ONE CAR TWO OPINIONS: Play Polo, it’s like mini Golf
THE sixth-generation VW Polo compact city car, with extra specification and increased dimensions, makes Euro style and quality available from just $17,990.
Adding to the value proposition, it has greater boot space and headroom than some cars in the segment above. We own the Golf stablemate - so can the Polo 70TSI Trendline persuade us that it's a viable family car?
IAIN: Entry-level city cars don't normally get you excited. You prepare yourself for steel wheels, drum brakes on the rear, no leather seats or fancy inclusions.
JULES: All right, I'm not that much of a snob. Besides, I like the classy look of the new Polo. Big for a city car, isn't it?
IAIN: Well spotted. The Polo has grown so much VW says it's bigger than the Golf Mk4 sold from 1998-2004.
JULES: My parents had a Golf Mk4 as a family car. Does that mean a new Polo would be a candidate for our family of four?
IAIN: Of course. Just because you breed doesn't mean you need a giant seven-seat SUV. Huge numbers of European families have Polo-sized cars as their main family vehicle.
JULES: What engine have we got here?
IAIN: This is the entry level 70TSI Trendline, with 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo. Power is just 70kW but peak torque is a perky 175Nm.
JULES: Not a lot then.
IAIN: For $2500 more you can have a Polo 85TSI Comfortline. Same engine but tuned for 85kW/200Nm, plus you get alloys, auto lights and wipers and comfier cloth seats.
JULES: What am I getting for my money with the Trendline?
IAIN: For $20,490 drive-away with auto gearbox it's pretty good. It comes with an eight-inch infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Bluetooth, cruise control, rear camera and autonomous emergency braking.
THE LIVING SPACE
JULES: The cabin is understated and classy but not funky like many city cars.
IAIN: True - but it's really well presented for buyers favouring quality over gimmicks.
JULES: The colour touchscreen that mirrors my phone through Apple CarPlay is a key selling point for me. Big win.
IAIN: The dash and touch points have a few more hard plastics than a Golf but I'd say the Polo's the class leader at this price for cabin quality.
JULES: And space. The kids seemed to have as much room in the back as larger, pricier cars.
IAIN: City cars are normally just that. Brilliantly versatile in town but a bit rubbish on the highway.
JULES: Like when it feels like a gust of wind would topple you over?
IAIN: Exactly. The Polo feels more grown-up, stable, quiet and well suited for doing 110km/h for long distances. The cruise control helps too.
JULES: It's so nice not having an SUV. I love the Polo's size for zipping into parking spaces. Rear camera's great but I'd love sensors too.
IAIN: The boot's bigger than a Mazda3 or Ford Focus in the class above, by the way.
JULES: More shopping then! Going back to me not being a snob - sort of - I was prouder parking it than, say, a Toyota or something Korean. The European badge is still a cut above.
IAIN: It does look sharp. Even in its rather dull grey colour. VW's colour palette is too bland.
JULES: Nothing jazzy at all?
IAIN: There is metallic orange, white, black or silver. Not a blue or red to be found.
JULES: I found the throttle response a bit slow, even in Sport mode. Maybe I'm just used to our Golf with its bigger engine.
IAIN: It drives like a baby Golf to me. It's a joy to steer, I love the note of the three-cylinder turbo engine and in Sport mode it holds the higher revs well. It's brilliant to throw around.
JULES: Didn't you find it slow off the mark?
IAIN: VW's auto gearbox, called DSG, is a tiny bit jerky at low speeds but I think it's just that you're used to a manual shifter and more power than 70kW. The time from rest to 100km/h is 10.8 seconds, remember.
JULES: It steers really precisely and I'm a big fan of the sporty flat-bottom leather wheel.
IAIN: Apart from not being able to fit their bikes in the boot, the six and three-year old had plenty of rear space with their two Isofix seats in place.
JULES: No air vents for the kids back there, or USB points.
IAIN: Imagine us complaining about such things when we were kids. They don't care. If it's air they need, they can open a window.
JULES: Anyway, six airbags, auto emergency braking and five-star safety rating mean it passes the family test.
IAIN: Warranty is three years, when many rivals are longer. Plus it needs 95 premium fuel, if I'm being picky.
JULES: Style, cabin finish, infotainment and decent size make the Polo a winner but I'd prefer more power.
IAIN: Agreed. It makes spending $2500 more for the 85kW Comfortline with alloys look a good move. Even so, this entry-level Polo's a cracker with its mature and well-engineered feel.
JULES: But if you need more space, the Skoda Fabia is the only one in the city car class with a wagon back. I'd still pick it for my life with two kids, plus it has a five-year warranty.
IAIN: Good call. The Fabia and Polo share plenty of DNA. But for me, the VW's the classier choice.
VOLKSWAGEN POLO 70TSI TRENDLINE DSG
PRICE $20,490 drive-away (good for Euro auto)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 3 years/unlimited km, $1213 for 3 years/45,000km (average)
SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, reverse camera, AEB with pedestrian detection, tyre pressure monitor, fatigue monitor (good)
ENGINE 1.0-litre 3-cyl turbo, 70kW/175Nm (punchy; lovely engine note)
TRANSMISSION 7-speed twin clutch auto, FWD (slick)
THIRST 5.0L/100km (good; 95 RON)
SPARE Full-size steel (good)
BOOT 351L (good)