VW’s shot at hatchback category of Indian automobile market with its Polo in 2010met with mixed bag of opinions. On one hand there were folks who swear by vault like build-quality and exceptionally good dynamics of the Polo while other group vehemently bad mouthed about its puny diesel motor along with lack of rear space. Now instead of being touchy about the latter’s comments, VW seems to have taken the criticism in right spirit. This German auto-maker giant emphasized that in new 2014 Polo both of these Achilles heels of older model have been sorted out.
On power front, VW has equipped Polo with a brand new 1.5-litre TDI diesel engine that has replaced the puny 1.2-litre 3-cylinder puny motor while rear space niggle has been improved with additional 13 mm longer wheelbase and scooped back of front seats that new Polo now comes with. So now after these crucial alterations, has Polo finally been ready to take on its challengers? Will its familiarity status among masses catapult into a force to reckon with? We find out in this road test review of 2014 Polo TDI.
Although new facelift Polo comes with a few cosmetic changes both in outside and outside, the biggest alteration has been carried under the relatively heavier bonnet of this German kart. And that’s why we start right from the new 1.5-litre TDI heart that Polo owes to its elder sibling Vento. In Vento this TDI motor displaces 1.6-litre though in Polo VW has reduced the cubic capacity by over 100 cc in order to avail the excise duty redemption. Bore of the Vento motor has been squeezed in order to accomplish this capacity reduction task and in this process performance figures have also taken a hit. Still by hatchback standard, the power of 90 PS and torque of 230 Nm is incredibly good. In fact compared to 75 PS and 180 Nm of older Polo, new Polo feels massively improved version, at least on spec sheet.
Impressed by figures on paper, we settled behind the wheel of car. With slight turn of key, engine rumbled to life and there was nothing like the older model. Thanks to 4-cylinder in-line geometry of new oil-burner, all the vibrations and hymns associated with wheezy older 3-cylinder unit had gone. Refinement too has taken a leap forward though inside the cabin there is no prize for guessing the diesel motor under the hood.
We started off the block with care and Polo strides forward with quite a sense of urgency. Now there was always an anticipation that new Polo would be quick than the outgoing model though the kind of linear power delivery, on par with the best, that this German vehicle delivered really came across a pleasant surprise to us. VW’s engineers have really worked hard on drivability aspect as new Polo not only comes as a quicker version but also a car that won’t require urban commuters to virtually have their left hand on gear lever all the time. City driving has become far easy in Polo than on any other vehicle from VW stable including Vento from which this engine has been sourced.
In the same vein, on highway where usually the pedal to metal operation begins, new Polo is sure to plaster a big smile on your face. It has got a bigger heart and now one can fully exploit the Polo’s dynamic and chassis competencies fully with this powerful oil burner. The motor revs quite smoothly and though towards the top-end it loses some of its composure, still it is not something that we find a big deal.
Another delightful feature of VW that new Polo has retained in crispy and slick shifting 5-speed manual transmission that is undoubtedly benchmark in segment. Clutch is been progressive though not on a lighter side. Brakes are well calibrated and there are no signs of pedal wobbling either. Another comfort-oriented addition is the dead pedal that is sure to rest your left foot during highway cruising.
In addition to engine, new Polo comes with some outside and inside changes though these require some special attention, especially the ones on outside. Up front new Polo comes with new bezel headlamps with separate optics for low and high beam. A discreet chrome layer at the bottom of grill is too subtle to get noticed though the one at the bottom connecting the fog lamps is sure to have some perceptible presence.
In the profile the things have remain unchanged and so is the case with rear, save for the new bumper that comes with rear sensors for aiding those tight city manoeuvres. Inside the cabin the changes are more perceptible as new silver-finished centre console on top-end variant is instantly recognizable. However we would like to see some more zing here as the basic lay-out and design of the whole arrangement still looks Spartan.
New steering wheel however is full on excitement as it feels sporty right from the word go. Top-end highline variant gets the mounted controls and in synch with the overall quality, these controls boast of loads of tactile feel. On quality and fit-finish front, Polo retains the superb legacy of its predecessor with its impeccable stitching and putting- together-things job.
Now coming to another crucial aspect of room and space, especially at the back, where old Polo failed miserably. As a corrective measure new Polo comes with 13 mm longer wheelbase and front seats with scooped out backside. All this has helped a bit but not to extent to put the Polo in leagues of Etios and Vista. Even after these measures, Polo feels a bit cramped at the back and can seat only 4 adults in comfort. Legroom and knee room is still average and there is nothing to write home about the headroom too. Overall space thorn continuous in the flesh of this new VW as the VW’s efforts to address this concern were not met with desired result.
Like its predecessor, new Polo is one of the most dynamically accomplished currently cars on sale in India. Now additional weight of the engine and mechanicals has borne by suspension set up that now comes with a bit stiffened anatomy. Overall the tuning of springs is on a stiffer side though this doesn’t sour the ride experience.
Slow speed ride is quite a jarring experience though once the Polo gather momentum, things sort out in a better way. At speed, Polo has no hesitation in going over rough patches and undulations though at low speeds this is a bit of concern. Further the heavy nose of Polo tends to pitch on hard braking manoeuvres but never go out of the limit.
Handling however is total fun inside this Teutonic machine. Polo hugs corners, grabs the round-twisty roads and all this without any unnecessary drama. Body control is on par with best with dynamic taut chassis only adding to this total amount of fun. So if you are driving enthusiastic who loves to test the enthusiasm of machine, Polo will never disappoint you. This is for sure.
VW’s Polo continues to tread the premium pricing policy especially in its diesel avatar with top variant Highline trim bordering on tag of Rs 8 lakh. A more aggressive approach to localization is sure to help the future VWs’ though as of now Polo has to content with average marks on value for money aspect. That said, this new facelift version of Polo now comes around a more complete and sophisticated package than before. If we keep aside the average rear seat space and a bit Spartan centre console, new Polo has each and every bit of success ingredient. Not only Polo is one of the best looking, sophisticated and exceptionally well-built cars, this German also boasts of incredibly dynamic road manners that are capable of giving even sports car a tough challenge. Icing on cake comes in form of impeccable fit and finish that is sure to woo the chunk of customers desperately looking beyond the boxy Marutis’ and Hyundais’. Now challenge foe VW is to effectively communicate effectively about the arrival of this new Polo through the right media-mix. If VW will able to accomplish this task with precisely, Polo is sure to surprise even rivals with its sales potential.
Style & Substance 4/5 Ride & Handling 4/5
Interiors & Ergonomics: 3.5/5 Safety & Equipment 3.5/5
Power-Plant & Transmission 4/5 Fuel Efficiency 3.5/5
Value for Money 3/5