Volkswagen has substantially updated and reconfigured its Polo hatchback for India. Whereas the earlier car promised a lot but was hobbled by a weak and noisy 1.2-litre three-cylinder diesel engine and little equipment, this new car gets an all-new 1.5 diesel unit and more kit.
Volkswagen has made only small changes to the exterior of the Polo, which are so subtle that it's easy to miss them. Yet, these small tweaks are a step in the right direction. The bars of chrome in the chin and in the grille are well executed, the detailing in the headlights is quite classy and there are some new alloys too. Walk around to the back of the car and the details are even more difficult to spot. The tail-lights are new and the bumper has been re-designed to look a bit fuller. However, these changes are only visible when you take a closer look.
There are plenty of updates and improvements on the inside too. There’s a beautiful leather-wrapped, flat-bottomed steering wheel that wouldn’t look out of place even on a car twice the price of the Polo. Audio controls are now standard as well on the higher trim level.
VW has updated the centre console of the new Polo as well. The vents, two DIN audio system and climate control system get a metallic surround and the audio system now gets Bluetooth, USB and aux-in compatibility and memory card slots as well. The red display in the centre of the instrument panel has been replaced by a white one, and VW has increased the font size to make it more readable. Our test car also came with a beige and grey two-tone dash that brightened things up considerably.
Good bits that remain on the new car are the comfortable front seats, the solid build and the good cabin insulation. Passengers sat in the rear seats, however, still don’t have too much legroom and you feel quite hemmed in as visibility from the back is poor.
What stands out is the feeling of quality inside the cabin. The fit and finish and tiny details like the stitching on the seats and the leather-wrapped hand-brake lever simply smack of VW’s attention to detail which no other carmaker can match.
What’s it like to drive?
The biggest change VW has made is under the hood. It has downsized its 1600cc TDI or diesel engine to under 1498cc to help this version of the Polo get an excise cut, and the resulting reduction in price should prove to be really popular.
Indian customers never really took to the earlier non-linear, three-cylinder diesel, but this one is a very different kettle of fish. It’s really smooth when you start it up, the gravelly note of the earlier engine gone, the engine pulls cleanly from 1200rpm and torque flows smoothly all the way up to 4000rpm. You can spin the engine faster, to 5000rpm, too, but power begins to tail off. The motor takes its time to respond, but what’s nice is that there is no steep step up in power anywhere in the powerband, just a strong surge. The clutch isn’t the lightest around either, but VW’s slick gearbox makes changing gears a treat too; so, in traffic, the new VW Polo does quite well.
This new 89bhp engine, however, does its best work once the roads open up. Acceleration is strong and the Polo gathers pace rapidly when the engine is kept spinning in its midrange. The 0-100kph sprint takes 13.08 seconds, although admittedly tested in slightly wet conditions, and this means overtaking slower cars is effortless.
The new VW Polo also gets an altered suspension. There’s a bit more weight in the steering wheel and the suspension now is much better at tackling poor roads. There’s more than enough compliance at low speeds and the suspension doesn’t crash through potholes like the earlier one did. The set-up, in fact, is very similar to the earlier Polo 1.6 TDI, but that also means it feels a bit ‘loose’ at higher speeds in a straight line and a bit skittish when cornered hard as well. VW has also improved the brakes. You now need to exert less effort when you want to stop quickly, which does give you a bit more confidence.
More attractive, nicer to drive and better looking on the inside too, VW has upped the new Polo’s game substantially. With prices for the 1.2 petrol ranging from Rs 4.99 - 6.07 lakh and the new 1.5 diesel available for Rs 6.27 - 7.37 lakh, the new VW Polo is well and truly back in the game (all prices, ex-showroom, Delhi).