By CJ Hubbard
‘Good lord, the new Volkswagen Polo looks just like a miniature Golf’ – perhaps the most predictable sentiment you’ll come across in ages. But having witnessed the reveal of this all-new, sixth-generation Polo at a fancy standalone event in Berlin, we can tell you it now really does look like a miniature Golf.
It’s as if the Mk7.5 spawned a Mini-Me. Not all of the angles are exactly correct, and what’s not obvious from the pictures is the sharply creased side detailing, which really stands out in the metal – but from the front in particular it’s nearly a dead ringer.
Open the door, however, and on the inside it’s like someone finally gave the interior designers access to the coloured crayons. Gone is the stark, black cabin of every previous Polo generation – in its place a modern, sleek dashboard design with heavily integrated touchscreens a-go-go and 13 different ‘dashpad’ hues to choose from.
It’s way funkier than big brother in here.
New Polo also represents the global debut of VW’s second-generation Active Info Display; that’s the digital dial cluster that (optionally) replaces the conventional instruments. Gen-two offers even more viewing options, as well as pushing the Polo way beyond the supermini norm.
Combine that with staggering interior build quality and, it now makes almost every rival seem like a plastic toy. According to head designer Klaus Bischoff, ‘When you drive it you feel like you’re in a different world’ – and he means in reference to the old Polo, let alone the competition.
Still, with 14 million previous Polos sold over the past 42 years, it’s not as if Volkswagen hasn’t had the practice…
So the new Polo is impressive, then?
It is rather. Much as we’d like to poke fun at VW for building a three-quarter size Golf, it actually seems to have done a bloody good job of it.
Three-quarter size probably isn’t apt, either. For in the process of adopting the MQB AO platform – the smallest version of VW’s modular transverse matrix – new Polo has also gotten significantly bigger, in every dimension bar the height of the roof.
In fact, in every dimension bar length, Mk6 Polo is bigger than Mk4 Golf. Which is kind of mind-blowing.
Most significant of all in this respect is the wheelbase, which grows 94mm over the model it replaces, considerably increasing passenger space and promising improved ride comfort. At the same time, the boot is 25% bigger, expanding from 280 litres to 351 litres.
Good selection of engines?
Nine at launch –
Perhaps unsurprisingly, petrol choice outnumbers diesel six to two, with just 79bhp and 94bhp versions of the trusty 1.6-litre TDI on offer. These now feature SCR and an AdBlue tank as standard; petrol engines with particulate filters are also coming soon.
At launch, though, there are no less than four 1.0-litre petrol options (two non-turbo MPI units with 64 or 74bhp, plus two turbocharged TSIs offering 94 or 113hp), plus the 148bhp 1.5-litre TSI Evo with ACT cylinder deactivation tech from the latest Golf. A 197bhp 2.0-litre TSI powers the new Polo GTI.
You get a five-speed manual gearbox as standard on the low-power engines, a six-speeder on the others – with a seven-speed DSG optional from 94bhp upwards. It probably goes without saying that the Polo is still front-wheel drive.
Hold on – there’s a new Polo GTI? From launch?
Ford didn’t exactly pull any punches with the latest Fiesta, did it – announcing the next-gen ST almost immediately. VW has obviously decided on the same tactic, and has instantly detailed the new Polo GTI (below).
he engine has grown from a 189bhp 1.8 to this 197bhp 2.0-litre, but according to VW’s chairman of the board, Dr Herbert Diess, it has the same 6.7sec 0-62mph time – suggesting new Polo is heavier as well as bigger.
As you’d expect, Polo GTI gains a sporty bodykit – including front and rear bumpers, roof spoiler, side skirts and red detailing – tartan seats on the inside, red brake calipers and twin exhausts. Passive sports suspension and 17-inch alloys are standard, with active Sport Select suspension and 18s optional.
Diess also reckons it’s ‘much more GTI than before’ – so we’re expecting it to challenge the GTI for fun – an improvement that said to be spread throughout the new Polo range. It’s ‘a great leap forward,’ he says.
What about other Polo models?
Seems VW is still wrangling over exactly what to call the trim levels in the UK, but plan on there being a similar range structure to the familiar S, SE and SEL line-up – plus special Beats and R-Line models (below) as well.
Both the latter were also on display in Berlin. Beats gets a 300-watt hifi, some questionable graphics and a very smart interior, while R-Line does a convincing GTI impression inside and out for those who want to talk the talk without walking the walk.
That said, we reckon an R-Line with the TSI Evo engine should prove a proper giggle…
Any exciting technology we should know about?
VW’s going big on safety tech here, making Front Assist with City Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Detection standard on all models – with blindspot monitors, rear traffic alert and adaptive cruise control also available (this last now works up to 130mph and has a stop-and-go function, which is apparently a first for a car with a manual handbrake).
‘We By Volkswagen’ is a new mobile connectivity platform, which launches alongside the Polo, while items such as keyless go and wireless charging are offered for the first time.
Touchscreen infotainment is standard on all but the base model – though the screens come in 6.5-inch and 8.0-inch guises, depending on how flush you are. You’ll also need to go beyond base to get standard-fit air-con.
Personalisation is ‘almost limitless,’ VW says – which of course means it isn’t limitless at all. But there are 14 exterior paint shades, 13 dashpad colour options, 12 wheel choices, 11 different seat covers and two types of interior trim.
The partridge in the pear tree remains an unconfirmed rumour, at this stage.
When does the new Polo go on sale and what will it cost?
Keen? Then you’re going to have to bide your time, as the new Polo isn’t set to go on sale in the UK until October 2017 – and even then first deliveries aren’t expected until January 2018.
Being so far from the order books opening, there’s no official word on UK prices just yet either. In Germany, the entry-level Polo will start at €12,975 – which represents excellent value versus the current model considering additional standard equipment.
The present SA entry price is R220 000 for the 59bhp 1.0-litre petrol; we’re anticipating a rise of around R20 000 spec for spec, which will still be good value given additional standard equipment. However, we have been unofficially warned that the range might not necessarily start where it does now…