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VW Polo Classic on test

2003-08-08 09:39

Wilmer Muller

In my opinion Volkswagen SA could have expected some protest from angry VW loyalists at its Uitenhage plant if they didn't build the Polo in sedan form again. South Africa and Brazil are the only countries where the Polo Classics are being built and sold.

Therefore it is safe to claim that the Polo Classic is another true South African car and unique to our motoring culture. When the previous Polo Classic was launched it was an immediate hit for the German car manufacturer.

In fact my second car was a 1996 VW Polo Classic 1.4 which I took over from my mother in 2001 when she bought another car. I still own it and after about seven years it is still in good condition and still offers a lot of motoring pleasure.

But the old Classic's awkward shape, especially at its rear, had to make way for more modern styling and more integrated lines. Yes, the previous Polo sedan wasn't a beauty, but with the new car it is the story of the ugly duckling which became a beautiful swan.

As with its hatchback sibling the sedan is available with three power trains. There are two petrol versions, which features1.4 and 1.6-litre engines, and one 1.4 turbo-diesel model. We tested the Polo Classic 1.6 with Comfortline trim.

Like its predecessor the new Classic will sell in big volumes and will offer its owners reliability and good driving dynamics.

Volkswagen products often appear pricey, but in the small compact segment the Polo in sedan and hatchback derivatives offers good value for money.

Even if you compare the Classic to its only true local competitors, the new Toyota Corolla and Opel Corsa Classic, it is still a good buy, and offers a lot of car for your money.

And like most VW products the Polo's build and interior quality makes it a class act.

The Polo Classic still has conservative styling but it is more refined and classy than before. The previous local Polos were based on the SEAT, but the new cars have true Wolfsburg blood and follow VW's current design trend.

Although the sedan shares a lot of design cues with the hatchback the Brazilian designed Classic has integrated styling and is a model in its own right.

This is not just another "booted" hatch - it is hard to see where the hatchback ends and the sedan begins.

The characteristic nose with its four round headlights is elegant and the car's proportions are more balanced than the car it replaces. Overall the Polo Classic looks like a mini Jetta -which must surely be a good thing.

But the Classic's biggest plus is its enormous boot with 432 litres of space. This can be further increased when you fold the rear seats down.


The car's interior design follows the typical VW styling trend with a dark but functional design. Overall ergonomics are good and most controls are within easy reach of the driver.

VW's solid build quality has actually become the industry benchmark. If you take a look at the materials used for the cabin it is highly rated on the touch-and-feel index.

In the latter instance we can't argue with the tangible pleasure to be had, whether it's when a hand is run over the dashboard or the actual precision with which a stalk operates.

The seats are of a high quality grey upholstery which is brightened up by colourful inserts. The driver's seat can be tailored to offer a comfortable position.

And to make it possible for the driver to find a good driving position the grippy four-spoke steering wheel can be adjusted vertically and horizontally.

The new Classic also offers more space for rear passengers with better leg and headroom. Volkswagen claims that interior space is almost on par with the Jetta.

The Polo 1.6 comes standard with a range of standard features such as central locking, electric windows and side mirrors, onboard computer, power steering, dual airbags, front and rear head restraints and tinted windows.

Our test model was in Comfortline trim, which adds air-conditioning and an excellent radio/tape audio system to the list. The car was also fitted with an optional six-disc CD changer.

VW also offers satellite navigation as an optional extra on the Polo, which is a first for a car in this segment.

The Comfortline model also has 14 inch alloy wheels as standard but our test car had the very attractive optional 15- inch alloy wheels.

On the road

The Polo's 1.6-litre engine pushes out 74 kW at 5 500 r/min with 140 Nm of torque at 3 250 r/min. It shoots from 0-100 km/h in 10.9 seconds and has a top speed of 184 km/h. Overall fuel consumption is 7 litres/100 km.

The booted Polo isn't much heavier than the hatch and aerodynamics seems better which means the car is a better performer.

On the road the car has lively acceleration and is a joy to drive in city traffic. Overall handling feels more balanced than the five-door Polo.

The ride quality is soft and plush, and the car only shows its average body control when it is really hurried along. On uneven surfaces the rides gets a bit too bumpy but one must remember this is actually a compact car build for everyday city driving.

Stopping performance from the all-disc setup is very good and is complimented by ABS, which is a standard feature on all models.

The electro-pneumatic power steering is crisp and it adjusts itself not just for speed but also takes things such as steering angles into account. It ensures that a correct amount of road "feel" is transmitted to the driver.

This makes it easy to place the car during hard cornering and also ensures there is no unwanted kickback on rougher roads.

In conclusion we must say that the new Polo Classic is again the class leader - it offers excellent quality and a good ride.

Furthermore it is loaded with safety and comfort features. It has a slightly upmarket positioning and a persona that is sensible but not dull. The Polo sedan is a modern city car which is also big enough for a small family.

The new Polo Classic will, like its predecessor, become another classic for VWSA and it will make a lot of waves in its segment. This fun car is again setting new standards.


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