this is clearly overpriced as well. Still fabric seats, no touchscreen, manual climate control, halogen headlamps, drum brakes(Well the Honda jazz has drum brakes too, but the Mazda 2 has discs) and the bland interior and boring exterior.

  2. Is German engineering really that good enough to justify the higher price?

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Magkano inaabot nyo sa pms ng vw?

    1. I don't know if it was a limited offer, but Volkswagen was offering an all-inclusive 2-year PMS similar to Mazda's Yojin-3 program.

  5. VW was able to price it right because local models are from India. This puts it in the same boat as the local Fiesta (German developed, made in Thailand). Spec-wise the Fiesta has Electronic Stability Control and a more powerful Ecoboost engine (125PS/170Nm) for P45k less.

  6. The specs shows Honda Pilot.

    1. Sorry, we're still experiencing bugs on the new layout of the site. Information corrected.

    2. Got shocked when I read this small car has V6 engine. :D


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