UITENHAGE, Eastern Cape – When Volkswagen SA confirmed its decision not to carry over the 1,2 TSI engine from the outgoing Polo range to the new generation, I was a little perplexed. Why? Well, that turbocharged four-cylinder mill is a genuine favourite of mine, which is saying something considering my generally less-than-positive stance on downsized engines.

In the new, sixth-generation Polo range, the only relatively large engine you can opt for it is the 2,0 TSI, which powers the GTI hot hatch that is due to arrive in South Africa later this year. That leaves the rest of the line-up to employ the 1,0 TSI three-cylinder engine, in one of two states of tune: 70 kW and 85 kW.

Of course, we’ve already had a taste of the 70 kW version, having enjoyed an exclusive pre-launch drive (read our full impression – including information on the benefits of moving to the MQB platform as well as design, inside and out – here).

The new 85 kW 1,0 TSI variant, though, essentially succeeds the 81 kW 1,2 TSI engine used in the outgoing generation. With more power and torque being produced from this smaller unit, the Highline-specification model feels a little more sprightly than before, particularly when mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Indeed, this output bump is evident in both urban and long-distance driving situations.

That said, when the revs climb, the otherwise refined 1,0 TSI sometimes feels a little overworked, with some engine noise (and a spot of typical three-pot vibration) making its way into the cabin. You might notice some turbo lag, too, although the quick-thinking DSG again assists here.

At R302 200, the Highline model comes standard with items such as VW’s Composition Media infotainment system, sports seats, cruise control and ambient LED lighting. Whether consumers will be willing to pay R22 500 more for this over the 1,0 TSI 70 kW Comfortline DSG model remains to be seen. Interestingly, the Highline model also comes close to treading on the toes of the Golf 1,0 TSI Comfortline, which comes in at R308 900 (albeit in six-speed manual guise).

Ultimately, the Polo in flagship trim is a comfortable, capable and above-all refined product, but I’d argue that there is better value to be found lower down in the range. And while I’ll certainly miss the old 1,2 TSI (and a small handful of buyers will perhaps be put off by the lack of a four-cylinder option in the standard hatchback), there’s little doubt that the Polo will retain its place near the summit of SA’s list of best-selling passenger vehicles.