Volkswagen Polo 81 TSI - Driven

The new Polo should be considered a threat to its bigger sibling the Golf. And the new Golf is an exceptionally good car. We tested the 81kW Polo 81 TSi and it showed it was a real winner as a small performance car. Though that's not really what the model is supposed to be. The Polo GTi is the hot hatch in the Polo family.

There's no doubting the current Polo makes an excellent compact car around town, but what really surprises - in the most pleasing way - is what a great car it is to fang around in. The delivery of power with the little turbocharger assisting the 1.2-litre motor along is excellent. There are no flat spots and it doesn't run out of puff. The gearchange is easy and encourages a bit of enthusiastic playing - as does the whole car.

Even though the suspension setup and 15-inch wheels shod with Continental tyres more suited to everyday driving, the combination acquits itself remarkably well when you're pushing hard. There is so much fun engineered into the chassis of this little car... It just begs you to take it to a circuit and see how well it performs. Don't worry Mr Volkswagen Australia, I didn't. But I would have loved to!

As an everyday town car, the Polo also performs its duties very, very well. The quality of the construction is obvious - and something people expect from Volkswagen, but it doesn't suffer from being the entry-level model.

The driving position is fine, the seats supportive and controls leave nothing to be desired. OK, it's not luxurious, but not much is left out when you check the specs list. Power steer, climate control air conditioning, power windows, central locking, etc. There are 6 airbags, cruise control, hill holder and the expected electronic aids - EBD, ABS and traction control.

The rear seat is relatively comfortable, and while you can't fit three adults, it's no worse that the competition. The boot is usefully large for such a small car, even with a full-size spare tyre underneath, and of course it's expandable with the 60/40 rear seat flipping forward.

And for the first time for a Polo, it looks like a grown-up car. The very aggressive front styling, in the new Volkswagen corporate look, suits it very well. Visually, it's clearly a less sophisticated little brother of a Golf, but that's completely appropriate. One benefit of not being a Golf is that additional rear windows are fitted in the C-pillars, diminishing the blind spot that Golfs have had from Day One.

Overall, the package is quite impressive. There are a variety of versions, none of which are the cheapest in their category, but all of which offer a superior package in all respects. Petrol and diesel versions are offered here. There's a 7-speed DSG version of the 81TSI in addition to the 6-speed manual version. And a less powerful version for $17,490. No Polo buyer will be disappointed.

Engine type: 1197cc 4-cylinder turbocharged
Power: 81kW
Torque: 175Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual as tested (see review)
Price: $19,490 at time of review
Text - Paul Blank (copyright)