The new Polo Classic is anything but a hatchback with a boot grafted to its rear – it offers extra space, better build quality and more standard features than its predecessor.The new Polo Classic is anything but a hatchback with a boot grafted to its rear – it offers extra space, better build quality and more standard features than its predecessor.

Volkswagen SA aims to achieve 45 per cent local content with the new model, which will be assembled at the firm's Uitenhage plant and will market the vehicle at people between the age of 25 to 49 who earn more than R10 000 a month.

"The market segment into which the new-generation Polo Classic is being launched is one of the most competitive in South Africa," Volkswagen SA sales and marketing director Jolyon Nash said on Tuesday. "We believe the new range offers a model lineup and specification levels that meet our requirements for a benchmark standard in this segment".

These are lofty ideals - but does the car differentiate itself clearly from its sibling, which was launched seven months ago? Volkswagen SA says the Polo Classic is a completely new design from the B pillar to the rear bumper and features a high waistline and raised boot area. The rear suspension has also been redeveloped.

In the flesh, the Polo Classic appears better dimensioned and balanced than its predecessor - but the rear-end styling, especially the light binnacles, could be described as fairly conservative and almost old-fashioned.

At 4 179 mm in length and 1 650 mm in height, the Polo Classic is 70 mm longer and 230 mm higher than the model it replaces. The rear doors are clearly bigger that those of the preceding model and there is more legroom and headroom for the rear passengers.

The Polo Classic has a boot capacity of 432 litres. The hinge mechanisms are mounted in such a way that boot space is maximized and there is no risk of bars or springs crushing baggage. In addition, the bootlid and bonnet operate on gas struts.

The new range consists of four models - the Polo Classic 1,4, Polo Classic 1,6, Polo Classic 1,6 Comfortline and Polo Classic 1,4 TDI. The engines used are carried over from the Polo hatch range.

Standard equipment includes dual airbags (passenger and driver), pre-tensioner safety belts, ABS with EBD, power steering, 60:40 split rear seats, cupholders, anti-submarining seats with head restraints in the front and rear, a high-level brake light, headlight adjustment, locking fuel cap, dust and pollen filters, rev counter, a full-size spare wheel and tinted window glass and stainless steel exhausts. Satellite navigation is optional.

As for the interior, the front seats have bolsters for lateral support, steering-wheel column offers adjustment for rake and reach and several lined storage bins. The black side mouldings and black inserts on the body-colour bumpers are standard on the entry-level 1,4 and the 1,6 Comfortline adds air-conditioning, electric window lifts, height-adjustable front seats and a radio/tape to the list.

On the open road, the Polo Classic demonstrates neutral handling. The suspension offers a compliant ride - but seems to have very long travel, causing the car to buck over speed bumps. The quad-valve, twin-cam 1,4-litre petrol powerplant was particulalry responsive and flexible - maybe even more so than its 1,6i sibling.

In general the fit and finish of the car is good and the body appears to be very rigid. All important body seams are now laser welded for better aesthetic appeal, which means that roof gutters and roof trim strips to camouflage these welding seams are superfluous.

Up to 68 per cent of the body shell is built out of high tensile steel that enhances body stiffness and strength in critical areas of the vehicle such as roof pillars, side members and transverse areas of the safety cell.

All new VW Polo Classics are sold with three-year/120 000km and a 12-year corrosion warranties. Service intervals are at every 15 000km for petrol engines and every 7 500 km for the 1,4 TDI.