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VOLKSWAGEN POLO 1.3 L 

Volkswagen's new Polo is surely the "mint with the whole" for this stylish newcomer is probably the most complete car now available in it's class and brings a breath of fresh airto the small car market place as it replaces the old Polo which, while innovative in it's day, had grown very long in the tooth and a bit old fashioned compared to it's opposition. Just launched, the huge, 18 model, range comprises both 3 and 5 door hatches with a choice of 1.0, 1.3 and 1.6 litre petrol engines and with a 1.9 litre diesel yet to come.

Priced from £6950 to £11,750 the supermini range has moved upmarket from it's predecessor and seems to include all of the best features of it's competitors but offers far more than the rest do individually all wrapped up in a very pleasing new package which looks like a downsized Golf and is built to the very high standards that VW is justly famed for. 

A good looking car by any standards, with a slippery.32CD, the Polo seems to have captured just where it's at in small car design, it looks right and offers very impressive interior space with a well trimmed, bright and pleasant interior, comfortable if slightly firm seating and a dashboard that is pure VW/Audi ergonomics, well laid out, easy in use and attractive to the eye. With 3 or 5 doors, 4 good seats, excellent knee and headroom, lots of useful cabin stowage and a substantial boot which the rear seats fold to enlarge, the Polo is a fine, all round family car, but more than that it's actually great fun to drive.

I drove the 1300 cc, 55 bhp, L version - the most basic trim level - and found it nippy, lively and quiet at all speeds and quite at home on the motorway although the fifth gear could perhaps be just a tad taller to reduce engine revs a little below the 3500 rpm it clocks up at 70 mph. That said it's a delightful 5 speeder that flicks easily from gear to gear and is perfectly suited to the engine. For those who prefer a 4 speed autobox will soon be available.

Another major score point is the fuel economy of the new engines, a touring consumption of better than 42 mpg is impressive for this size of car. The ride is very comfortable, that of a much bigger car, but not so soft as to reduce the fun quotient for the Polo is very chuckable indeed with an agile chassis, well controlled roll, positive steering - unpowered in this model although most of the range has power steering - and firm progressive brakes.

For any one contemplating a great deal of town driving the power steering will be sensible option but the unpowered steering is well weighted, better than most, and even those "not quite big enough parking space" shuffles are quite easy.  Any base model is unlikely to be that well equipped but with driver's airbag, immobiliser, adjustable steering column, electric mirrors and a good 4 speaker stereo it fares better than most and, at the upper end of the range, the GL and GXL Polos are quite opulent for a small car, reminiscent of those film star Minis of the 60's, with power windows, aircon, ABS, sports seats and wheels, dual airbags, sunroofs, etc, etc.

The new Polo supermini is a small car of great fun, great practicality, great quality and great character. Little surprise then that it has already won 1 major " Car of theYear " award and seems likely to garner far more honours, far more sales and a much greater popularity than it's forerunner could ever have dreamed of. Like those other mints – the extra strong ones - it fair takes your breath away.

 

First Published 1996 - Article © Graham Benge 2007

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