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Reader test: VW Polo TDI Sportline

2008-09-15 08:28

Hannes Grove

2005 Volkswagen Polo 1.9TDI Sportline

After a lot of research and thinking, I decided to replace my Nissan Sentra 200Gsi with a Volkswagen Polo 1.9 TDI Sportline.

Well of course there were a lot of valid reasons for the upgrade such as fuel economy, airbags, ABS and the likes. The main reason I guess was that itchy feeling which I got to upgrade...

At first my biggest worry was the turbo diesel engine. I heard a lot of stories about cylinder heads cracking and head gaskets blowing - especially on turbo diesel bakkies. However after asking around and reading up I was convinced that the Polo TDI machines were reliable.

I must say that after 103000 km my Polo did not miss a beat and I had no problems whatsoever. I've read about other people having problems specifically with the Sportline's turbos blowing.

After hard driving and when it is cold I let the car idle a bit (about a minute) to ensure that the turbo does not take unnecessary strain. Touch wood...


Being a two door, it can become a bit irritating to access the vehicle - especially if you parked in a tight spot. This was however my only option if I wanted the 96kW motor. Generally I find the car quite attractive from the outside.


One huge surprise was the amount of legroom in front. Being tall and doing a lot of long trips this is important to me. It's actually the first car I drive that I do not have to put the seat at its rearmost position.

As can be expected the rear legroom gets cramped a bit when the seat is moved back completely. Generally the interior is well put together and quite practical. I love all the storage spaces and the six-disc shuttle is also a “nice to have”. Visibility is good and my wife (who is short) can easily adjust the seat upward so that she can see the road as well...

Engine and handling

The engine is a beauty. Having 310nm of torque available in quite a small car makes overtaking a breeze. I even towed caravan a few times and was pleasantly surprised by the Polo's ability. Handling is extremely good and this baby sticks to the road like gum. This obviously compromises ride quality. The ride is stiff. The 205/45/16 tyres are not good friends with potholes either... The 6 speed manual gearbox shifts cleanly and ensures that the powertrain turns at it's most economical when slotted in 6th. Braking is excellent.

Fuel economy

This is where the Polo TDI makes his mark. I constantly get 6.3 l / 100km in a combined cycle. On the open road I use on average 5.3l/ 100km. The best I recorded was an astonishing 4l/100km. Fuel economy hugely depends on your driving style. I must say that I do not drive that aggressively for the bulk of kilo's travelled. I do have my days though... I used 500ppm fuel throughout.

Will I buy it again?

Definitely! My Polo has so far not put any foot wrong and is proving to be very reliable and fuel efficient. They are a bit expensive though...

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