Polo gets the mini-Golf treatment as VW rings the changes for 2014
* Revised supermini gets here for 142-reg * Emphasis on engines, technology, infotainment
IT'S not a new Polo by any means – we'll have to wait at least a couple of years for that.
But suddenly, with a plethora of significant changes, they've made it feel like a mini-Golf.
You don't see most of the technical works – they're under the skin. But you do see significant improvement in the cabin, especially the dash where dull and duller are replaced by modern and user-friendly. And I noticed progress in a couple of engines, but not all.
The Polo is bought by first-time drivers, mature couples, families needing a second car –it's a broad canvas.
That probably helps explain why 14 million have been bought in the course of its 40 years. Just saw an old one here and my how the last couple of generations have grown.
Basically this heavily-revised July arrival is about engines (greener), technology, infotainment/connectivity and equipment (more of each).
The 'new' versions get here for 142-registrations and will cost a bit more. For example, the 1-litre Trendline 3dr (60bhp) goes to €14,995 ex-works from €14,495; the 5dr to €15,595 from €15,450 and the big seller Comfortline 1-litre 5dr (75bhp) is up to €18,210 from €17,945. Volkswagen argues there's a lot more spec and equipment for the extra money.
Around 500 people will buy one from July; 2,000 next year. The big rivals are Toyota's Yaris and Ford's Fiesta which sell a bit more.
All the engines have had major improvements or are brand new and are much 'greener' – one manages 88g/km while another dips to 82g/km.
I drove three versions including what will be the biggest seller in Ireland, the 5dr, 75bhp, 1-litre 3cyl petrol, with 5spd manual gearbox. There is a 60bhp version; I think you need the 75bhp. This is a big, strong supermini and the extra nudge of power is welcome. That engine can do up to 4.7l/100km and at 106g/km it is down two road tax bands to €190.
I also drove the 1.2-litre 4cyl petrol (90bhp) 5spd TSI in the much maligned Polo Cross (15mm taller and beefed up to faintly look like a crossover but without any parallel capability) and found it the pick of the powerplants. The Cross has a chance this time; not a hope previously with a woefully underpowered engine.
The 1.4-litre 150bhp ACT petrol TSI is not for you unless you want to spend a lot of money on the Blue GT. There will be a 1-litre TSI later this year.
By far the greatest disappointment was the 1.4-litre diesel. Frugal it may be (3.47l/100km, 82g/km); dreadful it most certainly was. Can't remember a gruffer, rougher drive and note in years. Stick with the 1-litre or 1.2-litre petrols. Trust me on this. Petrols account for 75pc of purchases anyway. On the basis of that diesel, the percentage may rise. And you will never make up the difference in fuel consumption between diesel and petrol.
All engines have Stop/Start.
I thought the power steering was much improved. There is a new three-spoke flat bottom steering wheel as standard.
There are six trim levels (Trendline, BlueMotion, Comfortline, sporty Comfortline+, Cross and powerful BlueGT).
Standard equipment (Trendline) includes a Composition Colour radio system which incorporates a 5ins colour infotainment touchscreen, radio, six speakers, Aux-in, SD card reader and CD drive.
Also standard is a collision warning system with city emergency brake.
BlueMotion versions add 15ins 'Buenos Aires' alloys, front centre armrest, front fogs etc while Comfortline trim adds Bluetooth, multi-function leather steering wheel, air con, rear electric windows and bits and pieces of chrome inside and out.
Then there is Comfortline+ with sports seats, 16ins Portago anthracite alloys, tinted windows, aluminium pedals and scuff plates.
The Cross Polo has 17ins Canyon alloys and the one we drove had a vibrant orangey colour. It also has cruise control, sports seats, park distance control, and another blinking front centre armrest.
The powerful Blue GT has 'Blue Speed' sport seats, black headliner, front and rear spoilers and double-tract exhaust system.
I also drove the 1.2-litre 4cyl petrol (90bhp) 5spd TSI in the much maligned Polo Cross (15mm taller and beefed up) and found it the pick of the powerplants.
The Cross itself was really poor on the road, badly lacking the much smoother ride of the conventional hatchback.