Volkswagen unveils the all-new Polo in Berlin

Volkswagen Polo is the type of car that’s not easy to replace. It debuted way back in 2009, yet the Polo ended 2016 as the world’s best-selling sub-compact car. Volkswagen’s super-mini was so competent at launch that it was crowned the 2010 World Car of the Year. Eight years later, the Polo still wins comparison tests with much-newer rivals and considered amongst the best in the segment. How many cars you know can claim doing these at the fag end of their life cycles? 

Having said that, the Polo can’t go on forever in its current form. Volkswagen knows this well and the result is the all-new Polo that was unveiled in Berlin today.

As with every new car launch, there are good things and bad things to report about the new Polo. Let’s alternate between them to see how the car stacks up. 

The Good:

The biggest disadvantage of the current Polo is the rear seat space, or the lack of it to be precise. That should be history now as the new Polo is longer, wider and boasts increased wheelbase vis-à-vis the current model. With spec sheets that read 4,053 mm long, 1,751 mm wide and 1,446 mm tall, the Polo is now all grown up. Crucially, the wheelbase has gone up to 2,564 mm from the current model’s 2,470 mm, so expect better knee room, shoulder room and boot space in the new car. Potential buyers will no longer have to strike the Polo off the list if space is a key consideration. 

The Bad:

If you thought your eyes deceived you for a moment when you looked at the new Polo, worry not. It might be an all-new car built on a brand-new platform but the sixth-generation Polo is, at best, a mild evolution of its predecessor. We aren’t complaining, the current Polo is still one of the better-looking hatchbacks out there. But, casual onlookers would be having a tough time telling the new model from the existing Polo. It’s clean, it’s timeless, the detailing in the headlights and taillights look terrific and the mini-Golf looks create quite an impression but we all expected more, didn’t we?

The Good:

Built on Volkswagen’s latest MQB-based modular platform that’s shared with the newly-launched Seat Ibiza and the upcoming next-generation Skoda Fabia, the new Polo benefits with a lighter kerb weight than the outgoing model. Apart from the obvious gains in fuel efficiency, the new Polo is claimed to be stiffer and safer than ever before, designed to meet the stringent European crash test norms. 

The Bad:

While the new platform is undoubtedly beneficial in some aspects, folks who have driven the previous-generation Volkswagens will vouch for their tough build and indestructible feel. Those traits are still there in the new-generation model, albeit not to the same level. Just drive the Skoda Laura and the current Octavia back-to-back and you’ll know what we mean. Sadly, the new Polo would be no exception to this. 

The Good:

A key strength of the existing Polo is its interior quality, fit and finish. The new Polo, in addition to gaining an all-new cabin with richer materials and nicer features, is likely to carry forward the traits that have made the current Polo’s cabin a much-revered place to be in. 

Certainly, the new Polo has gone premium in terms of kit offered. Amongst the features on board are full LED headlights, panoramic sunroof, wireless charging for smartphones and the fully-digital Active Info Display. Safety is top notch too with advanced tech like Adaptive Cruise Control, Front Assist area monitoring system including City Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Monitoring, Blind Spot Detection with Rear Traffic Alert and semi-automated Park Assist system with a ‘maneuvering function’ doing all they can to protect the occupants in the event of a crash.

The Bad:

The ‘dieselgate’ scandal might not have significantly affected Volkswagen’s sales numbers but the resulting cost-cutting initiatives put in place to cut the losses short means the new Polo loses a few variants, engines and transmissions vis-à-vis the current model. For instance, the Polo 3-door is no more and the power-train lineup is consolidated.

Having said that, the engine and transmission lineup is no slouch.

Base variants get a 1.0-liter MPI engine in two states of tune (64 HP & 74 HP) while the mid variants get a 1.0-liter TSI engine in two states of tune (94 HP & 113 HP). At the top of the petrol range is a 1.5-liter TSI mill generating 148 HP. Diesel options are confined to a sole 1.6-liter TDI engine in two states of tune (79 HP & 94 HP). In select markets, a Natural Gas-propelled 1.0-liter TGI variant would also be on offer. Depending on the engine chosen, a 5-speed manual, 6-speed manual or a 7-speed automatic transmission is paired with it.

The Good:

Since its debut in 1975, the Polo has been a strong-seller for Volkswagen with over 14 million units sold till date. The new model is likely to take off from where its predecessor left - right at the top of the segment. In 2015, 2016 and so far in 2017, the Polo has been the best-selling sub-compact car globally. Expect this to continue in 2018 and beyond. 

The Bad:

Despite being a popular Volkswagen in India, the new Polo’s launch here is uncertain. The Polo has always been an expensive proposition in its segment and the new model is said to be increasingly so. In a cost-conscious market like ours, that’s going to be a tough sell. Moreover, the new Polo has breached the all-important 4-meter mark, losing the excise benefits.

Will the current Polo soldier on with more facelifts and feature additions? Will Volkswagen Group’s association with Tata to use the latter’s AMP platform spin off a replacement for the current Polo? We do not know yet. All we know is the new global Polo isn’t headed here, which is a shame.

And, finally, the Best:

The good old GTI goes on sale alongside the regular variants with hot looks and a stonking 2.0-liter TSI generating 197 HP under the hood.  Obviously, we won’t be getting behind the wheel anytime soon but who stops us from drooling at it over and over?

The new Polo will make its public debut at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show before going on sale in select markets later this year. Stay tuned for more!

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