VW's 1.0-litre Polo Bluemotion driven in SA

SEAN PARKER
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 PUNCHING ABOVE ITS WEIGHT: The new Polo Bluemotion uses a 1.0-litre three cylinder turbo mill producing 77kW/210Nm. Its the smallest forced induction engine in the automaker's line-up. Image: Volkswagen ~ Quickpic

PRETORIA, Gauteng - The Volkswagen Polo is one of the most popular cars in South Africa - it’s a relatively affordable, roomy car, packed with features for the masses.

So why then has Volkswagen meddled with the line-up of its ubiquitous hatchback, just a year after it was launched locally?

WHAT’S NEW?

The latest generation made its way to South Africa in June 2014 and just over a year later in August 2015 the range expands with the addition of a new Bluemotion derivative, this time in TSI form (the last generation Bluemotion was a TDI), an uprated diesel and lastly, due to customer demand, a manual ‘box fitted to its performance version, the GTI.

Let’s begin with the Bluemotion variant; it’s powered by a 1.0-litre three-cylinder with 70kW/160Nm that’s mated to a five-speed manual. It uses a single wishbone suspension in the front with a torsion beam at the rear for, VW claims, best-in-class ride comfort.

IS THAT 1.0-LITRE POWERFUL ENOUGH?

I drove the new car in Gauteng. With maximum torque (160Nm) available from a low 1500rpm it felt urgent enough along b-roads and kept up with Gauteng’s smoky traffic.

A slightly notchy gear action was the only niggle I had during the test drive. The standard stop/start system was a boon as we caught the tail of the morning traffic, but what I really enjoyed was the plush ride. It’s difficult to fault the supple damping and sophistication of the cabin when piloting a new generation Polo.

FUEL-SIPPER

The Polo offers impenetrable solidity, a trait its rivals can’t compete with. The Bluemotion model is designated by its ‘coloured in’ grille which reduces the amount of air flowing past the engine, reducing drag. It benefits from smart-looking 15" ‘Buenos Aires’ wheels.

The model use low-rolling resistance tyres and longer gear ratios in the upper transmission stages. Regenerative braking and a gear-change indicator for the driver are standard to help conserve fuel.

GALLERY: 2015 Polo Bluemotion

The Bluemotion is the Polo’s frugal derivative and with the rising cost of electricity and household goods, motorists are ‘buying down’, it made sense for the firm to introduce a TSI unit.

Volkswagen SA admitted that the previous generation Bluemotion was a complete loss because it was pricey to import. This time round, VWSA has an agreement with the European Union to benefit from a reduced rate when importing cars with sub-1.0-litre capacity.

The bean counters certainly played their part in bringing the Bluemotion to SA.   

The auto manufacturer is hoping to sell an average of 150 Bluemotion units a month, 1900 TSI’s and 220 TDI’s.

WHAT’S IT LIKE INSIDE?

The cabin of the Bluemotion shouts premium loudly like the Economic Freedom Fighters in parliament. Standard fare in this model is a leather multi-function steering wheel straight out of the Golf 7.

The seats are comfortable with a "roller" doing the job of adjusting the seat back, everything feels of high quality and it’s a difficult cabin to fault. Good job VW.

Volkswagen offers the Bluemotion as standard with an audio system with touchscreen functionality. It features CD compatibility, MP3 functionaility, Aux and SD-card input for external audio source and has six speakers.

A connectivity package (standard on the Bluemotion) adds Bluetooth connectivity for a cellphone and audio streaming as well as a USB port.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL SPECIFICATIONS OF THE POLO RANGE  

The second model I drove was a Cross Polo which gave me a chance to sample the new 1.4 TDI engines introduced to the range.

The duo are available in two forms: a 55kW/210Nm (Trendline) and 77kW/250Nm (Highline). I drove the Highline and was mortified by its turbo-lag.

The three-cylinder unit really showed its performance at speed as it glided it along effortlessly. The addition of a diesel adds more appeal to the Polo range.

Volkswagen claims a combined fuel consumption of 4.1 litres/100km for both engines and while I don’t see it plausible, buyers might get close to that figure. The 0-100km/h acceleration times for the Trendline is a claimed 12.9 seconds and 9.9 seconds for the Highline.

FINALLY, A MANUAL GTI!

The third and final drive for the day was a session at the Red Star Raceway behind the wheel of a six-speed manual Polo GTI. Volkswagen says that customer pressure for a manual derivative is the reason for it being introduced.  It costs R313 300 in comparison to its auto sibling which has a price tag of R328 800.

Red Star, which is used primarily for bikes, has numerous twists and turns. After a few laps in the GTI, I came to the realised the addition of the manual ‘box was the equivalent of botox. 

The car felt more analog and engaging, its 1.8-litre turbo producing 141/320Nm was incredibly revvy and delivered the power better on the track than the DSG which I drove afterwards. 

The manual derivative crucially has more torque (320Nm over 250Nm) than its auto sibling and it makes a huge difference. The brief track experience reinforced what the GTI is about: a fast, composed mature hatchback with a powerful engine and great technology. 

I preferred the manual around the track, but the argument for the DSG in traffic is as one-sided as Barcelona playing against Stoke City. Bravo to Volkswagen SA for keeping the manual alive.

WHAT ELSE IS COMING?

Volkswagen SA has confirmed it is planning to introduce the Golf GTE, a petrol-hybrid based on the Golf 7 to South Africa in 2016.

The GTE touted as a ‘green’ Golf GTI is driven by two engines (a 1.4-litre TSI petrol and an electric motor, for a total output of 150kW/350Nm). The electric motor enables the GTE to reach speeds of 130km/h, while the TSI is capable of rocketing the hatchback from 0-100km/h in 7.6 seconds to a top speed of 217km/h.

Fuel consumption is rated at a claimed 1.5 litres/100km with emissions of 35g/km and a driving range of around 933km between refuels.

In electric mode, the Golf GTE can travel up to 50km. The 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery can be charged in approximately three and a half hours from a domestic mains outlet or two and a half hours from a domestic wallbox.

Prices

1.0 TSI 70 kW BlueMotion - R235 800
1.4 TDI 55 kW Trendline - R223 500
1.4 TDI 77 kW Highline - R252 000
1.4 TDI 77 kW Cross - R260 000
1.8 TSI 141 kW Manual - R313 300
1.8 TSI 141 kW DSG - R328 800