vw p1What is it? A small car that’s a bit aloof and arrogant.

What’s in it? An 81-kilowatt 1.2-litre four-cylinder with a seven-speed DSG gearbox.

Is it thirsty? I used 7.5 litres per 100 km in the city, 5.5 in the country. The official combined figure is 4.8.

Drive away $22,290.

Thumbs up A nicely solid feel, good economy and plenty of badge cred.

Thumbs down It’s kind of expensive, kind of minimalist and very Teutonic.

I suspect the thing that sells Volkswagens is the test drive. Volkswagens feel solid. There is no free play in the beautifully weighted steering, everything is taut and well built. You get the impression that all the screws have got an extra half-turn over anything made in other parts of the world.

I suspect the thing that sells Volkswagens is the test drive. Volkswagens feel solid. There is no free play in the beautifully weighted steering, everything is taut and well built. You get the impression that all the screws have got an extra half-turn over anything made in other parts of the world.

vw p 2I suspect the thing that sells Volkswagens is the test drive. Volkswagens feel solid. There is no free play in the beautifully weighted steering, everything is taut and well built. You get the impression that all the screws have got an extra half-turn over anything made in other parts of the world.

And really there’s not much to get excited about until you drive one. The car displays a severity that is unique to the Germans. The seats are nicely supportive but certainly not soft, the interior is minimalist. There is no nonsense in here and no sops to the ego either.

Most test drives are around city streets where you won’t immediately notice that the ride is sharp. The great bulk of small cars have indifferent to firm ride quality but this one can get to be quite hard work along minor roads, tracks and B-grade country highways. But the handling is first class and certainly among best in class.

There is plenty of equipment in here, it just doesn’t look like it. The test car was the top-spec Polo Comfortline with a seven-speed auto gearbox and the optional comfort package at $1500, taking the total to just under $24k, and yet on climbing in and looking around I figured it was the base model Trendline.

Then I gradually discovered stuff like adaptive cruise control and emergency brake assist and knew I was at least a couple of grand north of bare bones. Prices start at a very competitive $16k for a manual Trendline but climb fast.

So the Polo is a car aimed at the fussy and the discerning, the sort of people who place more importance on brand than price. And as long as it remains aloof it will always be a niche car. At the moment it’s selling in about a half to a third the numbers of the big players like Mazda’s 2 and Honda’s Jazz.

And apart from this emotional thing there isn’t a lot separating the Polo from its cheaper competitors. Rear seat room is still tight, there’s adequate but not brilliant power when the turbo is wound up, noise insulation is about average and so is cargo space. But the economy is good (it could use a bigger tank than its current 45 litres) and I was impressed to find a full-size spare wheel under the cargo floor.

Published May 2015

 

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