South Africa tends to get the latest cars pretty quickly these days, but this wasn’t always the case. Take the Polo, for example. We had to wait 21 years after the original version’s launch before the first Polos arrived in 1996. Of course, the reason for the delay was the good old Golf MK 1, which remained in production as the CitiGolf.
So the Polo is now an amazing 40 years old. Keeping right up to date with trends, we see many manufacturers embrace the engine-downsizing phenomenon: the Polo now has a 1,0-litre turbocharged engine to save precious fuel when compared with the 1,2 TSI. Styling wise, the Bluemotion is identified with badging and new grille- and bumper treatment. A centre armrest is standard together with a leather trimmed steering wheel.
A fuel saving “game” display encourages one to see how frugally you can drive and the 999 cm³ three-cylinder engine performs willingly (with the help of a hardworking turbocharger) to produce 70 kW. This maxes out at a low-revving 5 000 to 5 500 r/min and the torque peak of 160 N.m is available from 1 500 r/min. Maximum turbo pressure is 1,6 bar and acceleration to 100 km/h is claimed as 10,5 seconds.
Variable valve timing is employed for both inlet and exhaust valves and a toothed belt is used to save as much as 30% in frictional losses when compared with a chain. While we hate timing belts, this one is apparently designed for the life of the engine without the need for regular replacement. To heat the engine up quickly on start-up, the exhaust manifold has been incorporated into the cylinder head.
The engine exhibits the gruff sound characteristic of a three-cylinder, but runs reasonably smoothly. The manual gearbox sticks with five ratios, which is a bit odd in these days of six and more ratios. Still, five is usually enough. You do, however, have to make sure that you are not caught in too high a gear as if the revs are below 1 500, you won’t be taking that gap in a hurry due to the turbo having to build up boost pressure first. The solution is to anticipate your acceleration moves and change down beforehand. Steering has a good quality feel and the ride is also decent. In fact, the Polo, much like its Golf brother, is a great all rounder, which explains its popularity.
Lots of options can be ticked off from the spec list, such as an upgraded audio system, climate control, sunroof, leather seating and so on. Fuel consumption is quoted as 4,2 L/100 km on the combined cycle, but we saw around 6,0 L/100 km on our trip to Mpumalanga which is still excellent at our higher speeds when compared to Europe.
Other tweaks that are said to lower consumption include lowering the ride height and smoothing the Bluemotion’s underbody. Reduced rolling resistance tyres have been fitted to the 15-inch alloys plus there’s some taller gearing inside the five-speed gearbox. This TSI version was incidentally more impressive than the 1,4-litre turbodiesel that suffered from some serious turbolag, requiring a full 2 000 r/min before waking up.
The Volkswagen Polo remains one of finest B-segment hatchbacks with impressive ride quality, NVH control, as well as driver and passenger comfort. Even the rear seat legroom is more than satisfactory. A 3-year/120 000 km warranty and a three year/45 000 km service plan comes as standard.
Engine:1,0-litre, 3-cyl, turbopetrol
0-100 km/h:10,5 s
Top Speed:191 km/h
Fuel Consumption:4,9 L/100 km