We make no apologies for being concerned about both the potential health hazards of diesel cars and their propensity for running up big bills in later life as the expensive systems needed to reduce their emissions start to fail. After all, the latest crop of petrol cars can give most diesels a run for their money in terms of fuel consumption, so why pay a grand or so more for a diesel when you can get almost the same running costs from a petrol motor with, hopefully, better reliability?
Of course, manufacturers claims of minimalistic fuel consumption, whether petrol or diesel, always need to be taken with a big pinch of salt, so in promoting the cause of petrol or diesel power we always try to report real-world fuel economy figures, rather than manufacturers hyped-up numbers.
That’s why we recently tested a petrol-powered Volkswagen Polo, in 1.2 litre 4-cylinder BlueMotion form, courtesy of local VW dealer Martins of Farnham.
….careful buying can grab you a decent discount
The Polo arrived in mid-range SE Design trim level, giving a reasonable specification including aircon and a DAB radio, albeit not particularly cheap at £15,510 on the road. Indeed, we would have hoped for a few more goodies at that price, such as reversing sensors. As ever, though, careful buying can grab you a decent discount on that price. Orangewheels, for example, are offering the similar specification Polo Match for a much more reasonable £11,956.
Fit and finish is well up to Golf standards
Over its 40-odd year life span, the Polo has grown considerably, now rivalling the earlier Golf models in size. This has resulted in a spacious – for a supermini – cabin, which looks and feels just like its bigger relative. The doors shut with a reassuring thud and the car generally feels very solid and well made.
Fit and finish of the interior is well up to Golf standards, with lots of soft trim rather than hard plastics, together with a very tactile leather-bound steering wheel which would not disgrace a car much further up the price ladder. Having a steering wheel adjustable for reach as well as height is also a luxury not offered by all its competitors.
A 6″ touchscreen drives the radio, which includes DAB, media and other controls, just like the Golf. Just like the Golf, also, is the small but very useful display screen located between the two main dials, and which can be configured to display any of a host of bits of information, the digital speed display screen being particularly useful. Incidentally, if you like the idea of built-in sat nav, but have bought a car without it, or don’t like the prices charged for this feature by most manufacturers, VW are offering to retrofit nav into the Polo, and other VW products for that matter, for £599.
Inside, there is plenty of room for four or five passengers, although boot space may be tight. A bonus, though, is that there is a useful hidden and sizeable compartment under the boot floor to keep valuables out of sight. The Design version as tested features a unique-to-the-model light grey patterned cloth trim which gave the cabin a particularly airy feel but may soon look grubby in family use.
Once on the move, the Polo Design performs quite respectably, despite its fairly modest 90 hp and 118 lbft of torque. The gearshift – 5-speed in this Bluetooth model – is very slick & effective, whilst the steering and brakes provide just the right amount of feel. Ride comfort is particularly impressive: unlike many other superminis the Polo isolates its passengers well from the worst of Britain’s deteriorating road surfaces, without compromising handling.
Noise levels, too, are pleasingly subdued, rarely becoming intrusive except under hard acceleration. Cruising at the legal limit was very relaxing.
All in all, a very pleasant machine which cossets the driver into feeling that they are piloting something from a class or two above.
And the key question – is it economical? As we said at the start of this article, thanks to a hopelessly unrealistic EU-mandated test regime, even most manufacturers quietly agree that their published fuel consumption figures just aren’t worth the paper they are written on, and inevitably the Polo, with its claimed 60.1 mpg on the combined cycle, is no exception.
Back in the real world, though, the Bluemotion Polo Design gave a good account of itself, achieving around 45mpg in town traffic and tantalisingly close to 50mpg on the motorway. A lighter right foot would definitely have seen these figures increase, and maybe that manufacturers combined figure could in fact be within reach.
it would take a long time to recover the higher price of the diesel equivalent
So whilst the petrol Polo may not – quite – meet the fuel economy of its diesel twin, it’s not a million miles away, and it would take a long time to recover the extra grand or so which would be needed to buy the equivalent diesel version.
And the Polo itself? Without doubt a cracking little car, which does everything in the quietly competent way we have come to expect from VW products. It even has the bonus of looking like a Golf – indeed, from the front it’s hard to tell them apart.
Interested? Find out more here:- http://www.volkswagen.co.uk/new/polo-gp/configure/model/1975/1981