The Volkswagen Polo has been part of South Africans’ lives since 1996 when the company’s then third generation car made it to local shores. After that we saw the now iconic fourth generation, Polo Vivo, which is one of South Africa’s bestselling cars. In between the fourth generation and the Vivo, emerged the outgoing fifth generation which has been significantly updated, mostly under the skin.

On the outside, you’d be as hard-pressed as I was to notice the changes. However, on closer inspection you’ll detect newly designed headlamps, which are joined by a piece of chrome trim along with a redesigned bumper that sees the air intake move lower, while a thin strip of chrome connects the two fog lights on either side. At the rear, there’s a wider cut-out to hold the licence plate and the rear reflectors have been repositioned lower on the reshaped rear bumper.

From the side, the new wheels will be able to disclose which of the three trim levels you’re looking at. The base Trendline model gets 14-inch wheel covers while the Comfortline gets 15-inch alloys and the Highline16-inch alloy items. The other model in the range is the new CrossPolo which gets 17-inch items.

On the inside, a new three-spoke steering wheel greets you as well as a freshened instrument cluster along with newly designed control layouts on the centre console. Then there’s the new radio which has been upgraded into an infotainment system with varying features depending on the specification level chosen. Adding to these new features is a new climate control interface and chrome accents on higher spec models while the manual airconditioning has also been refreshed. Overall, the additions to the new Polo are more up-to-date with the competition while maintaining the sort of sophistication expected from VW.

In terms of the different trim levels and models as standard on the base Trendline, you get remote central locking, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Stabilisation Programme (ESP), Multi-collision Braking System and Hill-hold Control Assistant. Further benefits include, head-thorax airbags, Isofix fittings for children, 5.8-inch black and white radio “Composition Touch” with touch screen, SD card compatibility and AUX functionality, front electric windows and manual airconditioning.

The Comfortline package adds the Composition Colour radio system with colour touchscreen, USB, SD card input and Bluetooth connectivity. Having used this system at the launch I can say that it’s a vast improvement over the old Polo, which sorely needed a proper infotainment system. You also get leather multi-function steering wheel, parking brake lever and shift lever grip in leather and the multifunction display. There’s also extensive use of chrome accents throughout the interior. You then have heated side mirrors, sliding drawers under the front seats and “Rail” design cloth trim.

The top of the range Highline, gets high-gloss black trim in the air inlet screen while inside there’s a graphite grey centre console, centre armrest in the front as well as the sport seat design along with “Composition Media” infotainment system which allows you to mirror your smartphones’ screen on to the car’s 5.8-inch display.

There’s also a new CrossPolo which gets an underbody protection panel finished in silver on the front and rear bumpers as well as black covers on the wheel arches, sills and doors. The door mirrors are painted silver as are the anodised roof rails. The smoked tail lights have also been redesigned.

In terms of powertrains, the Polo features a new generation of TSI engines, which badges at the rear are another distinguishing feature of its design. The four-cylinder 1.2 TSI engines will be available with the power output range of 66kW and 81kW depending on the model chosen. Both the Comfort and Trendline get the 66kW version which I had a chance to sample at launch.

The new engine is truly a massive improvement, especially at the reef where it provides more power and far more torque while delivering a 20 percent fuel-saving (4.9 litres/100km). It’s coupled with a five-speed gearbox, which was a pleasure to use although it might prove even more frugal on the open road with the addition of a sixth gear.

The Highline and CrossPolo get the more powerful 81kW/175Nm version of the engine, which is said to use 5.1 litres/100km while reaching a top speed of 196km/h and accelerating from 0 - 100 km/h in 9.3 seconds. This engine is available with either a six-speed manual or with the highly impressive seven-speed DSG.

The new Polo is certainly an impressive product that is sure to sit well with consumers. It’s faster, more frugal, has a standard service plan and is more tech-laden than before and that is certainly a recipe for success.

The new Polo comes standard with a three-year/45 000km service plan and a three-year/120 000km warranty with service intervals pegged at 15 000km.

 

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