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VW Polo Highline Plus AT: Buying & 2500 km ownership experience

I am thoroughly satisfied with my purchase. Yes, the Hyundai i20 N Line is competent but it still falls short of the driving pleasure that the Polo has to offer.

BHPian vedirah recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Hello all,

This is a long time coming thread about my 2500 km + ownership experience of my Polo Highline Plus AT. I had booked the car in November 2021 after going through every thread on TBHP about the car. The booking was done in November 2021 so that I could expect the delivery around February 2022 as a surprise to my long term girlfriend on our anniversary. However, sadly we broke up during the waiting period. What a way to start the year! Naturally, as soon as I booked the car, the first thing I did was register at TBHP to share my experience. I'm glad to be a part of this amazing forum now and a proud owner of the last few of the legendary Polo in India.

Requirements

The primary reason I wanted to buy a car was that I live with a dog, Arya, and it is hard to travel in India with a dog. For most of the car's life, it would be just Arya and I going on road trips. Every year, during Diwali, we would also travel 700 km to my hometown for the celebrations. My requirement was a fun-to-drive small car that can be easy to drive in Bangalore traffic and also be exciting for highway trips. I consider myself a driving enthusiast and the first thing I look for in any car is how the engine behaves, and how the car handles.

My family has owned several cars, starting with a Premier 118NE which my dad and I restored to pristine condition and it served us for five years. Then we moved on to the humble Indica Xeta, which wasn't exciting to drive, but served us well for daily commutes. We had a Honda Amaze iDTEC as well, and then we bought a Mahindra XUV300 diesel. These cars were my reference points in this selection process. The shortlisting process lasted for about six months and was very thorough. Here are the cars I had considered and the reason I chose the Polo over these:

Shortlisted cars

Honda Amaze

My dad owned the first-gen Honda Amaze diesel a while ago. Naturally, my search started with this rather familiar car. The diesel engine on our Amaze was such a charmer. It had enough grunt, and also had segment-leading FE! Sadly, the newer Amaze was a let down in terms of part quality and interior fit and finish (not to say the first generation was any better - in fact, it was even worse). Even though it ticked most boxes, the CVT was unexciting to drive, so we dropped this car from the shortlist.

Renault Kiger/Nissan Magnite

I was gravitating a lot towards these cousins initially. They seemed to offer everything I needed at a stellar price point. The CVT I felt was better than Honda's offering. The engines were punchy and I never felt the need for extra power. However, overall fit and finish levels leave a lot to be desired. The cars somehow felt cheaply built. How these cheap plastics would fare in the longer term was a big question mark. So we dropped this too.

Hyundai i20 N Line DCT

This was one car that was almost perfect for my needs. It has a competent engine and gearbox combo, drives and handles spectacularly, steering has enough feedback, the car generally feels grippy on the road, and add to that the laundry list of features it comes with. The i20 N Line was spacious and made a lot of sense, but it was overkill for my needs. The car is simply way overpriced for what it offers. I also found that the Polo performs better than the i20 N Line in the drivetrain aspects.

Honda Jazz CVT

The Honda Jazz was another promising contender but I dropped it because it was unexciting to drive and the CVT was sluggish. I also didn't like how the Jazz looked - a matter of personal preference.

Tata Altroz iTurbo

This was an interesting car on the list. Quite affordable, stylish and offers a premium cabin experience. However, it was the odd one out because it didn't have an automatic option at all! So considering the infamous Bangalore traffic, I dropped this.

Polo GT TSI

Weirdly enough, I remember crossing the Volkswagen showroom and spotting a board that said "The all-new Volkswagen Polo is here" a couple of months before I decided I needed a car. I remember thinking to myself - it looks the same as it did 10 years ago. What's possibly new about the Polo? Who even buys this car these days that it's still on sale?! Needless to say, this was the car at the last of my list. In fact, it didn't even feature on my list of shortlists. That was my impression of the Polo having never driven it first-hand to experience the beauty that is called the TSI motor. Boy oh boy, was I wrong. One test drive and I was convinced this is the car I want to get. The amazing solid German build quality easily put all the others on my shortlist to shame - and that being a 10-year-old car! I remember my first impression as I got inside the car was the dashboard and door lining plastics were of such premium quality. Obviously, I was also super impressed with the motor - the way it feels so punchy and eager. At this point, I had made up my mind. It was the Polo or nothing.

The two major contenders on my list now were the i20 N Line DCT and the Polo TSI AT. Here is a quick overview of my observations of both the cars when driven back-to-back:

  • Engine - The Polo has the better engine and feels much more sprightly than the i20. The i20 has noticeable turbo lag. The Polo's turbo lag in comparison is not that bad. Both engines can pull the car and keep you interested, but the Polo can bring that smile to your face. The engine note too is better on the Polo. The i20's engine note felt a bit wheezy.
  • Gearbox - The i20's DCT didn't feel noticeably faster than the Polo's torque converter. Which is surprising. The Polo's torque converter does a splendid job. Shifts are nearly imperceptible if driven sedately, and shifts are quick! But hey, you get paddles on the Hyundai!
  • Suspension - i20 N Line wins hands down. Zero body roll around corners and a very firm and matured setup. The Polo in comparison feels softer and also has a noticeable body roll.
  • Steering - I felt the Polo's steering to be a bit more weighted than the i20's, and felt more solid. The i20 is very responsive but a bit more weight would have helped. The steering wheel of the Polo feels a tad bit better in your hands than the i20's due to the very tight leather stitching. But again, the i20's steering wheel feels softer to the touch. Both are made of excellent material quality.
  • Build quality - Polo has that satisfying European door thud when you close the doors. That is missing in the i20 - the doors feel lighter to operate in a typical Hyundai fashion. But Hyundai has definitely come a long way today. The panels feel well put together - there aren't any major panel gaps. The paint quality too has improved.
  • Interior - The i20 definitely felt more modern and upmarket, but the quality of plastics is better on the Polo. In my opinion, both score well in this regard.
  • Features - Do we even have to go here? Of course, the i20 wins hands down. But the Polo has auto wipers which in my opinion is more useful than auto headlamps.
  • Comfort - The bucket seats on the Polo fare a bit better than the ones on the i20 which lack under-thigh support. That's just me nitpicking. But the tables are turned once you get into the back seat, where the i20 is far far better than the Polo. It just has much more space in the back. On the driver's seat too, there is much more knee-room and leg-room in the i20. I'd give this one to the i20.
  • Cost-cutting - I could see several areas where Hyundai has cut costs. First, the painting on the door sills and other areas which aren't visible to the naked eye (for example, the inside of the hatch) don't have enough clear coat on them. The quality of plastics on the outside too, in my opinion, feels like a cost-cutting exercise. I suspect Volkswagen does a full BIW dip into the clear coat whereas Hyundai probably only sprays the clear coat on top of the base coat from outsides and doesn't bother about doing the same inside (I could be wrong about this).

After a very long thought process, I decided Polo was the way to go. The i20 is a nice and well-rounded car. But it doesn't have the same driving feel that the Polo offers. It is let down by that engine. i20 N Line turbo GDI is not as free-revving as the Polo TSI and that can be felt. Hyundai would have had a winner only if they had plonked a better engine into the i20 N Line. But alas, that's not the case. And for now, the Polo takes the lead as the enthusiast's car.

Here are some likes and dislikes I found with the Polo:

Likes

  • The 1.0 TSI motor is absolutely a gem and likes to be driven hard. I even found that it gives me marginally better FE when driven within the turbo's power band! It hardly feels like a small capacity motor when kept within its powerband. Acceleration is instantaneous and overtakes are a point-and-shoot business.
  • I felt the torque converter gearbox can be as quick as a dual-clutch setup! This was surprising. During a back to back drive of the i20 N Line DCT and the Polo TSI, I felt that the shifts were just as quick, but smoother in the Polo.
  • The suspension setup is firm and compliant compared to my reference cars. It felt more planted than the XUV300 does. However, the i20 N Line has the better suspension setup hands down.
  • The steering is well-weighted and confidence-inspiring. It is fairly accurate, but has a small dead spot in the center. The i20 N Line's steering, on the other hand, has less weight but more feedback and is more accurate.
  • This is a pure driver's car! The ergonomics are spot-on and everything is where you would expect it to be (except the stalks which are mirrored in typical European fashion!).
  • General fit and finish levels are extraordinary. Dashboard material is top quality and the car exudes quality everywhere. All touchpoints are made of excellent materials.
  • Small VW features- such as all windows one-touch up and down, rain-sensing wipers, cooled glovebox etc. are nice to have.

Dislikes

  • The outside mirrors don't auto fold when locked or unlocked! That is a major miss.
  • Space is strictly average. This was not an issue for me considering my usage.
  • Fabric seats were nice, but tend to get dirty and are hard to clean.
  • Headlights are abysmal. The car badly needs Vento's headlights.
  • No reverse parking camera! But that's not really an issue as it is a smallish car, and gets reverse parking sensors - which in my opinion should be okay.
  • The audio system is acceptable. Audio quality is good. The strong point of this speaker setup is its rich midrange. Bass is thumpy but not enough. Highs are disappointing. It doesn't have much in terms of soundstage either. But as far as OEM speakers go, these are acceptable.

Booking experience

I started enquiring about auto loans with various banks and got a sweet deal from PNB at just a 6.8% interest rate. The next day, I went to the showroom and booked a matte grey Polo GT TSI (a limited edition color option) by putting down a booking amount of Rs. 50,000. The on-road price at that time was Rs. 11,75,000 (this was later revised in January reflecting an increase of Rs. 30,000 on the ex-showroom price). The showroom couldn't promise a delivery date owing to the spotty supply of the car from Volkswagen. They gave me a timeline of 2-3 months, and I asked them specifically to deliver it in February due to my anniversary. Then the torturous waiting period began. I spent most of my time watching videos on youtube over and over again, reading through all the team BHP threads, and just annoying my mother by asking her twice a day when she thinks the car would come home. My dad tried to push me to buy the Altroz instead multiple times because it was cheaper and also didn't have a waiting period. But I was unswayed. I wanted the Polo and that was that.

Delivery

Sometime in late January, I received a call from the dealership saying that they had a Carbon Steel Grey Polo Highline Plus in the manual guise. They said I'd have to take delivery of this, as they aren't expecting any other Polo to be allotted soon. I was in a dilemma about whether I should go ahead with this or not. We had a discussion for two days at home, and I decided to go ahead with it. I would be sacrificing the automatic gearbox, but I decided I could live with that. Weirdly enough, a day after sharing the quotation with me, the dealer called me again apologetically as the car they had, was in fact, an automatic Highline Plus trim and not a manual. I immediately told him to go ahead with the delivery. The loan process went smoothly (thanks to Mr. Rajesh at PNB Nagercoil branch).

I took delivery of the car on a rather special day - 2/2/22. The delivery was quite eventful. There was cake and some sweets. The showroom staff were all wearing happy faces and were as excited as I was taking delivery of my first car. In fact, they cheered together as I started the car for the first time for the customary lemon squashing. Their excitement was definitely contagious! The bank manager, who was now my good friend, also asked to be present during delivery. My dad quickly made friends with the dealership staff and the bank manager too. Overall, it was a satisfying delivery day. They all waved at me through the rearview mirror as I drove away with my new carbon steel grey beauty.

Initial experience

The first week of owning the car was quite thrilling! I would take the car out every chance I get. At every available opportunity to drive the car, I would take the car instead of our humble Fascino. And I would return home with the widest grin ever. My proclivity of taking the car out every chance got so bad that when I received my Fast Tag, I took the car out for a 150 km drive just to test whether the Fast Tag works or not! The TSI motor does one thing and it does it so well - it just pulls and pulls and pulls! I have to say, even after 2500 km with it, the excitement of driving this car has not dulled one bit.

Day 4 of ownership gave me a harrowing experience. Someone had keyed their way through the hatch and the rear bumper, leaving a nasty looking scratch all across the rear of the car. I couldn't sleep that night. Luckily, the next day I went to a detailing guy and he removed 90% of the scratch at just Rs. 500. The scratch is still visible to a keen eye, so I guess I have to live with it. Here is a picture of the scratch:

Starting Day 6, the accessories I had ordered from Amazon started coming in. First was a 70 Mai dashcam. I installed this one myself, routing the cable through the A-Pillar and then through the rear of the dashboard. However, I was not able to find an opening under the infotainment unit to perfectly route the cable. So now it annoyingly rubs against my left leg while I drive. Then came the 900 GSM SoftSpun microfiber towels, and with it came the Formula 1 car wax. I also bought Meguiar's NXT Gen car shampoo for detailing needs. Then came the Tirewell tire inflator, which I have found quite useful so far. I also eventually ordered a pair of memory foam knee pads to be stuck on the lower sides of the center console where your knee rests while driving. Here's a picture of the car after a nice wash and wax session:

Experience on a long highway trip

The second weekend I took the car on a 500km long drive to Coimbatore. This was when I could thoroughly enjoy the car. Even with a full load of luggage, the engine felt very sprightly and eager at highway speeds. I was careful not to cross 2.5k RPM during the run-in period. My first service at 1000 km was done at Ramani Volkswagen, Coimbatore. The staff were very professional and the work was done in a short time. The highway FE surprised me - I averaged 15.5 km/l on this trip. The rest of the 1500 km was mostly spent on city roads in Nagercoil where I got a respectable FE of 12 km/l under sedate driving. However, there were times when it dropped to 9.5 km/l also.

I have planned to upgrade the headlights (this car badly needs a headlight upgrade) and I'm also thinking of installing the VW flip camera (inspired by BHPian fluidicjoy's thread on the same). I might think of installing a sway bar at the rear to combat the body roll and the understeer at high speeds.

I have spent two fulfilling months with this car and I have to say I am thoroughly satisfied with my decision to purchase this car. It is sad to see VW pulling the plug on this legend of a hatchback. I can't find any car that can actually replace the Polo now in all aspects. Yes, the N Line is competent, but still falls short of the driving pleasure that the Polo can give.

Here's a parting shot:

Experience with AutoForm India purchasing seat covers for my Polo

After my Coimbatore trip, it was a nightmare to clean up the fabric seats - Arya sheds a lot of hair! I had to thoroughly vacuum the entire cabin and still, there were places where I could find Arya's hair. So naturally, I wanted to get some seat covers installed to make this less painful in the future.

I looked online and couldn't find many promising options. Went down to Nagercoil and looked for good seat covers, but I didn't like the designs on offer. A friend of my dad who owns a 4th gen Honda City spoke highly of Autoform India, so I checked them out. They offer online bookings and delivery. I was very skeptical of this option, what if I book something and when it arrives the quality of the material is bad? They only have an exchange policy and not a return policy. Still, based on reviews, I decided to take the plunge. I ordered a set of black leatherette seats with red piping which cost me Rs. 11,500 including delivery. Installation was to be paid separately.

When I received these, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the leatherette material. What's more? The pattern on the leatherette nicely compliments the pattern on the dashboard. My friends also found the seat covers quite comfy and good looking. I highly recommend AutoForm to anyone looking for good quality seat covers at an affordable price. Here's what I'm talking about:

 

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