Road tests 28.2.2018 01:00 pm

DRIVEN: We drive Volkswagen’s new Polo

DRIVEN: We drive Volkswagen’s new Polo

The one litre turbocharged engine produces the sort of power 1600s used to make.

Beware the confidence.

That is the pay-off line in Volkswagen’s advertisements for their new Polo.

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In the television ads, a lowly employee is mistaken for a company director, on account of the extra confidence his new Polo gives him – with disastrous results. In my case, the confidence nearly caused me to kill a friend.

I shall explain. Shaun, our video expert, commandeered me to drive the Polo around some quiet roads, complete with on-board cameras, a drone and roof cameras.

We found a nice wide corner and he instructed me to hustle the car around it.

He forgot to tell me he was going to kneel in the middle of the road with his camera.

Arriving at around 110 km/h, I saw him, changed my cornering line and just missed him – all in the same half of a second. When confronted by this spluttering, hyperventilating old man about 30 seconds later, he said: “I knew you would not hit me – you are a good driver.”

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The last time anybody suffered such horrendously mistaken faith, they believed ANC election promises. Beware the confidence.

But, having sampled the new sixth-generation Polo, we think Volkswagen should have every confidence in their latest offering.

It has big shoes to fill – with more than 14 million units sold worldwide to date, the Polo is one of the most successful vehicles in its class.

The new model should continue that story. Completely redesigned, the 2018 Polo is longer, wider and lower than its predecessor, while the wheels are now positioned further to the front and rear.

This gives it a sleek, sporty look, and sitting on 16-inch alloy wheels, we think it is the most handsome Polo yet. The newcomer exhibits Volkswagen’s mastery in the art of producing highly efficient small engines.

The Polo comes powered by a three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine of one litre, which produces 85 kW at 5 000 rpm and 200 Nm of torque from 2 000 rpm. This is hooked up to a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission.

Inside, the newcomer naturally boasts a vast plethora of electronic wizardry to inform and entertain the born-frees. A new horizontal dashboard design focuses on the driver, with the dashboard and the centre console slightly angled towards the driver’s seat.

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Volkswagen say “all key modules are located on one visual axis, creating a coherent digital cockpit landscape.”

In plain English, that means all the gauges and the eight-inch touch screen are easy to see.

It would seat four adults in comfort, while it boasts a surprising amount of luggage space. The car boasts a number of driver assistance systems, to make it the safest Polo yet. They include a Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert, Park Assist, a Tyre Pressure Loss Indicator and a Driver Alert System.

If, despite all that assistance, you still manage to hit something, the car’s Automatic Post-Collision Braking System will ensure that you only hit that one thing.

The Polo’s driver can choose from four programmes: Eco, Sport, Normal and Individual. Being old, I chose Eco, which means engine control, the air conditioning and other auxiliary systems are regulated in a manner that ensures optimal fuel efficiency.

In Sport mode, on the other hand, damping of the adjustable dampers is increased, while engine response and shift points of the DSG are configured to be more dynamic. The Polo was a pleasure to drive.

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It was surprisingly nippy – VW say it will accelerate from standstill to 100 km/h in 10.8 seconds with a top speed of 187 km/h, and we believe them. It again points to the amazing efficiency of small turbocharged engines – this car does what 1600cc vehicles used to do.

What makes the powerplant a real jewel is the torque, which comes in at just over 2 000 rpm, meaning one can get serious performance from the car without actually revving it near its maximum.

The handling was neutral with the steering direct and sharp, and even spirited cornering evoked very few signs of understeer. In general, the car meets most of the criteria posed by the currently emerging generation of vehicle buyers.

Best news of all – the 2018 Engen Polo Cup racing series will shortly get under way at Kyalami. Volkswagen plan to offer a road-going version of the race cars, with two-litre turbocharged engines, plus serious suspension, chassis rigidity and brakes, for sale. So, maybe you want to wait before buying your new Polo.

In the form we tested it, the Polo will set you back R 302 200. It comes with a three-year/45 000km service plan, a threeyear/120 000km warranty and a 12 year anti-corrosion warranty.

Service Interval is 15 000km.

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