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Volkswagen Polo 77 TSI 2010 review

The reign of the Ford Fiesta at the top of Australia's baby-car class is over. The Fiesta is still a fine car, good looking and a great drive and well priced, but even the benchmark Ford cannot compete with the new Volkswagen Polo.

The new Volkswagen Polo lands in Australia as the reigning World Car of the Year with everything from a taut body structure to punchy small-capacity engines, a seven-speed DSG transmission and excellent driving dynamics. But there is a hurdle. And it's a big one.

PRICING AND VARIANTS

Anyone who wants to have the best tiddler in showrooms today needs to have a well-padded wallet.

The cheapest Polo sounds relatively affordable from $16,990, but it's very easy to spend more than $20,000 on a Polo - before adding on-road costs - and that takes you into the next size and price class against cars like the Mazda3. At the top end it's going to cost more than $25,000 to put a Polo on the road, with extra equipment including upgraded sound, sports gear and pearl paint to really make it meaty.

The Polo starter car is a three-door hatch with 1.4-litre petrol engine, but adding things like back doors, DSG manumatic gearbox or diesel engine - not worrying about leather and treats in the Comfortline package - will scrub the car from a lot of Aussie shopping lists.

Measured against the Fiesta from $16,090 the value in the Polo looks alright, but the light-car class is built on what dealers call the 'transaction' price and there is always some sort of a deal.

Hyundai led Australia into the land of driveaway pricing and there are lots of price-driven deals today on everything from the tiny Suzuki Alto to the Hyundai Getz and even Nissan's quality Micra.

It's also true that all brands have a three-door price fighter with a baby engine, but it's more likely that Volkswagen's target buyers for the Polo will spend more to get more and go past the Polo Trendline with 1.4-litre engine and five-speed manual gearbox.

WHAT DO YOU GET?

There are three engines in the Polo lineup - 1.4 with 63 kiloWatts, a 1.2 turbo with 77 and a 1.6 turbodiesel with 66 - as well as Trendline and Comfortline trim levels. Standard equipment includes ESP stability control and ABS brakes, a five-star NCAP rating, the usual electric assists and fuel economy improved by as much as 24 per cent.

But the big news is the overall package, which is bigger in every direction than the previous Polo. It's more than good enough to form the basis for the upcoming Audi A1, which has a unique body but picks up the basics from the Polo.

DRIVING Paul Gover

Taking the Polo onto home territory confirms my positive first impression from the car's Australian preview drive. The car is tight and quiet, very comfortable, and gets along well with the 77-kiloWatt turbo engine and seven-speed DSG gearbox. Of course, it is a $22,350 package and I've just been driving a nice Hyundai i20 at $14,990.

The big difference from the previous Polo is the basic body. There is more space and comfort, and the car just feels bigger and stronger. It's probably about the same size as the early Golf, back in the 1980s.

What gives it the edge is the deep-down quality feel. It's everything from the way the suspension works to the heft in the doors. The previous Polo always felt a bit flimsy, the suspension crashed and banged, and it was over-priced for what you got.

This time around the basics are right and that allows Volkswagen to re-set the standard for the baby class.

The Fiesta is my light-car benchmark and, compared with the Ford, the Polo is not as trendy looking but feels like it's from the next price class. Which, in some ways, is true.

Even the all-new i20, which I drive back-to-back with the Polo, cannot match the quality feel of the European car. And Hyundai is claiming the i20 takes the company out of the price-first approach of its elderly but great-value Getz.

But enough of the comparison work. The Polo is a car you enjoy driving, either on a shop hop or a long highway run. The TSI engine has great punch, even with four people onboard, the DSG gearbox is slick and responsive, and the seats are supportive and comfortable.

There is nothing really to complain about in the Polo, apart from the bottom line. It's going to take something very special to stop the car claiming this year's Carsguide Car of the Year crown.

SHE SAYS Alison Ward

Normally I'm not a fan of really little cars, which any mum will understand. There is just so much to carry. But this Polo is a tardis and it really works for me and the little man, although I have to fold half the rear seat down to fit the pram in the back.

It drives and handles well, road noise is almost as good as a luxury. So it's really quiet and comfortable. But with that you pay a luxury small-car price. For me, it's worth it because you have a car that will be satisfying for years to come.

I've complained before about these DSG gearboxes, which can take a while to think about what you want and to move away, but it's worth it in the payback on smoothness. And the steering is like it's running on silk.

I like the Polo. And I think it's worth the extra.

THE BOTTOM LINE: A new champion in the baby-car class.

Pricing guides

$8,999
Based on 46 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$5,999
Highest Price
$13,998

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
66 TDI Comfortline 1.6L, Diesel, 5 SP MAN $6,690 – 7,490 2010 Volkswagen Polo 2010 66 TDI Comfortline Pricing and Specs
77 TSI Comfortline 1.2L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $5,999 – 11,800 2010 Volkswagen Polo 2010 77 TSI Comfortline Pricing and Specs
Edition 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $3,900 – 6,380 2010 Volkswagen Polo 2010 Edition Pricing and Specs
GTI 1.8L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $13,990 – 13,998 2010 Volkswagen Polo 2010 GTI Pricing and Specs