Minimalism has an aura of understated elegance that surrounds it, something which cannot be attained with the addition of loud adornments or changing the attire to stay abreast with the latest fashion. What matters is the change within. Transformation which makes something a better version of what it was yesterday.
At the core of this evolution must be the heart, something that is bigger, stronger, more accommodating, something that attracts and connects more. The new 2014 Volkswagen Polo has undergone a similar heart surgery and is now available with a more powerful, 4-cylinder diesel engine. The typically European styling was always easy on the eye and we feel it is a good thing that the German manufacturer hasn’t tinkered around with it too much. So let’s try and figure if the new engine still has a low bpm problem or does it provide a rush of blood to the head.
There are some who crack a joke to gel with the crowd, some try to look their best in crotch hugging pants and a fat shrinking suit. The Volkswagen Polo doesn’t belong to that breed. It’s akin to that man who needs just a little smile to break the ice and you instantly know, there’s a ‘Mariana Trench’ behind those eyes. The mature styling has been retained. However, the addition of some new bits makes the car look sharper and trendy.
To begin with, the headlamps are now a double-barrel unit, partitioned by a bezel, with the lower inner deck housing the indicators. The front grille features a chrome strip at the bottom which bridges the headlights, while the front air-dam in the bumper is highlighted by a chrome strip that mimics the upper silhouette of a stretch-limo.
Not many body panels have changed, so if one had to tell the car apart from its predecessor looking sideways, the new 10-spoke, 15” alloys are the only giveaway. At the rear, the bumper is differently designed. It now features a sharp crease below the tail-gate, which melts away into the rear wheel arches. The rectangular space for the licence plate has been widened, and re-shapes as a trapezoid, while the bottom now features reflectors on the flanks.
Length and width are similar to the outgoing model. However, the wheelbase has been increased by 13 mm. Does it make the rear seat more comfortable, we’ll find out on the next page. There are more colours in the palette and the car is now available in a new shade of Burnt Orange (One in the pictures).
Interior, features & safety
Step inside and what grabs your immediate attention is the sporty, flat-bottom, leather wrapped steering wheel. It features glossy (piano black) inserts on the spokes, while buttons for audio controls and the Multi-information display are new. There is a small bulge on either side where you rest the thumb, which ensures good grip when cornering hard. The unit definitely feels and looks premium and will not look out of place in a car several segments above. The wheel can be adjusted for rake and reach. However, the horn pad requires taking one hand off the wheel, unless your thumb is longer than your middle finger.
Interiors are dual-tone and finished in black and beige. Seat fabric is new, but the shade is too light and any stains, dust or fallen hair is easily visible. The dual-tone dashboard is prominently black and on a sunny day, there is slight reflection on the windshield, doesn’t hamper visibility though. The centre console is now surrounded by light satin titanium finish inserts while the driver and passenger side AC vents are outlined in chrome. The glove-box is deep and features a lamp, while its lid has an embedded sunglass holder. The hand-brake lever and the gear shifter is wrapped in leather (the shifter has a lacquered black knob-top) and feel great to use. The front console has a 12v socket, while the storage compartment in the front doors can accommodate a 1 litre bottle of water with ease. The occupant side sun visor comes with a vanity mirror which has a lamp above it too.
The Multi-information display reads out statistics in a bigger font, which enhances readability. In comparison to the Red display unit on the older version, this one shows all the info in white, which is easy on the eye. It shows the travelling time, distance travelled, displays the speed, has a gear indicator, shows the engine temperature, average speed and fuel-efficiency.
The 4-speaker audio system sounds crisp and scores high on clarity even when the volume is turned up to the maximum. It can play compact discs, and also features an aux-in and SD-card reader. Connecting your phone through Bluetooth is an easy affair, whereas, the voice control feature refused to recognise some of our commands. Maybe the lady didn’t like our accent. Interior lighting also includes lamps in the foot-well, which helped us find a toll receipt and saved some of our money. A dead pedal is a thoughtful addition which will make your left foot thank you in German. There is no reverse parking camera, but the sensors do their job well. The car comes with a foldable smart key, but there is no start/stop button.
Seatbelts aren’t height adjustable, but the driver side seat can be adjusted for height. The front seats are a comfortable place to be in and provide good under-thigh and lateral support, even for 6-footers. Rear seat comfort is marginally better than the older model, as front seats on the new Polo have been scooped out at the back for some additional legroom. Volkswagen has stretched the wheelbase by 13mm, which fuels the feeling that the new Polo offers a tad more space in the cabin than the older car. If you are a six-footer though, there’s only about 2 ½ inches of space between your temple and the roof. Something you wouldn’t mind if you admire low slung, flat cars, rather than tall-boys.
The automatic air-conditioning control panel is similar to the outgoing model, but functionality wise, the unit managed to cool the cabin well, even on a hot, muggy day. A pollen filter ensures you breathe in a hygienic atmosphere. Volkswagen has fitted the Polo with heat insulating glass on the windscreen, side and rear windows, a thoughtful addition, as sun-films have been banned in India. Power windows on all four doors are anti-pinch and feature one-touch up/down function.
Boot space is deep and can accommodate a good amount of luggage. The Polo has always scored highly in terms boot space, and it still does. We weren’t carrying any large bags to test how much can fit in there, but it swallowed a lot of our equipment, backpacks and still had space if we wished to dump an annoying character in there. The space can be extended as the backrest unhooks to fall down, although there is no 60:40 split functionality. The spare wheel is surprisingly a 14” steel unit with higher profile rubber, while the rest of the car boasts of 15” alloys.
The new 2014 Volkswagen Polo will be available with dual-airbags, standard across all variants. The car comes with a 4-star NCAP rating for safety, while ABS is only available on the top-of-the-line ‘Highline’ version we tested, rear fog lamps are standard. Build quality, fit-n-finish and feel is top notch, typically German.
Dual front airbags are standard across all variants. How we wish all manufacturers follow this on all the cars they make.
Audio system sounds crisp and clear even at full volume. Could do with some more bass though.
A digital Speedometer, for those who swear by their G-Shocks.
Air-conditioning unit worked brilliantly, but will face the real test during summers.
Boot space can swallow decent amount of luggage. Notice the standard first-aid kit and spare bulbs.
We had some fun asking people to figure how the boot release works.
We couldn’t find any calendar girls to get the job done. We couldn’t shoot a dirty car either.
Everything inside reeks of quality, switches on the driver side panel are back-lit.
The most important addition that adds minty freshness to the new Polo.
We love that chrome strip and how it lends the front with added character. Fog lamps enhance illumination and don’t sit there for ornamental value.
It looks unmistakably German, even at standstill.
The interior now features ambient lighting, works well if you suddenly feel gloomy between a long inter-state drive on a rainy night.
Gear stick travel is short, slotting action could’ve been a wee bit more precise.
Sunglasses stay safe in the glovebox. Only if Volkswagen could insert some soft fabric around it, carrying a large case for the glasses would be a thing of the past.
In case you are jumping into the Polo, straight from a Japanese hatchback. That is the dial which makes the headlamps and fog-lamps work. One has to rotate the dial in the middle position and then pull it for the fog lamps to glow.
Double barrel headlamps work brilliantly to illuminate the road ahead on a dark night, even features black masking. Batman at work?
The high mounted rear stop lamp lights up in a uniform manner, unlike some units which have individual bulbs.
ORVM’s are body coloured. If you think they would look better, dipped in chrome, this car is not for you.
No LED’s here, maybe VW will add some during Diwali.
Rear wiper does it’s job well. We heard a girl say it looks cute.
New Allow wheel design isn’t loud, its classy. The Apollo tyres work brilliantly.
The missing horses have found their way into the Polo.
We could take that steering wheel home and admire it all night.
Spare wheel is a steel unit. Surprisingly, while the rest of the car gets 15″ Alloys, the spare wheel is a 14″ steel unit.
Dead pedal makes your foot come back to life during long drives.
Even the hand brake lever is finished in leather.
That is what you can expect to appear in your RVM’s at a faster rate now.
This is what it will look like once past you.
The new Polo comes with voice control, we failed the audition to make it work.
Audio controls work well, but reaching that horn while both your hands are on the wheel is a task.
Performance, ride & handling and efficiency
A game of Polo requires 4 horses on each side. Volkswagen realised it was playing with a curtailed team and added another hole which makes driving the new car a fresh, minty experience. The new 2014 Volkswagen Polo features a 4-cylinder, TDI unit that matches its character on the outside. Where the older 3-cylinder motor felt anaemic and sung only when it hit the sweet spot, the new engine is entirely different. It develops 90 PS of power at 4200 rpm and 230 nm of torque between 1500 – 2500 rpm. That is 15 PS and 50 nm more than the outgoing 1.2 diesel engine. The new engine isn’t as noisy either and good cabin insulation ensures, one needs to try hard to notice the faint clatter that filter into the cabin. Once on the move as you gather some revs, the engine note in the cabin sounds rather pleasant. However, on the outside, there is no hiding that unmistakeable clatter of a TDI unit.
The new engine pulls cleanly from as low as 1200 rpm, while thanks to the peak torque which is developed and stays flat between 1500-2500 rpm, it lends the car with excellent driveability. We revved it all the way till 4500 rpm. However, post the 4000 rpm mark the power seems to taper off slightly. The turbo spools around the 2000 rpm mark, but there is no sudden spike in power anywhere in the rev band. Power kicks in, in a very linear and mature manner. Even below 2000 rpm, the engine has enough grunt to propel the car at decent speeds within the city. Gearshift is smooth and the throw is short. Gear ratios complement the character of the new motor.
During its stay with us, the car witnessed an expressway run from Mumbai to Pune and back, where it hardly experienced anything less than triple-digit speeds. Keeping it in the mid-range makes the car accelerate in a rapid manner and it is out on the open roads where the new engine shines. The car reaches the ton in about 12 seconds and looked good to soldier on till 160 kph. Progress is slow post the 4000 rpm mark, as we mentioned which should make climbing the speedo needle further a bit of a puff.
The sweetly tuned chassis on the Polo has always been one of our favourites in the hatchback segment. As it dances to the tune of this new engine, it feels completely at home. The car corners flat and in a composed manner, without any twitch, while high-speed stability is right up there with the very best. Ride quality is mature and once on the move, the car takes minor undulations and bumps in its stride with aplomb. At slower speeds, some might feel the suspension to be slightly stiff, but that is what gives the car its ability to ride so well otherwise. The Polo is so good at masking its speed, one needs to look at the speedo to realise the amount of momentum that has been gathered.
The steering is an electric unit, which is light at city speeds and builds some weight as it gathers speed, though we would have liked it to feel a bit more heavy. However, it is quite accurate and will point the car where you intend to with the right inputs. We would have liked it to be more communicative, but the masses love the ease of a light steering in our traffic infested cities, and you can’t blame them for that.
The front discs coupled with the rear drums ensure the car tracks straight even under heavy braking and instils confidence at high speeds. The Highline model we tested came equipped with ABS, which boosted our confidence when we were gunning the car as it poured outside. Special mention has to be made for the Apollo Alnac rubber the car comes factory fitted with. The 185/60 R15 rubber provided excellent grip even in extreme wet conditions and helped the car stay composed. Tyre noise at high speeds is contained, which meant we never had to make too many corrections in the audio volume with variable speeds.
The Volkswagen Polo’s new 1.5 litre TDI unit carries an ARAI rated efficiency figure of 20.14 kmpl. In the city, we managed to retrieve 15 kmpl in bumper-to-bumper Mumbai traffic, gunning for the odd gaps with the AC continuously in operation. What surprised us though was that it returned a figure of 14.5 kmpl during our expressway run, even when the engine was constantly on the boil. The Polo has a 45 litre tank and if driven with a lighter foot, it should be able to munch many miles before it needs a refill.
Summing it up
As we get to this part of the review, we noticed there is hardly anything not to like about the car. The German engineering which forms the core of this car shines through, and you have to experience it yourself to believe what we say. Volkswagen has ensured it has ironed out all the chinks in the Polo’s armour with the new engine, which now matches the excellent chassis and makes it a complete package. One factor that might go against the Polo could be interior space, but this is a hatchback and if you want to feel like the king of square feet on wheels, you could always buy an MPV or an SUV. We would also like the German carmaker to bring down the cost of its spares and service down to the other leading mainstream carmakers’ level to make the Polo an even more compelling buy.
To sum it up. If the new 2014 Volkswagen Polo was a man and I was a woman of substance, it would be my pick in the crowd. The car is a smooth operator; its grace, the stance, the way it does the dance will make girls feel apprehensive approaching it. Only a woman will connect to that appeal of a mature fragrance the Polo disperses around it and with the added power of that new 4-cylinder engine, it has the muscle to carry you home on its back, when its too late in the night and there is no cab in sight.
|Polo Highline 1.5L Diesel|
|Engine & Transmission|
|Description||1.5L TDI Engine|
|Engine Type||4-Cylinder In-line|
|Bore x Stroke||77 x 80.5|
|Fuel Efficiency (km/l)*||20.14|
|Max. Power [Ps(kw)@rpm]||90 (66) @ 4200|
|Max. Torque [Nm@rpm]||230 @ 1500 – 2500|
|Type||Electronic Power Steering|
|Turning Radius (metres)||4.97|
|Front||McPherson Strut with Stabiliser Bar|
|Rear||Semi-independent Trailing Arm|
|Tyres and Wheels|
|Wheels||185/60 R15 (Alloy)|
|Kerb weight (kg)||1158|
|Gross Vehicle Weight (kg)||1620|
|Front/Rear Track (mm)||1460 / 1456|
|Minimum Ground Clearance (mm)||165|
|Fuel Tank Capacity (ltrs)||45|
The Polo with the new 1.5 TDI engine is available in three trims.
Trendline: Rs. 7,50,665
Comfortline: Rs. 8,21,473
Highline (One featured here): Rs. 8,80,468
Note: These are approximate on-road prices for the city of Mumbai.
Standard Features on the Highline model:
- Halogen headlights
- Headlamps in black finish
- Dual-beam headlamps
- New tail lamp design
- New front fog lamp design
- Galvanised body with 6 years anti- corrosion warranty
- Body-Coloured bumpers
- Reflectors on rear bumper
- Windscreen in heat-insulating glass
- Heat-insulating glass for side and rear windows
- Chrome strip in front grille
- Body-coloured outside door handles and mirrors
- 15-inch, “TOSA” alloy wheels (Set of 4)
- Grey wedge at top section of windscreen
- Chrome application on air dam
- Cornering lights
- High-quality, scratch-resistant dashboard
- 3 grab handles above doors, folding with coat hooks at the rear
- Storage compartment in front doors, including holders for cups and 1.5 litre bottles
- Sunglass holder inside glovebox
- Brushed-aluminium finish on front centre console
- Front centre console including 12V outlet
- Single folding rear-seat backrest
- Luggage compartment cover/parcel tray
- Ambient lights
- Driver-side dead pedal
- Chrome interior accents
- New fabric “Desert Beige” and dual-tone interior theme
- Sporty flat-bottom steering wheel design
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel with chrome accents and piano black finish
- Leather-wrapped gearshift knob and handbrake lever handle
- Front Disc Brakes
- Height-adjustable head restraints (front and rear)
- L-shaped rear head restraints
- Electronic engine immobiliser with floating code
- Interior rear-view mirror with anti-glare adjustment
- 3-point front seat belts
- 3-point rear outer seat belts, lap belt in middle
- High-mounted stop lamp
- Emergency exit
- Fog lamps (rear)
- Fog lamps (front)
- Anti-pinch power windows
- ABS (Anti-lock Braking System)
- Dual front airbags (driver and passenger side)
- Air conditioning
- ‘Climatronic’ automatic air conditioning
- Dust and pollen filter
- Height-adjustable driver’s seat
- Gear shift indicator
- Speed-sensing electronic power steering
- Steering wheel – tilt and telescopic adjustable
- Central locking with boot-opener in Volkswagen logo
- Digital clock and fuel gauge
- Front intermittent wipers (4-step variable speed setting)
- Instrument cluster with tachometer, speedometer, odometer and trip meter
- Vanity mirror in left-side sunvisor
- Ticket holder in right-side sunvisor
- ‘Push to open’ fuel lid
- 14-inch steel spare wheel
- Lane change indicator
- Outside rear view mirror, Electrically adjustable
- Power windows with one-touch operation (front and rear)
- CD/MP3 player with USB, Aux-in, SD card input and 4 Speakers
- Rear defogger
- Rear windshield wash and wiper
- Remote-controlled central locking
- Opening and closing of windows with key remote
- Monochrome multi-function display (MFD) includes travelling time, distance travelled, digital speed display, average speed, fuel efficiency
- Speed-sensing auto door locks
- Steering wheel with controls for audio, Bluetooth and Voice Command
- Rear parking sensors