It’s not sold here, but globally, the subcompact Volkswagen Polo is one of the most important models for the German brand. Here at the 2009 Geneva auto show, VW is unveiling an entirely new generation. It’s the fifth new Polo since 1975, when the car was first launched as a stripped version of the radically canggih Audi 50, whose sales it completely cannibalized within a few years.
Mature, Handsome Styling
Styled with crisp, bold lines, the new Polo offers a fresh and very welcome interpretation of a subcompact car. Its styling is deliberately not of the cutesy, happy-face school that dominates the segment, an aesthetic that can be acutely embarrassing to some who move down-market from more “grown-up” vehicles. Instead, the Polo resembles the acclaimed, one-size-up sixth-gen Golf. Since the new Polo didn’t use a carryover platform, the design team had even more freedom to express Volkswagen’s new styling direction.
The interior has been upgraded to include a dashboard that resembles that of the Golf VI, housing expensive-looking instrumentation. From the mid-level “Comfortline” trim upwards, the dash is covered in rich materials.
Engines, Engines, Everywhere
Gasoline engine choices include two 1.2-liter three-cylinders rated at 59 and 69 hp, a 1.4-liter four rated at 84 hp, and a turbocharged 1.2-liter TSI four with 104 hp. The latter will propel the Polo up to 118 mph. The ever-popular TDI diesel is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder unit, and it comes in 74-, 89-, and 104-hp variations. An impressive BlueMotion variation of the 89-hp unit comes later and is said to achieve an almost unbelievable 62 mpg in the European cycle—without costly battery packs or any compromise in performance.
The Polo’s standard transmission is a five-speed manual, except with the 1.2 TSI, where a six-speed is the baseline. The mid-level TDI and the four-cylinder gasoline engines can also be mated to a seven-speed, dry-clutch dual-clutch transmission. We expect further powertrain options in the future; the outgoing model was available with up to 178 hp in Polo GTI trim.
Derivatives for Other Markets
Over the coming years, VW will continue its strategy of maximizing platforms with a number of Polo derivatives. We expect a four-door sedan and perhaps a station wagon to be developed for markets such as China, Russia, and Latin America. The sedan in particular could be of interest to U.S. buyers, but VW hasn’t commited the car here.
While some other recently introduced vehicles make it seem as if the economic crisis doesn’t even exist—think expensive stuff like the BMW 5-series GT, the forthcoming baby Rolls-Royce, or Mercedes-Benz’s new SLS supercar—the Polo’s debut seems particularly fitting for a period when most are tightening their belts.