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Rating 8 8

2010 Volkswagen Polo

24th Sep 2010 7:00 am

German engineering at an affordable price is what the Polo aims to offer in the Indian market

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  • Make : Volkswagen
  • Model : Polo

The success of the Indian Polo is a very big deal for Volkswagen. On the crisply styled shoulders of this all-new hatchback rests not just the weight of its own future, but the hopes of VW in India. If the Polo is a hit, it will give the company the scale it needs for a faster payback on its huge investments in India. It will make selling other VW models easier and establish the German automaker as a volume player in India. Whichever way you look at it, the Polo is a car the German auto giant just has to get right. There’s been no lack of effort for sure. While getting the Polo’s price right was priority number one, the car has also been considerably re-engineered with lots of changes to suit Indian customer requirements and pockets. 
 
On paper the Polo looks a winner – German build quality, engineering, comfort and legendary attention to detail, all at a reasonable price. But has VW sacrificed too much in its quest to price this car aggressively, has the car lost some of its character, is it good enough to make us rule out other premium hatchbacks? It’s only a grueling road test that can give all the answers.   

At first glance, there’s nothing wildly exciting about the interior design but neither is there anything to offend the eye. It’s typically VW – top quality and functional. The black-and-beige combo looks classy and the switchgear feels great to operate. The interior plastics feel hardwearing and the dashboard texture is not as ‘soft feel’ as we would have liked but the overall plastic quality is a class apart.

The dials are large and legible, the centre console is neatly arranged, and there is a surplus of storage space – from well-thought-out slots beside the handbrake to the massive 294-litre boot. Generous door pockets all round, a huge glovebox and clever hooks on the B-pillars give the Polo’s interiors unmatched practicality. But is passenger space as good? Up front, the driver’s seat with its long seat travel, generous headroom and massive footwell will comfortably accommodate members of the NBA basketball team but short drivers don’t have it good in the base Trendline which doesn’t have seat height adjust. This is especially so because the dashboard is set a bit too high. Also, a dead pedal is missing. The seats are deeply contoured and very supportive with the right amount of cushioning.

Rear passengers though are not as well looked after and rear seat space is not the Polo’s forte. While the rear seat is quite comfy with decent under-thigh support and acceptable headroom (if you are not too tall), you sit lower than usual and kneeroom is quite poor for a premium hatchback. The high waistline eats into the window area and adds to the restrictive feeling in the rear. Sitting three abreast is not as bad as it seems, thanks to the Polo’s decent width.

The Polo comes in three variants. While the Trendline gets only basic features, front power windows, power steering and air-con, Comfortline is only slightly better equipped with power windows all round, metallic paint, body colored door handles/mirrors and split seats. It’s only the Highline that gets a CD MP3 player, rear wash/wipe, multi-function display, remote locking, alloy wheels, fog lamps, ABS and airbags.  However, it’s very obvious the accountant’s axe has been liberally wielded on the equipment list. Even on the top-end Highline version, features that we have come to expect like steering-mounted controls, electronic climate control, height adjustable seatbelts and power mirrors are all missing. 

For city driving and at low speeds the Polo has an almost-perfect set-up. The relatively pliant set-up of the springs and dampers allows the Polo’s light body to skip over poor bits of road without the suspension crashing through, and bump absorption is relatively silent as well. A bit of road noise filters through but that’s only over abrasive tarmac and sharp bumps. There is also some vertical movement from the long-travel suspension over rough and undulating surfaces but the generous ground clearance allows the Polo to tackle most surfaces with aplomb. On the whole, the Polo rides brilliantly and ride comfort, especially at low speeds, is its forte. The steering is also well suited to city traffic. It’s arcade game light, you can literally twirl it with a single finger and that’s perfect for doing the samba in choked streets.

The soft set-up does, however, mean that there is a bit of roll when you corner hard and the Polo understeers strongly at the limit. However, for normal driving, there is plenty of grip from the very impressive 185/60 R15 Apollo Aceleres. Enthusiasts will, however, be disappointed with the Polo’s electric steering which, though accurate, is devoid of feel and doesn’t weight up in a linear fashion. The brakes are superb and the Polo stops very effectively from high speeds and despite some constant and aggressive use of the centre pedal, there were no signs of fade. 

2010 Volkswagen Polo
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