Does a non-turbo 74bhp petrol engine cut it in the new Volkswagen Polo?
There are two turbocharged engines available in the new sixth-generation Polo. Weâ€™ve tried out the 113bhp TSI turbo, and been impressed.
But what about the two non-turbo Polo engines? Can a 64bhp 1.0 litre petrol-powered three-cylinder really be man enough to power a modern supermini thatâ€™s reputedly bigger than the Mk 4 Golf?
Weâ€™ll have to wait a little longer for the answer to that. Meantime, however, weâ€™ve managed to take the 74bhp version of this small unblown triple out on test. Whatâ€™s it like?
Well, the Polo in general is pretty much new from the ground up, sharing many major components with VW Group cars as different as the Golf,Â Tiguan, andÂ Audi TT. Perhaps of more interest to new Polo owners is the fact that they get access to a much more sophisticated suite of electronics, from a package of driver aids including autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot assist and rear traffic alert to reconfigurable instruments that can put a full colour navigation map directly in front of the driver.
Volkswagen Polo 1.0 74bhp
PriceÂ Â£14,900 approx
Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, petrol
Torque: 70lb ft
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
Top speed: 106mph
CO2 emissions: 110g/km
As is the way with new cars, the new Polo (which no longer includes a three-door model)Â is longer and wider. The overall length increase is 81mm, but the 92mm addition to the distance between its front and rear wheels is more significant as it means more cabin space.
Besides being bigger, the Polo is stiffer â€“Â but itâ€™s also heavier, by around 50kg. That extra size, and especially the extra width, is evident as soon as you clap eyes on it. Thereâ€™s a more sculpted look to it, enhanced by the new VW trademark thin grille and headlight assembly, the horizontal rear end lines and the unusual angled surface running through both pairs of external door handles.
Previous Polo cabins have never been anything other than sober, and thatâ€™s putting it mildly, so itâ€™s a refreshing change to see a much more vibrantly colourful interior on this new car. You can still get the bank manager-style cabins if you prefer them, but the new two-tone ceramic and black dashboards, coloured satin inserts and brighter upholsteries are carried off with rather more aplomb in the flesh than you might expect from the description.
What is it like in use? Predictably refined and civilised, thanks to a quiet powertrain and good isolation from road and wind noise. As soon as you tug on the door handle you know youâ€™re entering into a well-built environment, something with real substance. The soft-feel dashboard and its smartly integrated infotainment system is especially agreeable.
You get plenty of time to appreciate all this quality too because the absence of a turbocharger knocks off 59lb ft of torque and moves the peak 1000rpm up the curve to 3000rpm. The 0-62mph time of 14.9 seconds tells you that a fair bit of elbow work will be required on the gearstick to keep things humming along at a reasonable pace. Although there is an option of a seven-speed DSG gearbox on the lower-powered 89bhp turbo Polo, this 74bhp car makes do with the default five-speed manual transmission.
At least the torque is evenly distributed, and the refinement can fool you into thinking youâ€™re not going as fast as you are, which is a nice trait. Itâ€™s not a car in which to try and set new A-to-B record times. The chassis will easily handle such uncouth behaviour but there wonâ€™t be much of a spark in the experience. As the unstoppable supersizing continues, so it seems does the diminution of the frantic enjoyment that used to be part and parcel of supermini motoring.
Given the small difference in price â€“Â probably in the region of Â£550 â€“ between this 74bhp car and the turbocharged one, and the turboâ€™s better fuel efficiency (62.8mpg against the non-turboâ€™s 58.9mpg, and 103g/km of CO2 against 110g/km) â€“Â youâ€™d have to be a real diehard to opt for the 74bhp car.