Ask me, which is the hottest looking small car in the country and I’d certainly say it’s the Volkswagen Polo. I mean, just one glance at it, and it comes up as drop dead gorgeous and to spruce things up there is also a 1.6 badge at the back of this Polo I’ve got with me today. But there is more to it than just looks and I spend a complete day inside to find out what makes it the most desired premium hatchback in the country today.
The Volkswagen Polo comes loaded with style and is easily the best looking hatchback in the country. The design is executed so well that it looks good from every angle. It is made to turn heads, and it does succeed in that. The Polo has been around for about a year now, and still attracts a lot of attention.
As I said, the Polo is a very attractive looking car. The previous generation Polo was a very ordinary looking design and was easy to miss but VW has turned in to quite a head-turner now. It looks very sophisticated and so European. The design is full of edges, wedges and creases – creases that can easily rival a crisply ironed cotton shirt. Everything right from the bonnet lines to the techie-looking headlamps to the lower lip of the bumper portrays aggression.
The sharp bold lines are aplenty on the Polo’s shell. The crisp lines on the bonnet converge purposefully with the slim VW signature grille. The two chrome strips running across the grille with a large VW logo in the centre give it a very premium face. It is flanked by the wedge-shaped headlamps that look pretty hi-tech. The smart looking plastic mesh insert on the front bumper houses matching fog lamps, although available only in the highline trim. I also like the detailing down to the sharp protrusions on the lower lip of the bumper- looks like the devil’s horn to me.
Side profile again asserts the dynamism in its design. The sharp waistline cuts through the length of the car, starting from the headlamp to the tail lamp, and looks like a crisp single stroke from the designer. Then there is another character line that defines the fenders and runs across the lower portion of the doors. The wedge-theme continues in the glass area, with a sharp notch near the C-pillar.
The rear too is in keeping with the sporty front. The low roofline with a spoiler treatment at the back and a flare below the waistline gives it a nice squatted look, which make it look athletic from the rear as well. Then there are stylish tail lamps and the VW logo that opens the boot for you. Pretty neat a gizmo, I’d say.
The tail lamps look pretty stylish at night, resembling heating elements arranged inside the clear enclosure. The 15-inch alloys are standard on the Highline variant and enhance the side profile. The wheels also fit the wheel wells perfectly with no visible gaps, further accentuating the low and sporty appearance of the car.
Volkswagen even has a range of body kits available at the dealerships if you wish to make your Polo look sportier. Kitted or not, the Polo is one hot looking hatch – the most stylish your money can get you in the country today.
User Experience Review
Polo is the cheapest car in Volkswagen’s stable but delivers highly in terms of its fit and finish as well as build quality, both inside and outside. The interiors feel well appointed and solidly built. It immediately gives you the confidence that even the tiniest of stuff wouldn’t start falling apart and that it is built to last. The steering wheel is nice to hold, though I still fancy it to be wrapped nicely in leather. The clocks are backlit in red while the audio system screen is blue, making for a quite sophisticated feel in the cabin at night, in tune with the more expensive Volkswagens like the Passat and Jetta.
The Polo feels absolutely German on the inside. It is well built, we appointed and to the point. There is no designer flair, just solidity in its build and this is more than enough to keep you delighted. The layout of the dash is very simple but comes with a high quality feel. There are plenty of places to stow your things around the cabin. The cup holders in the front are nice and big enough to hold large cola servings while the bottle holders on the front door too can accommodate regular one-litre bottles. The Polo’s steering wheel is adjustable for both rake and reach, this feature being standard across all variants. The driver’s seat is adjustable for height and the Polo’s ergonomics can be fiddled with to suit most body frames.
The backseat isn’t exactly the place to be in the Polo.
Although there is decent space at the back for two individuals, the Polo can’t be termed as spacious exactly. Moreover, the transmission tunnel protrudes a bit too much in the cabin adding up to the woes of the third passenger squeezed in the middle. The Polo has been designed primarily for the European market where rearseat isn’t that important in a small car. People requiring space always have an option of buying a bigger station wagon unless restricted by a budget, and that’s a rarity. The Polo however is pretty practical courtesy its 60:40 split rear seat and decent boot space.
The standard car comes with beige fabric seats as opposed to our test car that has faux leather seat covers available as an optional extra. Although it seats two persons at the back in reasonable comfort, the transmission tunnel protrudes a bit too much in the centre making it really uncomfortable for the third person squeezed in the centre. Even the seat back angle feels a bit too upright for comfort. But this also accounts for useable space in the Polo’s boot. There is 294 litres of bootspace on offer and couple that to 60:40 split rear seat, the Polo can prove to be a practical choice for urban nuclear families and single, young drivers. On the safety front, there is ABS and two airbags on offer.
Although I’m quite satisfied with the features on offer in the highline variant, I’m still left with wanting few things that make life a bit easier behind the wheel. Talking of the steering wheel, it would’ve been nice if it had controls for the stereo. The rearview mirrors too could’ve done with electric adjustments. The audio system plays only MP3/CDs and although it sounds pretty decent, I strongly advocate at least an AUX port functionality, if not USB connectivity in this age of iPods and iPhones.
Talk about a small car with more than 100-horses under the hood and it's enough to ignite the fantasies of any petrolhead. Hot hatches have always been welcome in our world – powerful and zippy, but small enough to squeeze in traffic and tight parking spots. To top it all, they don't cost a bomb and can be driven to work every day. My first memories of a hot hatch still remains the erstwhile 100PS Palio 1.6 GTX. The Italian pedigree and the Ferrari red paintjob made it even more desirable and I still can't get over the design of its alloy wheels.
The Polo 1.6 now becomes second car to rekindle the same fire inside me. Although I was mighty pleased with the performance of its closest cousin, the Skoda Fabia 1.6, the Polo comes with a lot more drama woven around, making it that bit more enticing.
Although the car was initially available with a choice of 1.2-litre, three-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, you now have an option of this 1.6-litre inline four straight from the VW Vento. The engine produces 105PS of power at 5,250rpm and 153Nm of torque at 3,750rpm. Now, a big engine in a small car sounds like a lot of fun, right? That's not entirely the case here. The Polo 1.6 is quick off the startline but starts losing breath as you upshift and proceed towards the top end.
0-100 kmph sprints feels exhilarating but upshift and keep the throttle pinned, and you're in for some disappointment. The acceleration doesn't feel rapid. The Polo 1.6 is good for a top speed of 160kmph but every time mash the accelerator to clock this it's a much longer wait than you'd expect from a performance hatch. Overtaking on the expressway also demands downshifting to third in order to shoot ahead with authority. The 1.6-litre engine feels very refined though and revs beautifully. Although purists would prefer a stonking top end, this engine is tuned for better bottom and mid-range delivery, given the car will mostly be driven in the city. The gearing too has been tailored for driving in traffic. Taller gearing, especially the fourth and fifth, results in fewer gear changes and better fuel efficiency under normal driving but curb the fun when you want to give this Polo some free reign.
On the other hand, the Polo 1.6 impresses as a daily driver. It feels punchier than your regular hatchback. There is loads of mid range to potter around town, and you don't need to downshift frequently either. And then there is enough grunt to shoot from the traffic lights.
Ride and handling is another Polo forte. It displays its German traits in this area too. The Polo utilizes a MacPherson Struts at the front and torsion beam at the rear set-up. The ride, although on the stiffer side, is pretty sorted and absorbs bumps and broken patches gracefully. It sure feels stiff but stays very composed over undulations and doesn't turn bouncy at speeds. It impresses on the highway with its high speed stability. The Polo feels absolutely planted and doesn't veer from its line even at its limits. Thanks to its wider track, it has a very big car-like feel.
The set up also makes it a lot of fun round corners. It feels planted throughout and isn't unsettled by bumps mid-corner. It sticks to its line although there is a hint of understeer that comes in pretty early and feels annoying at times. The 185-section Apollo Acceleres offer decent grip and are confidence inspiring.
Verdict: The 1.6 is available only as the top-of-the line highline variant and will set you back by Rs 6.25 lakh, ex- Mumbai. At this price point it doesn't sound like a viable proposition for someone just wanting a premium hatchback, the Polo 1.2 petrol would just do fine for you and comes with exactly the same amount of kit. What sets this car apart is the extra power you get on tap and makes absolute sense if you need that extra punch in your daily drive.
It's not an out-and -out performance car, which you'll tend to appreciate as you spend more time with the car. It is quick off the line, competent around corners and very stable on a straightline, yet the ride quality and comfort will keep you delighted after a hard day at work. The Polo 1.6 beautifully balances performance with everyday driveabilty in a hatchback package. Highly recommended if you still hide that devil's tail from college under your formal trousers.