Motoring | Test Drives

Volkswagen Polo Sedan: Your cheapest ticket to German engineering

If you want German motoring on a budget, there is nothing cheaper than the new Volkswagen Polo Sedan...Which is Indian...

  • By Dejan Jovanovic, wheels
  • Published: 17:55 October 18, 2012
  • Wheels

  • Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • Instead of flash, gimmicky detailing, the Polo Sedan looks mature. Like an almost-grown Jetta.
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In order to bring in the new Polo Sedan at a bargain price, Volkswagen had to call in the accounting department to draw up a list of standard equipment it could do without. Going down the list one by one, the suited bean-counters would sternly look at each equipment option and shake their heads. Sunroof? No. Six-speaker stereo? Who hired this guy in the first place? Multifunctional steering wheel? That’s it, you’re fired. Mood-lighting? They weren’t in the mood. Engine? I’m not exactly sure about that one.

All right, so someone managed to persuade the accountants that although it would be great to cut costs even more by making the engine optional, it probably isn’t a good idea. So they reluctantly gave an engine the green light. But they dug the thing out of a darkened corner of a warehouse somewhere in Volkswagen’s empire, where the undesirables live.

It’s a 103bhp 1.6-litre, which you may remember from luminaries such as the old MkIV Golf and Polo, the old MkIII Seat Ibiza, and the discontinued South-African-made Citi Golf.

The new Volkswagen Polo Sedan (we don’t normally go with Americanisms such as Sedan in wheels magazine, but that’s the model’s official name) is supposed to quell our hopes of a twin-charged hatchback model arriving, but that would obviously go against tradition.

That car features a new and rather excellent four-cylinder engine that still has at least a decade to go before reaching its expiry date. Something to look forward to, I guess. But the 1.6-litre four-pot in the Polo Sedan isn’t the most stringy engine ever, peaking at 5,250rpm with maximum torque of 153Nm, taking its time to get going at just about 4,000rpm.

You can imagine the strain and wincing as you keep your foot flat trying to get to 120kph. The tension is like trying to keep your open palm hovering above a lit candle: it gets too much and you give up, cowering back to the slow lane.

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They really had to stretch the old marketing lexicon with this one, as the official Polo Sedan standard equipment list even mentions three-point seatbelts, carpet mats, fabric seat covering, front and rear shock absorption, high-sounding horn (I’m not making this up), a warning triangle, radiator grille, and even an antenna.

But then again, the Polo Sedan does cost just 60 grand, making it the cheapest German car money can buy. And of course I was being a bit cruel up there, because while certainly not class-leadingly equipped, the Polo Sedan is actually OK, with ABS, dual airbags, cruise control and 16in wheels on our tester.
You can also pick from six colours, and in Shadow Blue or Flash Red (which is standard), the little starter family car looks quite smart. There is no toy-like immaturity in the styling like you get in some other small four-door models. It looks like a Jetta Xeroxed at 75 per cent. And it drives, really, really sophisticatedly, in a grown-up chin-up, chest-out stride, rather than a teenager’s slump.

This is a Volkswagen Group vehicle, built in India and based on the European Polo hatchback, but with a longer wheelbase and body, wider track, and lower weight. That means you get excellent handling with typical Volkswagen road integrity, solid suspension that feels like it’s hinging a bigger car, great and direct steering with an assured on-centre feel and good feedback and a crisp turn-in with plenty of grip left over for mid-turn acceleration.

On the highway, the Polo Sedan’s suspension (standard equipment lest you forget) settles nicely and exhibits none of the bouncing that is typical of these lightweight city runabouts, once again demonstrating that it’s not yet past its bed time and it can stay and chat with the adults for a bit longer. It’s a very accomplished driving car at this price, which is no surprise considering the roots of its chassis.

There is a six-speed automatic transmission attached to that asthmatic engine, and the extra ratio is nice for highway cruising, because you’ll see figures in the sixes for litres-per-100km. You’ll always be late for everything, but there it is; the Polo Sedan is highly economical too.

The interior is spacious, sensibly laid out, and doesn’t skimp on build quality. There was no need to be cheap with the savings made on omitted equipment. Everything feels solid and requires absolutely no thought to get used to: German logic at its best. Or Indian, in this case.

The three-spoke steering wheel feels like it deserves a GTI tag wrapped in the optional leather, the boot is vast for this size of car, and the automatic air conditioning is second to none. The stereo, however, is bad. There is no other word for it. It sounds like a two-speaker unit, although Volkswagen swears the
Polo Sedan comes with four speakers.

I still have my doubts.

So this is your cheapest ticket to German motoring. Personally I reckon it should be cheaper still. About ten grand should do it, considering parts of this car are past their sell-by date. But then again, having driven its rivals, I can’t think of any other manufacturer truly offering you more for less. The Polo Sedan is an accomplished starter motor. And anyway, who here hasn’t looked at an expired bottle of milk at least once, shrugged their shoulders, and taken a swig?

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