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Playing Polo: Old reliable ups game with new show

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The Volkswagen Polo: Most of the changes are under the skin.

The Volkswagen Polo: Most of the changes are under the skin.

The Volkswagen Polo: Most of the changes are under the skin.

You could be forgiven for thinking this is a brand new Polo. It's not. In fairness to Volkswagen they are not making it out to be anything other than a heavily revised motor. It is "new" in that sense.

The trouble is I've come across some manufacturers who have the cheek to feel that an overhaul of this, or lesser, nature is sufficient to justify "all-new" or "brand new" status.

I've had emails from people who thought they'd bought a brand new model but hadn't. That maddens me.

Yes, technically you can argue that every model off the production line is new. But I think some makers flout the spirit, if not the letter, of the description. Just be careful out there. Words can be loosely used and widely interpreted in the mad dash to impress would-be buyers.

Similarly, there is a sort of madness about diesels. People think they are losing out, or not in fashion, if they don't have one.

Luckily, the supermini sector, in which the Polo competes, is primarily driven by petrols. But there is still a substantial minority who opt for diesel. I've no idea why. Polos and the like are usually bought for skipping around in, while well able for less frequent long journeys. Why would you need a diesel?

Driving the 1.2-litre petrol in this only served to underline what a great job an engine of this calibre can do. And with consumption of 60mpg (Volkswagen's claim) and yearly road tax of €190, it makes much more sense. However, pricing could be stiff. I had one of the higher-spec versions which, naturally, portrays the car in an extremely good light. Even so, I was surprised at how quickly such spec runs into big money; €20,000 for a supermini is a big ask.

You could buy an entry-level Ford Focus or put a few grand to it and buy a Golf for that sort of money. The Polo range has gone up by an average of €500 or so. I suppose, in fairness, you have to allow for significant changes - and they are substantial.

And, it seems, people are prepared to pay for their extras, such as infotainment systems and electric this and that so why should I whinge?

Anyway, it is fair to say they have done a thoroughly good job, price notwithstanding, on the Polo. One good thing is you don't see many/most of the changes (suspension, etc). How can that be good? Well, I prefer substantive, nuts-and-bolts reform in anything rather than window dressing. We've had enough of that ould bluster, especially from politicians, since Marco Polo was a child.

Too many car-makers think they can compensate for real improvements with a bit of flash and dash in so-called "new" models.

Yes, I wish sometimes Volkswagen would mix the rock solid with the rock-and-roll; the Polo isn't a cutting-edge stylist by any means. But when you sit in and drive, something comes across from the solidity around you that emphasises it is for the long haul and not the quick buck.

The major improvement on the visual side is the cabin. They have turned it into a smart enough (nothing daring) area - it used to be horribly dull. It also felt a bigger car than it is (no real dimensional changes) and I was well served with that excellent 1.2-litre petrol. Great engine. It will get you 50mpg tipping around thanks, in part, to the use of what they call Bluemotion technology such as automatic start/stop and low-rolling resistance tyres.

The steering was just a tad light and the two-level boot 'floor' slid off its holdings too easily. I also craved better lower-back support from my seat.

Neither do I think the Polo is as sharp to drive as the Ford Fiesta or altogether as smooth as the Toyota Yaris.

But there is something terribly reassuring about it. I can see why 14 million have been bought worldwide.

My test car, in Cornflower Blue, cut quite a decent dash. So much so a few people said "nice car".

And that's what it is now: a solid, nice "new" car.

Facts, figures: VW Polo 1.2TSI 5dr

Volkswagen Comfortline + 1.2TSI (4cyl, 1,197cc, petrol, 90bhp, 4.7 l/100km or 60.1 mpg, 107g/km, road tax €190).

Equipment includes: Air con, Bluetooth, fog lights (including static turning light), 6.5ins touchscreen (radio, CD player, aux-in, USB interface for iPod/iPhone), sports front seats, 16ins 'portago' alloys, multi-function steering wheel, several airbags and safety aids, collision-warning system with city emergency brake (helps reduce stopping distance and alerts you to danger), hill-hold control, stop/start technology, day-time running lights, 65pc light-absorbing glass in rear side windows and rear screen, aluminium pedals, split/folding rear seats.

Price: €19,995. Delivery charge €750. On the road price: €20,705. The Polo range starts at €15,165 for 1-litre 60bhp.

My side of the road

I was going to visit one of my favourite cousins in hospital last weekend. It was miserable, wet and windy.

I was driving a small car (the Polo that's reviewed here).

I said to the brother I wouldn't like to be driving anything bigger or wider because the kerbs into the sheltered car park at Tallaght hospital are so close either side.

I'm making the point for two reasons.

The obvious one is: would it have cost so much to give people another few centimetres between the substantial concrete kerbs? I imagine many a wheel has gouged against them.

Secondly, people are under enough stress and pressure going to see their loved ones, they could do without the added anxiety. I just don't understand - and Tallaght is only one example - why entries and exits to so many car parks are such tiny funnels. I've mentioned this before but feel compelled to raise it again. Any views?

Indo Review