In the current automotive world, downsizing is becoming increasingly popular. With little to no gap between petrol and diesel prices, many carmakers are introducing small, downsized turbo petrol engines that are fast becoming the order of the day! For 2020, the Volkswagen Polo gets one such engine - the immensely popular 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine. Incidentally, it won the international engine of the year in 2018. It promises to be fun and frugal in equal measure and yet allow VW to stay competitive.
Also Read: Skoda Rapid 1.0 TSI Review
Remember the Polo has been through its facelift, and several updates, so the biggest change now is really just the engine. It is a three-cylinder unit and displaces 999 cc. The engine pumps out 108.6 horses between 5,000 and 5,500 rpm and the peak torque is rated at 175 Nm, which starts coming at a low 1,750 rpm and is on offer till the revs reach 4,000 rpm. Our test car has a 6-speed manual gearbox that is also new; more on that in a bit.
The Polo also comes with 6-Speed torque converter automatic variant. Unfortunately, the famed DSG (dual-clutch) gearbox is no longer an option. Pity, since we think it would have made for a rather delicious combo with this engine! The automatic is yet to hit dealerships, so we hope to test it soon enough. Volkswagen claims that the manual will run 18.24 kilometres on a litre of petrol. Although, there is no one we know who really bought the VW Polo for its efficiency!
Performance and Dynamics
Like we said, the 1.0-litre TSI is an award-winning engine, so we had to drive the car, check the engine out before talking about anything else! Things that we didn't like first, then! There is a teensy lack of refinement. Since this is a 3-pot, it misses that buttery smooth feel of a 4-cylinder unit. And then, there are the barest hints of turbo lag at lower revs. It isn't overwhelming though, which is a relief. Therefore driving in traffic can be a killjoy, but as you go past 2,500 rpm, the engine breaks into a song! A delicious swig of turbo-torque propels the car to triple digit speeds in no time and stays long after you have reached much higher speeds. The mid-range is where this car shines and makes you smile too!
The 6-speed manual gearbox isn't going to give you the DSG kind of experience anyway. But while there's no lack of power, the in-gear power delivery itself feels a little flat. Plus, the vibrations from the engine come through the accelerator pedal at times. If you want to be kind, you can dismiss it as one of the car's inherent characteristics. On the brighter side, the Polo continues to be a driving delight around corners. The steering has minimal slack and weighs up beautifully as you go faster. Wish it had a little more life in terms of feedback though.
Go through a corner at not so decent speeds and the Polo holds its line, making corner carving a blast. We also like the fact that the Polo offers a pliant ride even with a taut suspension. Bumps and potholes are squared away nonchalantly and the car keeps its composure through corners. The brakes have a good bite and Goodyear tyres offer good grip when tackling those high-speed corners. Plus, the ultra-stiff chassis (compared to other hatchbacks in the segment) means flex is at a minimum and for an enthusiast - that is a big confidence booster. On high speed highway runs, the way Polo sticks to the tarmac is something else!
The new 1.0 TSI engine is not exclusive to the Polo though! It has been roped in for duty on the Skoda Rapid and the Volkswagen Vento as well, with the exact same state of tune, offering same power and torque figures. In fact, this particular engine will be used on new and upcoming models from the Volkswagen Group in India.
The Polo got a design update last year and it stays the same as before. Clean simple lines, new GTI-type graphics, and a small, integrated roof spoiler. The rear and the front bumper that look similar to the Polo GTI add a sense of sportiness to the car. The Polo always had a design that aged well and it shows on this model. The Polo stays a handsome car but maybe Volkswagen should have at least added daytime running lights - since most cars have them as an option in this segment now. And it would make the Polo seem more modern than it currently does. Meanwhile, we will continue to dream that VW India is thinking about getting in the new-gen Polo which debuted a few years ago internationally. Long shot, we know!
Cabin and Features
The cabin of the Polo is more or less similar too! Basic, not too cluttered and really well built. That old no-nonsense all-black colour scheme is also all too familiar, but dated. The leather wrapped steering wheel feels lovely to hold though! In terms of features, the car gets a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and is easy to use, with decent responsiveness. We would be remiss if we did not mention that the telescopic adjust on the steering wheel is adjustable for reach and rake, a feature not many cars have in this segment. Overall, the quality of materials used inside the cabin remains one of the best in the segment. Rear kneeroom though remains one of the worst!
The starting price of ₹ 7.89 lakh for the Polo 1.0 TSI may seem steep compared with its chief rivals, the Hyundai i20, Maruti Suzuki Baleno and the new Honda Jazz. Especially when you see what the other cars in the segment have to offer in terms of features, comfort and practicality.The prices for the Hyundai i20 start at ₹ 6.5 lakh and go up to ₹ 7.67 lakh for the top spec model.Hyundai will be launching the new-gen i20 in India during the festive season too. Honda is yet to launch the Jazz BS6 and the prices for the Maruti Suzuki Baleno start at ₹ 5.3 lakh and go up to ₹ 10.03 lakh. Then you have the Grand i10 Nios, which too gets a 1.0-litre turbo engine and is priced at ₹ 7.70 lakh.
The Volkswagen Polo is one of those cars where you make the buying decision with your heart and not your head. Yes! It is cramped at the rear, space is at a premium, it gets a lot less features than its rivals! But as far as driving pleasure is concerned, the Polo doesn't let you down, especially with the 1.0-litre TSI engine coming in.