FOUR months ago, I attended the launch of a vehicle that on paper at least seemed to be a backward step as it employed an engine displacing a mere 999cc. This was the smallest engine offered in a range of light cars that has dominated the South African motoring scene for year after year.
Could it perform, especially in tandem with a DSG (dual clutch) automated manual gearbox? The answer was an emphatic YES as the VW Polo 1.0TSI simply blew everyone away with its astonishingly composed performance.
And now, after a week’s re-familiarisation on home turf, all those positive initial impressions have been confirmed to such good effect that at the half way stage of 2017, this Polo ranks at or very near the top of my personal satisfaction index.
To refresh your memories, this Polo is imported into South Africa and incorporates BlueMotion technology with stop/start and battery regeneration systems. Its tiny engine produces a hearty 81kW at just 5 000rpm but most importantly, torque peaks at 200Nm which is held all the way from 2 000 to 3 500 rpm.
It’s this slug of torque that helps get the Polo to 100 km/h in a very competitive 9.3s while the 81kW power peak assists in making a top speed of 197 km/h readily attainable. It’s not the outright figures that matter so much though. Rather it’s the effortless, utterly relaxed manner in which the engine propels the Polo in everyday driving conditions. For the most part, there’s simply no need to wring this motor’s neck as it’s so darned willing in the mid-range.
Maintaining the motorway speed limit is a doddle and the engine remains largely inaudible. Keeping up with the traffic light pack just isn’t an issue and if you want to enjoy an extra burst of speed, turbo lag is barely present and the engine emits little more than a pleasant thrum even when given the boot.
And because the motor doesn’t need to whipped into action, its thirst levels are very, very acceptable. Forget the claimed combined figure of 4.4l/100km as this would only be attainable with unrealistic levels of restraint. Instead, the 5.8l/100km I recorded on a 30 minute motorway run with just under 130km/h indicated is much more representative and most satisfactory to boot.
If the sweet, smooth-spinning motor is a revelation, the latest 7-speed DSG gearbox is simply amazing. It changes gear with astonishing speed and uncanny smoothness such that for the most part, the rev counter needle is the only indication that gears have been swopped.
To the mechanical integrity, add in class-leading fit and finish – the dashboard in particular looks like it belongs two classes above – a reassuring feeling of solidity, good comfort levels notwithstanding slightly tight rear quarters, a comfortable, controlled ride, good active and passive safety features, decent luggage capacity and easy if rather too light steering and you’ve accumulated most of the reasons why the Polo is the undisputed champion of its class.
In R-Line spec, the Polo’s neat if conservative appearance takes on a new slickness that makes it hard to ignore for anyone in the market for a truly classy light hatchback. Indeed, the 1.0TSI’s only real problem is a rather major one – in relation to the engine displacement, the price is high but it’s important to remember that in this application, being smaller is no disadvantage at all!
(All comment relates to SA-market models. Please consult CFAO Volkswagen for details of local model availability)