Volkswagen Polo 2014 review: road test
Though a big hit in Europe, Volkswagen Polo lags significantly in sales behind its big brother Golf...
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Get ready for war. Car dealers are now turning pale as new-vehicle sales decline and fresh models continue to arrive.
It couldn't be better for buyers. Australia's crowded light-car market now looks like a buffet in a high-class hotel restaurant, crammed with enticing offerings to patrons, many of whom may be considering a diet.
Honda's familiar doorstop-shaped hatchback, the Jazz, has recently joined the buffet.
It's now longer, more spacious and cheaper than before. The highlight is the Magic Seat design, standard on all models, that allows the seats to be configured up to 18 ways.
Ideal for owners demanding cargo and human load options, even the rear seats fold dead flat - the only car in its class with this party trick - which having options including tall, utility, refresh and long modes.
As an example, in tall mode the rear seat cushions fold and lock up against the squabs, exposing the full-width flat floor. Honda says pot plants and even two mountain bikes, with front wheels removed, can be stored upright.
There's heaps of room for two adults in the back - even three at a squeeze - thanks to the tall roof and ample legroom. Apart from its Tardis-like capacity for absorbing your life's gifts, Honda's Jazz still feels incredibly agile, competent and secure.
The feature list is improved and the styling is similar but performance has made way for an accent on fuel economy.
Now, the entry level Jazz VTi with its new automatic transmission will sip at a mere 5.8L/100km - an attainable figure that augments the car's affordable $16,990 price tag. And that's what the Jazz is all about - a car that despite its chamfered wood block style, is probably the most versatile car around and almost everything about it is geared to lessen the financial burden on its owner.
Well, almost everything because even though Honda has capped-price servicing, the Jazz needs six-monthly services and costs $1524 over three years. Its rival Toyota Yaris costs $780 for the same period.
Standard features are impressive for the sub-$17,000 price tag, starting with a functional dashboard with sections of soft-plastic panels. Cruise control, seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity and Siri, a high level of safety items and LED projector headlights - a first for the Jazz class - are appreciated inclusions.
The Yaris which is just about the relaunch as a new model, then there's the alternative menu. New for 2014 are the VW Polo and Mazda2 with Hyundai's i20 to follow. These are in addition to the other 39 models in the Jazz's segment.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
The entry-level model's engine is bigger than before, up to 1.5L from 1.3, but it's not done to boost acceleration. Rather, it better copes with the new continuously variable transmission that aims to reduce weight, simplify components and slash fuel use.
On the road the Jazz rewards with its simple controls, excellent outward vision and a willing nature. Typically Honda, the package is an easy drive. Drivers won't notice much change in the new automatic gearbox except for its seamless operation.
The engine is responsive but its delivery is restrained as Honda aims for economy and durability above eye-watering bursts. It's also not the quietest powerplant around, attributed mainly to the CVT's elastic-band character that makes the engine rev freely.
But the transmission can be held into seven preset ratios, acting more like a conventional gearbox but requiring the driver to shift manually. That's handy for hillstarts, when towing and for acceleration or overtaking.
Its steering suits city parking manoeuvres but while it's very light, it has sufficient feel to handle solidly on the freeway. Ride comfort is generally good though the seats lack lateral support and, at low speeds, the suspension transmits any road irregularity into the cabin.
But there are some negatives. The touchscreen is slow to react and needs a lot of finger pressure - difficult when you're driving the car - while rear brakes are the more ancient, but less expensive, drum type.
One for the trash-and-treasure enthusiast, dog owner, cyclist and parent - anyone really. Rivals may be more tempting.
|GLi||1.3L, ULP, 5 SP MAN||$6,500 – 10,010||2014 Honda Jazz 2014 GLi Pricing and Specs|
|Hybrid||1.3L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO||$8,000 – 12,320||2014 Honda Jazz 2014 Hybrid Pricing and Specs|
|Vibe||1.3L, ULP, 5 SP AUTO||$8,999 – 12,990||2014 Honda Jazz 2014 Vibe Pricing and Specs|
|Vibe-S||1.5L, ULP, 5 SP AUTO||$11,940 – 12,990||2014 Honda Jazz 2014 Vibe-S Pricing and Specs|