If you needed any reminding the Polo is the most beloved motor car in South Africa, just take a look at these numbers. Year-to-date, behind China and Russia, South Africa is the biggest selling Polo market in – the – world. Sure, that figure includes the SA-only Polo Vivo but still; 24 994 units last year beats out all European markets, including Germany and the UK, and even the none-European markets that Uitenhage exports Polos to: places like Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Not too bad for a Polo that’s been in a run out year and an overall passenger car market down by 7.3 per cent.
This translates to Volkswagen’s A0 (this is what Volkswagen likes to call Polo-sized passenger cars) market segment share of 36 per cent with the Polo – the healthy foothold that pushes the Volkswagen Group to nearly 24 per cent total market share for all passenger cars in South Africa. Just to remind you, Uitenhage is one of seven Polo production sites in the world and has delivered 265 000 Polos for export since 2009.
The wheelbase, body dimensions and styling are largely unchanged but we’re confident in calling this a new Polo when you look at the transformative makeover it’s undergone where it matters. Firstly, gone are the wheezy normally aspirated MPI engines. Instead 1.2-litre TSI engines for the whole range, with the TDI, GTI and BlueMotion coming later. The 1.2-litre TSI – similar to the step up between the previous 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre range – comes in two states of tune: 66kW/160Nm and 81kW/175Nm.
The engines are imported from Germany, bringing the local part content in the car down from 75 per cent to somewhere below 70 per cent but this does bring the local Polo into the 21st century in terms of turbo-downsizing that was happening all around it. Doing so transforms the driving characteristics of the new Polo in the process – with a 20 per cent improvement in fuel economy and emissions going hand-in-hand with a 40 per cent improvement in torque and an overall 18 – 20 per cent improvement in performance between the two derivatives. What’s not to like about that?
The vital stats for the 66kW are 0-100kph in a shade over ten seconds, a combined cycle fuel consumption of 4.9l/100km and emissions of 117g/km. The 81kW is deeply impressive: 0-100kph in a Mk1 Golf GTI-busting 9.3sec, a top speed just shy of 200kph, a combined cycle fuel consumption of 5.1l/100km and CO2 emissions of 120g/km. The gearboxes are new as well. With five- and six-speed manuals and a seven-speed DSG only available on the 81kW Highline.
The styling tweaks are minimal, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, but if you’re paying attention you will spot them. The new Polo has had its chrome accents moved a little lower down on the front grille. Giving it less of a ‘smiling face’ as Volkswagen liked to call the previous one; and more of a sportier, wider stance on the road. The rear reflectors have moved to the lower bumper and new details have been added to the rear light cluster. It’s undoubtedly just another Polo, but a slightly more mature, sportier one too. The Trendline gets 14-inch steel wheels, the Comfortline gets 15-inch alloys, while the Highline gets 16-inch rims to better fill those signature-flare Polo wheel arches.