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New VW Polo plays ball with high tech

2014-06-20 11:41

NOW THAT'S HOT: Volkswagen has launched its new Polo in South Africa. It comes loaded with standard goodies. Image: VW

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2014 VW Polo

2014-06-20 06:18

Volkswagen South Africa has launched a new version of its most important passenger car in the country. Meet the new VW Polo. And, if its looks and all its packed goodies are anything to go by, this car will continue to keep the Polo as a top seller.

JANINE-LEE GORDON

DULLSTROOM, Mpumalanga – VW SA launched its latest Polo here in the Lowveld this week (June 18-20), claiming a completely new car, inside and out, and describing it as "the company's most important 2014 product".

And you know its serious when head honchos from Germany are present and you're told South Africa is one of the most important Polo markets - third on the global list with 24 994 sales in 2014 from January to May so far (in SA). That's more than Germany and Britain; China is No.1, Russia second.

IMAGE GALLERY: 2014 VW Polo

VW's plant in Uitenhage, near Port Elizabeth, is one of seven plants around the globe that assemble the Polo; 265 125 have been exported from there in right and left-hand drive since 2010.

So, there are new TSI engines with new five or six-speed manual or direct-shift gearboxes and driving assistance and infotainment goodies. "A Polo for everybody," trumpets VW, with the hatch the brand's core product.

“The GTI stirs emotion," VW says, "the Polo Cross for buyers with an active lifestyle and the Blue Motion for the environmentally conscious." The GTI and BlueMotion will arrive in the first quarter of 2015.

NEW LOOKS

Martina Biene, VW’s head of "product line small"  from VW HQ in Wolfsburg, Germany, says more than 14-million Polo's have been sold worldwide since 1975 (SA was only introduced to the third-generation AO3 in 1996), with design still today the main reason for purchase.

And what else has changed? Biene said the chromed strip in the grille was now lower, to make the car look more stable. “The intake is larger, wider and more mature and has taken away the ‘smiling’ face of the previous model. It makes the car look more three-dimensional and sporty.”

At the rear there’s a cleaner horizontal layout and a broader cut-out for the number-plate. The rear reflectors are now embedded in the bumper with new tail lights. The car has kept the dimensions of its predecessor but the alloy wheel-rim design has changed.

Biene said that customers wanted less-thirsty engines without sacrificing performance so smaller turbocharged engines were been developed. “The new units produce less emissions, use less fuel, are lighter and have modular construction... and enhanced performance.”

TSI engines replace the current MPI units though initially only the four-cylinder 1.2 TSI will be available and tuned for either 66kW or 81kW. The two 1.2 TSI engines replace the 1.4 (63kW) and 1.6 (77kW) MPI units.

The turbocharged entry derivative will give 66kW at 4800rpm and 160Nm from 1400-3500rpm and drive through a five-speed manual gearbox while 4.9 litres/100km and 117g/km CO2 emissions are possible. Top speed is given as 184km/h and 0-100km/has 10.8sec.

It will be available in Trendline and Comfortline specs.

The next 1.2 unit (Highline and CrossPolo) makes 81kW from 5000rpm and 175Nm from 1500-4000rpm and comes with a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG transmission at a possible expense of 5.1 litres/100km and 120g/km of CO2 emissions. Top speed 196km/h, 100km/h 9.3sec.

HOW DOES IT DRIVE?

I drove the entry-level 66kW 1.2 model first, thinking I’d get the ‘slower’ car out the way first for the 300km trip to Dullstroom in Mpumalanga from Johannesburg. The 81kW 1.2 six-speed manual and seven-speed DSG versions were also available to test.

However, since some motoring scribes are not the best listeners and most missed the scheduled vehicle swop along the way, I had to stick with the car for the duration. Still, it wasn’t an issue: 66kW is enough. I was pushing the car hard on some sections of the straight, often boring, road to the media launch destination, catching up rather fast to the rest of the gang who missed the swop stop.

The turbo engine and five-speed box are smooth and fuel-efficiency good - we were almost 200km into our journey when I glanced down and only a quarter-tank had been used.

The car really didn't feel small-engined - the turbo delivers plenty urge for overtaking, feels dynamic and lives up to its new ‘sporty’ performance claims.

For 66kW output, I was impressed. Sadly, since the road was not very challenging, it’s difficult to say much about the car’s dynamic handling.

...AND DAY 2...

...I made sure I drove an 81kW unit and was lucky enough to grab the DSG (direct-shift gearbox) version. As expected, gear changes are smooth on that lovely transmission, but it’s a bit too advanced for that little engine. At times it felt as if the poor thing would say "Hey, ease up, I’m just a little 1.2..." but it still packs a punch and the power difference is evident between it and the lower-tuned engine.

The drive back to Jozi was much faster and pleasant, although along the same humdrum road.

WHAT’S INSIDE?

There's different cloth upholstery and the facia has been redesigned. There’s a new three-spoked multifunction steering wheel and a new instrument cluster with 3D "tubes" and chromed accents on the door panels, air vents and around the gear shift console.

The controls are slightly different, although I think the silver inserts around the controls would have looked much better had they been darker - silver makes it look cheap.

The cabin highlight is without doubt the new infotainment system with its 12cm touchscreen. VW says the new Polo is the first product to get the second-generation of the modular infotainment system - VW has dubbed it MIB.

“There are touchscreen versions available," says VW. "The composition touch unit is the entry level with a 12cm monochrome screen and four speakers, SD card and auxiliary interfaces.” It's standard on the Trendline.

The more-sophisticated version is called "composition colour" and offers a 12cm colour display, two more rear speakers, CD player, MP3 functionality, SD-card input and USB and Bluetooth connectivity.

LOTS OF OPTIONS

New technology includes automatic post-collision braking - a system triggered when a primary collision has been detected. Then there’s the driver alert system (standard in Highline) which wakes up a dozing driver with a five-second audible warning and a screen message recommending a break.

Optional goodies include a sunroof (R9000), bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights (only available with CrossPolo at launch), removable towball, auto aircon, light and vision package (auto-dimming interior mirror, rain sensor wipers and auto low/high beam), parking radar (front/rear), rearview camera and cruise control.

LED headlights will be available but only from September 2014 - and you can't swop out because the cable so harnesses differ. So, if you really want those special lights, you’ll have to wait...

All units will be sold with a three-year or 45 000km service plan, three-year or 120 000km warranty and a 12-year anti-rust through warranty. Service intervals 15 000km.

PRICES
1.2 TSI 66kW Trendline - R188 300
1.2 TSI 66kW Comfortline - R209 700
1.2 TSI 81kW Highline - R233 300
1.2 TSI 81kW Highline - DSG R247 800
1.2 TSI 81kW CrossPolo - R241 000

2014 VW Polo full spec sheet
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