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Drive Life : May 28th 2010
1HERSA1 F012 12 Drive Life May 28, 2010 drive.com.au Baby boomer THE COMPETITORS * Prices are recommended retail and exclude dealer and on-road costs. FORD FIESTA ZETEC How much? From $20,990 Engine 1.6-litre four-cylinder; 88kW/152Nm; 5-spd manual; FWD Fuel use/CO2 emissions 6.1L/100km and 143g/km Safety Front, side and driver's knee airbags but no curtain airbags; stability control. Pros Class leader for dynamics; compliant ride; well equipped; funky interior. Cons Opting for an auto brings smaller, less powerful engine; no curtain airbags available. Our score Not yet tested ( for base CL model). Volkswagen Polo 77TSI MAZDA2 GENKI How much? From $20,490 Engine 1.5-litre four-cylinder; 76kW/135Nm; 5-spd manual or 4-spd auto; FWD Fuel use/CO2 emissions 6.4-6.8L/100km and 152-162g/km Safety Front, side and curtain airbags; stability control. Pros Perky engine; well-matched auto; brilliant exterior design; plenty of goodies. Cons Limited rear storage; no adjust for steering wheel; steering good but not Mazda's best. Our score Not yet tested. HONDA JAZZ VTI-S How much? From $22,990 Engine 1.5-litre four-cylinder; 88kW/145Nm; 5-spd manual or 5-spd auto; FWD Fuel use/CO2 emissions 6.4-6.7L/100km and 151-159g/km Safety Front, side and curtain airbags. No stability control available. Pros Brilliantly spacious and flexible cabin; huge boot plus full- size spare. Cons Expensive; unremarkable features list; stability control not available; ride and steering not a match for best rivals; hard cabin plastics. Our score Price From $19,850 (plus on-road and dealer costs) Country of origin South Africa (3dr Spain) Engine 1.2-litre turbocharged four- cylinder Power 77kW at 5000rpm Torque 175Nm at 1500-3500rpm Consumption and CO2 emissions 5.5L/100km and 128g/km Transmission 6-spd manual or optional 7-spd dual-clutch automated manual Weight 1048-1088 kilograms 0-100km/h 9.7 seconds (claimed) Safety Front, side and curtain airbags; stability control; 5-star crash rating. Pros Smooth and punchy engine; great gearboxes; comfortable ride; refinement; interior quality; build quality; clever and plentiful storage options. Cons Runs on premium unleaded; consumption spirals in city driving; high starting price for five-door model; limited rear space. Our score THE TEST JEZ SPINKS VW's new-generation Polo sets some impressive new benchmarks in its class. If the Golf is the over-achieving son in the Volkswagen brood, meet the problem child. The German car maker's Polo has struggled to attract buyers in the local city car segment. VW has sold 14,000 Polos during the past decade but, to put that into perspective, both Toyota and Hyundai last year sold nearly 20,000 units each of their rival models -- the Yaris and Getz respectively. A fifth-generation Polo, however, has arrived during a purple patch of both product and sales form for VW, and the company is confident of at least doubling the car's volume. The new model has grown in size to break the 4m-long mark -- and come within 10mm of the 1990s Mk 3 Golf. A three-tier range kicks off with an entry-level three-door (built in Spain) simply called the Trendline. The two five-door models (built in South Africa) -- the 77TSI and 66TDI -- follow a naming system applied to other VWs such as the Golf. Our first road test of the new Polo focuses on the 77TSI that VW says will account for the majority of sales. WHAT DO YOU GET? You can get into a Polo from $16,690 but you'll only get three doors. VW's most affordable five-door Polo starts much higher -- $19,850 (plus on-road and dealer costs) -- than rivals such as the Mazda2, Ford Fiesta and Toyota Yaris. These cars, however, need to be in their loftiest trim levels to match the newcomer for equipment. The Polo, for example, is the first city car to introduce six airbags and stability control as standard across the range. Other standard features include 15-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, multi-function trip computer, single-CD audio with six speakers, leather steering wheel with audio controls, and electrically operated windows and door mirrors. WHAT'S INSIDE? The Polo starts its ''miniature Golf'' act as soon as you step into the cabin. Not only are there familiar switches, dials and buttons but the Polo also replicates its bigger brother's thoughtful mix of high- quality surfaces. The bulk of the dash is soft to the touch, while the main surround for the audio and ventilation controls is smooth plastic. Grab-handles are also damped. A minor disappointment is that the dash's spongy plastic isn't carried over to the door trim, while more nit-picking discovers plastic trim in the foot-well that isn't fitted properly. There are plenty of storage options up front, which include large door pockets, deep twin cupholders and a sizeable glovebox that has a clever secret compartment for the owner's manual and a little tray for coins. There's a flip-down armrest, too, which includes another mini cubicle, though it's best for use while cruising as it otherwise interferes with gearchanges. Rear-seat passengers aren't as well catered for, including legroom that is no more than reasonable. Boot access borrows a trick from the Golf with the rear VW badge that flips to open the hatch door. Inside is only 280 litres of space for luggage, though this is still decent for the class. A removable cargo floor reveals a secondary compartment, under which lies a full-size spare wheel. The doors close with a solid thud that contributes to an impression the Polo is as well put together as the Golf. UNDER THE BONNET Volkswagen is doing a better job than any other car maker at making Australians comfortable with small- capacity engines. The Polo features another example of how a one- point-something-litre engine can be both effective and enjoyable. The 77TSI's 1.2-litre uses a turbocharger to generate 77kW of power (hence the model name) and 175Nm of torque. The super-smooth engine pulls well from low revs but is especially lively from just below 2000rpm when the turbo is coming on boost. There's a rorty soundtrack as you rev the engine towards 6000rpm, and maximum torque delivered between 1500 and 3500rpm ensures there's strong mid-range response. Transmission choices are both excellent: a slick six-speed manual or, for an extra $2500, a dual-clutch automated manual that brings quick-witted computer-controlled shifts and a more pronounced exhaust note. The ''DSG'' gearbox's only niggles are tendencies to hesitate if you try accelerating from standstill too quickly and changing gears too early (even in Sport mode) as part of its calibration for improved fuel consumption. It can claim a benchmark-setting figure (for a petrol engine in this category) of 5.5 litres per 100km, though, in terms of running costs, this is offset by a need for pricier premium unleaded. Our test average was 7.8L/100km, with a figure closer to 10.0 during city driving. ON THE ROAD The engine and interior are not the Polo's only refined elements. The suspension nonchalantly shrugs off road blemishes such as potholes, drain covers and ridges to provide a smooth, comfortable ride. Expertly tuned damping also keeps the Polo's body controlled over bumps at speed. Head into a series of corners and decent grip and predictable handling await. The car's natural tendency is to understeer (run wide of your intended line) when pushed but it's telegraphed early. The steering is pleasantly linear and unfazed by bumps; its lightness makes it especially user-friendly for low-speed twirling around town. The smallest cars often struggle to keep a lid on engine and road noise because of reduced soundproofing (for cost purposes), yet neither wind rustle nor tyre roar intrude on cabin ambience. VERDICT The Polo has often been tagged the ''baby Golf'' during its 35-year lifespan but never has it been more appropriate than for this latest- generation model. This junior VW mimics its bigger sibling not only in looks but also the driving experience. And that's no bad thing because it means the Polo 77TSI establishes new benchmarks for the light-car segment in terms of safety, drivetrain and refinement.
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