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Old 27th February 2010, 00:06   #1
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Default Volkswagen Polo : Test Drive & Review

What you'll like:

• A well-built solid European hatchback
• Clean and contemporary styling. Absolutely no quirkiness
• "Big car like" ride quality. Suspension setup ideal for Indian roads
• Neutral handling & mature road behaviour
• Fuel efficient range of engines
• 280 liter boot. Figo-like & substantially larger than direct competition

What you won't:

• Commuter 3-cylinder engines. Neither hits the sweet spot nor matches the segment benchmarks
• Some niceties missing. Climate control, USB / AUX audio input, electric ORVMs etc.
• Ordinary rear bench legroom. Comparable to the Ritz
• Thin 40 dealership network
• VW's cost of ownership is yet unknown territory

The Polo 1.6L GT TDI:

Link to Review (Volkswagen Polo 1.6L GT TDI : Official Review)

The Polo 1.2L GT TSI:

Link to Review (Volkswagen Polo 1.2L GT TSI : Official Review)


Last edited by GTO : 28th October 2013 at 21:29. Reason: Adding link to TDI
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Old 27th February 2010, 00:06   #2
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First, some pertinent facts : In November 2009, VW briefly overtook Toyota for the title of the world's largest car manufacturer. Now, consider that our neighbour China is the brand's second largest global market. VW makes an awful lot of hatchbacks, and India is a fast-growing market, 70% of which consists of hatches. In recent time, VW bought 20% of Suzuki. All of these factors, combined, should illustrate just how important the South-East Asian region (primarily India and China) is to VW. Any brand that aspires for volumes in India just has to offer a competent hatchback. The last 2 odd years alone have seen the launch of 15 all new small cars. The B+ segment is growing respectably each year, over and above even the entry-hatch segment, and at the cost of the entry-level C sedan segment. The Japanese, Koreans and Indians (in that order) dominate the 3 - 6 lakh rupee market. Chevrolet is successfully carving out a slice of the pie for itself, with the VFM Spark & Beat. Europeans like the Fabia, Palio, Punto, Fusion and Corsa haven’t really made the cut till date. It’s clearly an uphill task for VW as Maruti, Hyundai and Tata fiercely guard their turf. Their target is a 8 – 10% Indian market share for the VAG group (overall) by 2015.

Enter the brand's most important car for our market. This is the 5th generation Polo, launched globally in 2009, while the Polo badge itself dates back to 1975. UK deliveries have only just begun a quarter back. The 11 millionth Polo (ever) rolled off from the Indian Plant earlier this month (Link to news item). I am a self-admitted fan of clean understated designs, and loved the Polo’s styling when I first saw it at the Auto Expo '10. The car wears a very chunky and balanced stance. It retains a classic "VW" look, yet is contemporary enough. The Polo looks distinctly German and exudes a feeling of solidity. There is an absolute lack of the quirkiness that we've seen with some recent launches. The wide headlamps & big fog lamps dominate the VW-Golf inspired front; however, its unfortunate that the Indian Polo does not wear the twin-focal smoked European headlamps that look so much better. Subtly flared wheel arches bring muscle to the car. The low & wide stance packs appeal with the Polo looking absolutely delicious in red. In an era of tall boys, its refreshing to see a contemporary low slung car. While I like the understated design, I'm well aware that some of you may differ. The Auto expo thread (link (VW at the Auto Expo 2010)) had mixed opinions on the looks, and a few reviewers at the test event called the Polo “boring”.

Unlike most newer generations of the same car, the Polo has cut flab and actually weighs a few kilos less than its predecessor. Further, contrary to the global trend where cars get taller with each successive gen, the 5th gen Polo is actually shorter than the 4th. Build quality is solid and should easily handle the abuse meted out from our driving conditions. This VW is sturdier than the Swift & i10 by a mile, though it doesn't quite feel like the Punto "tijori (vault) on wheels" that is a full 120 kilos heavier. The paint quality is particularly deep and shut lines are exacting. The Polo has been precisely screwed together.
Volkswagen Polo : Test Drive & Review-specs.jpg

VW equips the “Highline” variant with ABS brakes, two front airbags, 15 inch alloy wheels, rake & reach adjust steering, height-adjustable drivers seat, 4 speaker CD / MP3 stereo, 60:40 split on the rear seat, keyless entry + engine immobilizer, 4 power windows and rear wiper. However, climate control, electric ORVM adjustment, AUX / USB audio inputs and auto-locking doors are conspicuous by their absence on the top-end trim level.

In the year 2008, VW stated that they’d launch the Polo at 4.35 lakhs (link to thread (VW Polo for 4.35 lakhs - Business Standard)), and found few believers (including myself). Well, they have gone out and done just that. That said, the pricing of the fully loaded Highline variant is ridiculous. It veers dangerously close to that of the Hyundai i20, a car that has a substantially superior equipment list:
Volkswagen Polo : Test Drive & Review-prices.jpg

Highline variant's black front air dam, fog lights and colour-coded ORVMs look great:




The Polo is fairly wide. The low stance, with wheels placed out at the corners, give it excellent road holding ability:


Stunning front 3 quarter profile:






Tail pipe is hidden from rear view. It's neatly tucked under the bumper:


I quite like the chunky 7 spoke alloys. Notice the 5-lug nuts. 185/60/R15 tyres on the top trim level. Lesser variants get non-alloy wheels with 175/70/R14 tyres:




Nope, we don't get the cooler Euro-style headlamps:








Army of Polos lined up at the lunch pitstop:

Last edited by GTO : 3rd March 2010 at 19:37. Reason: Adding new sheet
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Old 27th February 2010, 00:08   #3
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The doors open & shut with a mild thud and via a 3-stage action (a la European cars). Thanks to the lower stance of the car, you don’t walk into the Polo as you do with the tallboy hatchbacks; instead you have to “sit down” inside. The elderly as well as those with back problems would do well in making note of this factor. The Polo is well-screwed together. There’s not a single uneven panel gap, or anything at all that feels loose on the inside. The interiors feel durable and fully capable of handling abuse. As an example, there’s no way you could break the glove box lid, even if you tried! The design is straight-forward in a very German way. It is a no-fuss look and comes across as under-stated (just like the exteriors). The focus is clearly on function rather than form. However, parts are hard to the touch everywhere. There are no real soft touch plastics to speak of, as you would expect in a European car. Considering the price of the base variant though, the quality of parts is good (and better than some competition). Some feel good buttons are present – like the one for the cabin light or hazard parking lights - but they are few and far between.

The colour combination of black, beige & chrome accents is sheer class and will keep both camps happy (the ones who like black or those who prefer beige). A generous greenhouse lends an airy ambience to the Polo's interiors. Lateral support from the driver’s seat is A+. You sit deep into the front seats, with the bolstering hugging your sides. The seat compound is neither too soft nor too firm, it’s just right (though still on the firmer side). The seats are high on support, and felt good even after 150 kms of driving. The three spoke steering wheel is meaty to hold. A big plus point is that rake as well as reach adjustments are standard on every variant, including the base. It’s amazing how 5 lakh rupee hatchbacks are now packing the amenities that 10 lakh rupee sedans lacked until just a couple of years ago. Further, on the top variant, the driver's seat is height adjustable too. This multitude of adjustments makes it easy to find your perfect driving position. The driver enjoys a super all-round view. The dashboard itself is set on the higher side, but it is not an issue in the highline variant with a height adjustable seat. However, shorter drivers will have to crane their necks in the lower-end variants (sans height adjustment).

The dashboard looks good overall, with the center panel tilting subtly toward the driver for that cockpit effect. All crucial controls are within an arms length. However, the design of the center dashboard area is terribly uninspiring. Both, the air-vents and air-conditioner controls look rather rudimentary. I have to make a special mention of the stubby gearshift. It’s a stylish small gearknob that’s great to hold (and to use). Shift quality is sure-slotting and the gearshift amongst the best from this segment. The driving position isn't perfect though. For the taller amongst us, our left knee will keep hitting against the center console (see picture below). Also, I find the clutch pedal position at rest (especially in the petrol) a tad too high for long legs. I have my doubts on how this is going to work in bumper to bumper traffic. The clutch pedal throw also seems fairly long, relative to other B segment hatchbacks. Rehaan didn't face either of these issues, yet rest assured, the taller amongst us most certainly will. While the convex glass ORVMs (outside rear view mirror) do their job well, the internal rear view mirror is taller & narrower than you’d expect. It is pretty useless and doesn’t cover the entire of the rear windscreen. Also, the rear seat has full-size headrests that block the view out that much more. Another negative is in the Euro-style control stalks (indicator on the left, wipers on the right).

Room at the front is good, and the large glass area adds to the feeling of space. Good thing about a wide hatch like the Polo is, shoulder room is sedan like. You won’t be elbowing the front passenger when shifting gears (as I did in the Punto and the Beat). Long travel front seats – classic German trait – mean even a 6 footer can stretch his legs completely. Either footwell is large enough for size 10 shoes. Rear space, however, isn't the Polo’s selling point. Legroom can best be termed as adequate and is similar to a Maruti Ritz (cars like the Jazz or Vista are far roomier). With Rehaan (height 5’8”) driving the Polo, I (5’10”) can sit on the back seat and have inch space between my knees and the front seat. Taller passengers can probably get away with burying their knees into the soft compound seatback. While on taller passengers, I must add that rear headroom is at a premium. The Polo’s wide berth allows for a wide rear seat. If and when you need to, a 3rd passenger can easily fit in. The 5th passenger seatback is soft & spongy too. However, the transmission tunnel is high and the 5th occupant hopefully remains an exception rather than the rule in your usage patterns. The rear bench is fairly large, thus the back & under-thigh support are sufficient. The car's waistline is not too high, thus allowing for a generous greenhouse at the back too, only helped further by the rear quarter glass. A good amount of light makes its way into the Polo's rear confines. The rear windows roll down about 70% of the way, while the rear headrests are height-adjustable units.

The Polo has first-class storage space. The glovebox is the largest amongst hatchbacks. It’s wide, tall and sufficiently deep. There are also cut-outs for your sunglasses and coins within the glovebox itself. A pair of innovatively placed bag hooks on the B pillars are cool. Door pockets on all 4 doors, while the front door bottle holders can hold 1.5L water bottles. The door pockets are medium sized and can easily carry oddities. There are a couple of cubby holes around the handbrake area, and two well sized cup-holders right ahead of the gearshift. No seat-back pockets on the version that we were driving though. Boot space at 280 liters is amongst the largest from this segment. The boot is nearly identical to that of the Figo (284 liters), yet substantially larger than the Swift (232 liters), i10 (225 liters) and even the Indica Vista (236 liters). The rear seat of the Comfortline / Highline variants splits into a 60:40, or can entirely fold away for added load flexibility. No 60:40 split on the base variant though.

Allow me to dedicate a paragraph to the poorly thought out door locking mechanism. Firstly, the doors don't auto-lock when you start driving. To add to it, there isn't a visible lock / unlock knob sticking out of the door panels, reminding you to lock the doors (some cars have an orange marking on each door lock / unlock latch, others have a lock / unlock stalk that sticks out at the top). In the Polo, the only way to lock all doors is from the driver's control panel (passengers cannot lock their doors independently). So you'll have to be mindful of these facts and remember to lock the doors each time that you drive off. Then, if you open any of the doors (after manually pressing the lock button), the rest of the doors still remain locked. I lost count of the number of times I opened the driver’s door, went to the back door only to discover that it’s still locked, and then had to walk back to the driver’s door to manually press the unlock button (to unlock all doors). I also lost count of the numerous times that I drove the Polo with all doors unlocked (with a laptop on the back seat), thanks to the lack of auto-locking & any visible "doors unlocked" warning. The lock sign (driver’s door) has a subtle but fairly noticeable light on it. It’s well-illuminated. However, only the lock icon is illuminated, not the unlock one. A Maruti 800 with a 1,500 rupee central locking kit offers a more practical lock / unlock solution.

The Polo's air-conditioner is extremely chilly, even on the petrol variant. I was sitting on the backseat and, with the blower setting only on position 2, the ice cold air was hitting my face. Further, the interiors are well insulated from external sounds. The minute you roll up the windows, the outside world stays outside.

Front seats offer superb support:


Rear legroom is strictly average:


Picture of minimum and maximum legroom. Front seats have long travel range:


Unlike most German cars, the horn button is easily accessible to your thumbs & is fairly light to press. VW said one of the changes they made for the Polo in India was to make the horn louder! Nice sounding horn (similar to the Octavia / Laura family). It did get some respect when horn-ok-pleasing trucks on the highway:


I like the classic meter layout. 2 large dials with the RPM gauge on the left. Easy to read. The MID throws out information on instant + average fuel consumption, distance to empty, countdown to next service, external temperature, odometer and time. MID is easy to read as well (black background with red fonts). When you start the car, the fuel gauge goes all the way up. When you switch off, it goes down in a nice progressive manner:


Adequate room in the footwell. Space on the left to rest your foot. Dead pedal sorely missed on the highway:


All variants have steering rake & reach adjust. Neat:


Not neat. Notice how my left leg hits against the center console. Taller drivers also won't appreciate the high-set clutch pedal. Reminded me of the setup from my ol' Jeep. Do note that this picture was taken with my left foot resting on the clutch in its top-most (standby) position:


Simply the best gearshift within the small car segment. Short, slick and a joy to use:


4 useful cubby holes on each side of the handbrake:


The Marlboro-lovers amongst us will be pleased. A rare car where even the middle variant comes equipped with a cigarette lighter. Two cup holders and yet another storage spot right ahead of the gear lever:


XL size glovebox. Don't miss the sunglass & coin holders. Well-thought out partition to hold documents + owners manual:


Useless internal rear view mirror. Doesn't even cover the entire rear windscreen, while the full size rear neck restraints obtrude even more:


Classic Euro-style headlamp control:


Large door lock / unlock buttons. When the car is secured, the "lock icon" stays illuminated. The Highline variant has controls for 4 power windows on the driver's door.


1.5L bottle holders on each of the front doors:


Open the rear hatch via the VW badge. Boot release has an electric action. When you press the hatch-release, you can hear an electric motor clicking:


Boot is amongst the largest from the segment. Rear seat entirely folds away too:


Nifty bag hooks on either side of the trunk:

Last edited by GTO : 3rd March 2010 at 19:39.
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Old 27th February 2010, 00:09   #4
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The 1.2L petrol barely fills up the big engine bay. Huge potential to fit a larger block in there. Get the 1.6 quick, VW:


I’m going to have to say this : The Polo is one of the rare European cars where the petrol is more impressive than the diesel. Without doubt, either engine feels very commuter in nature. Neither engine is a match for the class-toppers (Petrol = Maruti 1.2 K Series / Diesel = Figo 1.4 TDCi), yet the petrol is the engine of choice. Period.

The three-cylinder 1.2L (1198 cc) petrol makes the entry level variant, not only in India, but worldwide. This is the same engine that also does duty in the Fabia. VW has retuned the engine for more power in the Polo. The rating stands @ 74 BHP (5,400 rpms) and 110 NM of torque (3,750 rpms). There’s a fair amount of diesel-like shake at startup. At idle, you can feel the pitter-patter of the engine, as also a slight rocking action (if you pay close attention). This is unlike the Chevy Beat, where we accidentally fired up the engine when it was actually running...such was the refinement! The additional horses vis-a-vis Fabia are immediately noticeable. Within a single kilometer, you can feel the throttle responding much better. The motor is completely at home when puttering about town, and driveability is good. This is not a lazy throttle, its fairly quick to respond to accelerator input. The 3rd gear is a vital tool within the city. All through the crowded Sion-Dharavi stretch, I pretty much drove about in 3rd gear itself. The 3rd is able to pull from 25 - 30 kph. Not only the 3rd gear, but even the 2nd aids driveability. You wont be shifting down as much as you would be in other hatchbacks like the i10 kappa for instance. For a 1.2, the motor feels fairly peppy up until a 100 kph and will serve well within the city. One doesn't need to consciously give it extra revvs to prevent stalling either. VW claims a 0 - 100 of 14.2 seconds, I'd add atleast a second to that timing in the real world. Importantly, this engine doesn't have the jerkiness that we have experienced in the 3-cylinder A Star at low rpms / speed. It feels fairly revv-happy right up to its 6,200 rpm redline (albeit progress is slow after 5,500 rpms). That said, the engine is a 3 cylinder at the end of the day and lacks the sheer refinement of the competition's 4 cylinder 1.2s. When worked, the petrol makes quite a racket, even at a 60 kph urban speed level. On an old school highway, where you will be continuously working the gears up and down, passengers will surely get annoyed with the sound. Know those tall dividers which, when driven by, echo the sound of the engine? You can distinctly hear the 1.2 petrol flutter between 2,000 – 4,000 rpms at such spots. 1st gear is good for 43 kph, 2nd for 81 and 3rd for 120. Net net – is this engine superior to the A-star’s K-series – you bet! Is it a match to the Ritz and Swift 1.2 4-cylinder K-series – no chance. 3 cylinder engines are inherently fuel-efficient to start with, and VW has tuned it even further for FE. The official ARAI rating is 17.2 kpl, not far off from the Ritz' 17.7 figure. European petrols usually aren't fuel-efficient, so the Polo's ARAI numbers come as a surprise to me. In my previous post, I did mention how I'm a fan of the stubby gear lever. The shift action itself is fairly slick and light in operation. It was a joy to work the gearshift up and down on the highway.



The Polo diesel also has a 1.2L 3-cylinder under the hood with an identical BHP output. The diesel is rated @ 74 BHP (4,200 rpms) and 180 NM of torque (2,000 rpms). The diesel will be available from May 2010 and no, this is not the same engine as in the Fabia (1.4 D). The oil-burner is rather unresponsive below 2,100 rpms; whether you’re stepping on the gas a little or you have the pedal buried in the carpet below makes no difference. Then, once the turbo spools up, there is a sudden wave of torque. Turbo-lag is on the higher side and power delivery peaky. The times that you are at 10 kph in 2nd gear, and spot a gap in traffic to squeeze through, staying in the same gear will get you nowhere. You will need to shift down. Once you get the hang of it, the mid-range is punchy. Beyond 2,000 rpms, the diesel is fairly free-revving. If you insist, it'll go on to 5,200 rpms, though you'd do well in upshifting at about the 4,000 rpm mark. The actual useable powerband is pretty narrow. A punchy mid-range, and the expected fuel efficiency, are probably the only redeeming qualities of this diesel. At cruising speeds, the engine sound is not a bother, yet there is substantial drone when you are working up and down the gearbox. The diesel sounds crude in an old school way, including at regular city speeds. ARAI tests rate the VW Polo at 22.07 kpl (expect 13 - 15 within the city). Ford's 1.4 TDCi Figo remains the class-topper in the 5 lakh segment when it comes to driveability and refinement.

The Polo's suspension is well-tuned and boasts of thoroughly mature road manners. This hatchback has superb composure and moves like a much larger car. The ride quality stays flat, even on the back seat, over fairly uneven patches. Unlike its bumpy tall boy competition, the vertical movement is at a bare minimum. In fact, the Polo kept us comfortable through the rough internal Sion-Dharavi patches too. Considering that our test Polo was equipped with 15 inch wheels, this is commendable. If anything, the lower variants with their 14 inch wheels will have an even more compliant ride setup. On the flip side, the rear suspension is fairly audible on the inside when rough roads are encountered. Ride comfort remains excellent over most Indian road conditions.

Typical of most European cars, the Polo loves long straights and corners alike. Straight line stability is of a tall order. Sitting in the front passenger seat, I couldn’t have guessed that we were at 140 kph (was playing with the camera), until I glanced at the speedometer. Fling the Polo hard into fast corners and the chassis’ exudes immaculate balance. Handling is fairly neutral, even under harsh cornering, and body roll well-controlled. Grip levels are strong; push hard and she will slowly understeer in an entirely predictable manner (no nasty surprises). I thoroughly enjoyed hurling the car up the ol' Khopoli one-way ghat section. I can only imagine what a blast the 1.6 104 BHP Polo will be. On the other hand, the electric power steering spoils the enthusiast' recipe. It’s super light at 0 kph parking speeds, and stays light all through city speeds. The steering is a zero effort unit really. Problem is, when cruising at a 100 kph, I found the steering lighter than I’d have wished for. The PS is fairly accurate, but don't expect any feedback. You’ll never know what the front tyres are up to. The Punto’s pure-hydraulic “nirvana” steering remains the benchmark amongst hatchbacks. The mass market, however, disagrees with me. They prefer these super-light EPS units. Doubts? Just ask Maruti!

The brake pedal is easy to modulate and the overall braking action is extremely confidence inspiring. This, with the Apollo Aceleres running as stock tyres! It’s easy to control just the amount of braking you want, whether in bumper to bumper traffic or when shedding speed and entering into a tight corner. The ground clearance of 168 mm does the job. We missed (*wink wink*) a large New Bombay speed hump, yet the Polo didn't bottom out. The turning radius of 4.97 meters is par for the course, while the steering requires about 2.75 turns lock to lock.

The only way you’ll know a petrol polo from a diesel is the latter's "TDI" badging:


Thick under bonnet insulation on the petrol model too:

Last edited by GTO : 3rd May 2010 at 14:32.
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Old 27th February 2010, 00:09   #5
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Other Points:

• This review has been jointly compiled with Rehaan. Thanks for the additional points and pictures.

• After seeing the Polo up close, it’s obvious that the car has been designed for the mass market. Competitive price, light steering, stress on fuel efficiency and more. Of course, for us enthusiasts, that will all change with the launch of the Polo 1.6L 104 BHP variant. For the record, and for the first time ever, the Polo won the “European car of the year 2010" award.

• VW’s marketing team sure created a buzz leading up to the Polo's launch. Full page TOI ads (link to thread) woke the mass market up to the brand. They smartly launched the Beetle and Phaeton as "halo" cars, thus creating a “premium image” around the brand, and then bring in a 4.3 lakh rupee Polo. Remember, its always easier to move from the top of the market to a lower segment, than vice versa. After the Passat & the Jetta, this is VW’s third real offering in the Indian marketplace.

• Saloon version (Polo with a boot) production to start soon. At the VW plant, there was a notice board clearly stating “Compact sedan production to start in Mid-2010”.

• In an interesting development, VW recently bought a 20% stake in Suzuki (link to thread (VW to take stake in Suzuki)). Future outcome could be sharing of the distribution network? Knowing VW, they'd slowly and steadily increase that 20% stake to a majority one day.

• When you price the base version at 4.3 lakhs, its obvious that costs have been controlled everywhere. Example : The control stalks are rock hard to the touch. You can feel the mold split-lines / joints on the back of the stalk. Not necessarily a bad thing at this price, but what I’m trying to communicate is that, don’t expect European car interior quality with soft touch plastics, ribbed rubber et al.

• Announcing the Polo’s pricing just 3 days prior to “Budget 2010” met with mixed opinion. Could the prices have room to avoid revision, if the Government imposed some higher / additional taxes?

• VW’s market blitzkrieg included the tagline “Das Auto”. In my opinion, this is the worst tagline to use for a mass market like India. Sure, “Das Auto” means “The Car”, but just how many people know that? Its silly to use a foreign language in your punchline for a market of 1.2 Billion people. A market with nearly 350 spoken languages at that.

• Service interval = 15,000 kms.

• Engine is equipped with crank protection (no starter movement on a running engine).

• The VW plant at Chakan (Pune) has an installed capacity of 1,10,000 cars annually. The VW factory tour was a subtle way of sending the message out “We are here, We are pretty darn serious, We are here to stay” to the press.

• In the midst of our factory tour, we spotted a neat Polo with 1.6 badging . It’s coming for sure. The only question is when. My guess is within 2 quarters, if not earlier.

• Also spotted a VW Polo Cup (130 BHP 1.6L diesel) on the assembly line. Link to more info.

• As of today, the Polo’s localization level is about 50%. It is scheduled to touch 80 – 85% by the mid-2011.

• There are 40 VW dealers in India as of today. While VW is of the opinion that this is enough to sell & service the Polo, I have to disagree. The Polo will need a substantially stronger dealer network to succeed. Distribution is, after all, key to the Polo’s market performance. European cars have expensive upkeep, VW needs good honest dealers (read = far away from Skoda). Further on this point, and importantly, VW dealers have received a superior rating for service quality vis a vis Skoda (in our ownership reviews).

• A little known fact is that, the first ever VW Polo was a rebadged Audi. In a twist of fate, the upcoming Audi A1 uses this 5th gen Polo platform.

• Thanks to the generous glass area and seating position, the A pillars, though thick, aren’t as much of a hindrance as in the Ritz.

• VW sells the base variant with two colour options only. This is just one of the ways in which they want to restrict sales of the base, and promote the middle / top variant instead.

• Each of the 4 air-con vents can be entirely shut, and when you bring the volume to zero, its honestly 100% shut.

• Again, I need to make a note of the way that the clutch pedal is placed. At standby position, its a tad too high. You have to lift your entire left leg to use it. Can get a little tiring for the left foot. This will affect the taller amongst us. I’m not too tall at 5’10”, 6 footers will complain even more.

• The design offers plentiful options for customization. Mark my words, the Polo will receive fantastic after-market support on aesthetics.

• 6 colours : White, Red, Silver, Black, Metallic Blue and Metallic grey.

• 6 years anti-corrosion warranty is standard.

• With the Polo now on sale, and being a far more contemporary product, the failing Fabia is almost a write off.

• Reverse gear has an unconventional placement. Up and ahead of 1st gear. You have to press the lever down to engage reverse. In a tight right-hander, if you are holding on to the gear lever for lateral support, you will unintentionally press it down.

• Air-con controls feel rather entry grade. No climate control even on the top end.

• I was pleasantly surprised with the Apollo Acelere’s on our test Polo. I’ve never been a fan of the kind of rubber local manufacturers dish out, but the Apollo’s performed acceptably well (do I see Moderator TSK1979 nodding?). Of course, I’d still upgrade to some meaty Michelins or Yokohamas at the end of the day, yet these were better than JK tyres for sure.

• XL size parcel tray reeks of high quality. Lot of storage place ON the parcel tray for oddities.

• The rear window sill is not as high as that of the Swift or the Beat. This is all the better for rear bench passengers, there is none of the claustrophobia you feel in the other two hatchbacks.

• Lane change indicator : A mild push on the indicator stalk makes the turn indicator blink 3 times. Push fully to use the indicator stalk in a conventional manner.

• Beige carpeting easily gets soiled. Get your rubber mats no later than the time of delivery itself. Within two minutes of my jumping on the back seat, shoes marks were all over the carpet of our test car.

• Spare wheel cover has a hole to insert your finger in and lift. Pretty nifty.

• All variants come with front power windows. Top loaded has all power windows.

• The petrol wont revv past 3,800 rpms when stationary. For the diesel, its 3,000 rpm.

• When you hit the redline, the needle doesn’t “bounce” off aggressively. The ECU smoothly halts the increase in revvs.

• Fan stays on for about 10 secs after turning off the diesel engine.

• Wide Door armrests. They’ll support even the larger forearms.

Last edited by GTO : 3rd March 2010 at 19:43.
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Old 27th February 2010, 00:11   #6
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The Smaller but Significant things:

Full black ORVMs on lower variants. They swing the opposite way. Thus, you won't be looking at mirror replacement bills from two-wheelers hitting against them:


Tail pipe tidily tucked away behind the bumper:


Subtle rear spoiler looks fab:


Passenger doors cannot be locked independently. Lock switch missing:


Gotta appreciate the finer touches. The glovebox has rubber dampers. You won't hear any rattles in this hatch:


Rear hatch has two grab handles, though they are like holding on to a wedge (rather than hooking your fingers onto something). You just need to push the hatch 90% of the way and it follows through. No slamming required:


Electric mirrors conspicuous by their absence on the Highline trim level:


Chunky seatback adjust lever:


An example of the cost cutting. Plain jane sun visors neither have vanity mirrors nor any pockets for toll tickets:


Air volume control works well. 0 flow does result in 0 flow (unlike some other cars). On the other hand, vent direction controls are rudimentary. Remind me of Marutis:


Thoughtful bag holder on the B Pillar:


Highline variant has 15 inch alloy wheels. However, the non-alloy spare wheel is only 14 inches in size (with a different tyre aspect ratio, obviously):


Fine packaging for the extra bulbs and fuses. Placed in the spare wheel:


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Old 27th February 2010, 00:12   #7
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GTO has already covered all our points, but here's a quick re-cap for emphasis on a few points that i think deserve a second mention:
  • Excellent brakes, in terms of ability, responsiveness and modulation
  • Handling that does exactly what you tell it to, even when pushing hard
  • A levelled and non-bouncy ride even at the back
  • A gearshift thats a pleasure to work with
  • Electric power steering makes it easy to throw around, though theres barely any feedback. Also, when slowing down whilst turning (eg. into a hair-pin bend) the sudden change felt in the weight of the steering can be a bit unsettling
  • The 1.2 Petrol is surprisingly revv-happy and eager - though fairly vocal
  • The 1.2 Diesel is terribly lethargic below 2,100rpm and nothing special past that. On paper it might have looked like the winner, but in reality the petrol seems like the better pick
  • Rear bench legroom is at a bit of a premium
  • Solid build. Even though cost cutting is evident there is no loss in terms of the quality of the product

All in all, the Polo doesn't have a glaring weakness that will stop prospective customers dead in their tracks. Sure, enthusiasts would have liked a better engine (and might get one) but for the majority - the car does everything its supposed to do, and does it very confidently. How the Indian masses take to this car - with its clearly euro styling is yet to be seen. The enthusiasm and spread of VW's dealer network, initial tales of cost of ownership and fuel efficiency will all greatly determine the Polo's future in India.

Last edited by Rehaan : 27th February 2010 at 00:19.
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Old 27th February 2010, 00:13   #8
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For those of you curious to know what the differences are between the Polo being "Made in India" for our market, and the Polo being made and sold in other parts of the world, read on:

Starting at the front - "our" Polo (image on the left) has 2 chrome slats on the grill vs 1 in other parts of the world :
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Also note the totally chrome headlamps on the car we tested, and the black and chrome styling giving more of a twin-lamp effect on the cars sold elsewhere. I guess this is a matter of personal preference, as i know GTO and i have different views on this one.

As mentioned earlier, a very welcome improvement for Indian roads is the horn, which was made louder. This could be checked off as a valuable addition in the "safety" section, and its available on the lowest variant too.

The damping system of the rear suspension is locally made (part of that currently 50+% localization figure), and the car sits about 50 mm higher, to be better prepared for the surprises our roads have in store.
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Under the hood, naturally a more suitable AC compressor for the Indian climate.


There are plenty of other differences, but they are more like level of kit / building to a price rather than the India-specific changes mentioned above. Eg:
- Interior fabric & colour choices
- Different styled alloys
- Rear discs
- Navigation system
- Height adjustable seatbelts
etc.


Source for Intl' pics:
Headlamps
Rear Wheel

Last edited by GTO : 27th February 2010 at 18:10. Reason: 50 mm higher, not 15
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Old 27th February 2010, 00:28   #9
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thats a great review as usual guys. seems this car is really going to give competition to the other hatches. now, to wait for the 1.6.
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Old 27th February 2010, 00:30   #10
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thanks for the detailed review as usual.

Do you have any photo of open rear door similar to photo posted for open front door?
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Old 27th February 2010, 00:34   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sukiwa View Post
...
Do you have any photo of open rear door similar to photo posted for open front door?
Ofcourse we do!

Here is the non-power window rear door, and that is the glass wound down as far as it will go.

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cya
R
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Old 27th February 2010, 00:37   #12
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Excellent writeup and reviews, GTO/Rehaan! Seems, Polo is going to move out of showrooms in good numbers, inspite of the 3 pot engine. On the headlamp, I guess its the same size and fit as that of the European model, and so, it should be fairly easy to source and swap, for those who want a bit of exclusivity... anyhow, I for once, is sold! If I am looking out for a hatchback, it would be hard to ignore this!

Last edited by iTNerd : 27th February 2010 at 00:44.
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Old 27th February 2010, 00:39   #13
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thats a great review, thanks
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Old 27th February 2010, 00:51   #14
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Great Review as Always, GTO. I have stopped reading Autocar Reviews after reading your recent ones.
The VW Polo : Finally it arrives, but personally for me after reading this it is a disappointing package. VW could have done better. The Figo is King for me in the diesel hatch war, cause I know how Bloody good that 1.4TDCi is.
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Old 27th February 2010, 00:59   #15
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Very good extensive review. Gives a comprehensive picture of the INDIAN POLO. But from reading the review ,the picture i got was of a car that offers nothing new or special and in fact is a step back in some instances like lack of efficient central locking, a 3 pot petrol engine, an unrefined, crude diesel engine and interior plastics that scream"made in india".

So why should one want to buy a POLO? Is it for the VW tag or is there something that i am missing ?
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