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Reader test: VW Polo

2010-01-27 07:06

Andrew Salomon, Cape Town

Don't laugh – my dream car is a Volkswagen Polo. A silver, 2004 model 1.6 Comfortline hatchback, to be precise.

It's not that I cannot appreciate a supercar. A few months ago I went for a test drive of the new Porsche Panamera with a friend whose income is in a different stratosphere and yes, it was amazing: effortless acceleration, bolstered leather seats, the famous emblem in the centre of the perfectly-weighted steering wheel… But did this experience make me appreciate my Polo any less?

At first I feared it might, but as I was paging through the Porsche's exhaustive list of extras I realised that the optional ceramic brakes cost as much as I paid for my entire car.

Not your average dream car

I am the second owner, having bought the car in 2006 with 55 000 km on the clock. It is now just shy of 100 000 km and although I am aware that there have been numerous complaints about this car (and the manufacturer's service, or lack thereof), mine has never broken down and the only significant part I have had to replace was the headlight switch unit (at an admittedly painful R1 800).

I had the car serviced at the dealer until it was out of warranty and since then I take it to an independent German mechanic who will not let a car leave his workshop until he is sure that all is right with it.

Before buying the Polo, I had been driving cars with none of the modern conveniences that are now almost taken for granted, so it was a real pleasure for me to be driving something with power steering, central locking and electric windows. On a boiling hot summer’s day, the cool relief available from the air conditioning is still something near-magical.  

For months after buying my VW, I was still discovering previously unknown handy features: for example the small third sun visor behind the front light cluster – something that has proved itself very useful indeed on many a late afternoon when the setting sun shines through the windscreen at an angle. There are also hidden drawers underneath the front seats to conceal valuables from prying eyes. 

Worthy companion

I like the way the Polo looks, from the four round headlights in front to the wedge-shape of the rear, the car comes across a solid and purposeful.

The acceleration is not blistering but it certainly is willing and the short gearlever allows for brisk swapping of cogs. But what appeals to me most is that it gives me enjoyable motoring no matter what I ask of it – whether it be a thousand-kilometre trip to the Orange River jammed full with three people and a lot of camping kit, my daily commute to work in the city centre, or transporting my two sizeable dogs to the beach on a Saturday (with a blanket thrown over the back seat).

For me, this is the best car that I could afford. Thanks, but I'll skip on those ceramic brakes.

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