REVIEW | Forget personal feelings, here's why Volkswagen's Polo is worth its salt

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The updated Volkswagen Polo is again the benchmark vehicle in its segment.

The 1.0-litre engine is available in two states of tune, of which we drove the 70kW version.

The Polo Life derivative is priced at R350 000.

For more motoring stories, visit Wheels24


Say what you want about it, but the Volkswagen Polo is justifiably the best-selling passenger car in South Africa. Sure, we must have to keep in mind that it shares that honour with the Polo Vivo, but the Polo is the car most South Africans are eager to acquire.

Produced locally at Volkswagen's Kariega plant (formerly known as the Uitenhage plant), the car is built for domestic and export markets. The GTI derivative is only produced here and nowhere else in the world. Quite a feat, we'd say!

But as the years drew on since the car first came to market five decades ago, Volkswagen finetuned the Polo recipe and made the hatchback an even better proposition than the previous model. Build quality is world-class, perceived impressions are backed up by quality materials, and ride quality remains a class-leading trait.

The current sixth-generation Polo received a facelift recently and launched a new sales assault on the local market. Though the refresh is primarily cosmetic, it's enough to reaffirm eyes on this top-selling model.

Volkswagen Polo
2022 Volkswagen Polo Life

Keeping things… simple

Before darting around town in the new Polo GTI, we had the Polo Life on test. The one fitted with the 70kW 1.0-litre engine. Now, anything other than the GTI will be bland on the inside, but the test team agreed that the Polo's interior is a space where form follows functions.

The centre console, for example, features the new multimedia screen available to the Polo range and works well. It's both functional and intuitive, and not at all difficult to understand. And unlike the GTI, which has gone slightly more digital, the Polo Life is more simplistic in its execution. The climate controls are still operated via the classic Polo rotary dials, and the air vents give the car a familiar feel.

READ: DRIVEN | Improved VW Polo GTI leads the charge as refreshed model line-up launches in SA

The steering wheel is riddled with buttons, but it does not feel cumbersome or over-the-top. Ahead of the driver, the information display can be altered to show many of the car's telemetries through various 'views'. The updated Polo's interior is more mature, but without losing its identity. 

If anything, Volkswagen managed to keep the interior's design as familiar as possible but managed to add a contemporary touch to the equation.

Volkswagen Polo
2022 Volkswagen Polo Life

Still the class leader

Here's where things get interesting for the updated Polo, because it continues with the trusted ride quality the sixth generation has become known for. Floor the throttle, and the turbocharged three-cylinder engine spools up easily to propel the hatchback forward with undoubted minimal effort. No doubt aided by the 175Nm of torque.

Power is sent to the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission that feels mechanically solid with every gear change, returning a fuel economy of just under 7.0-litres/100km.

At times, though, it may feel that the engine wants power, but Volkswagen answers that desire with an 85kW version of the same power unit mated with its DSG transmission. Although, the extra 15kW comes at an R20 700 premium.

READ: Not the new Polo! Nevermind headlights, car thieves now stealing entire VW front ends

In all, the updated Polo's biggest strength is its ride quality. The suspension setup, the chassis on which it rides, and how it deals with bumps are all traits that ensure its position at the top of the charts. It's what sets it apart from the competition and why thousands of South Africans want to buy it every year. And though some might feel that the car has become expensive, it does little to detract from what it has to offer.

The (2022) Volkswagen Polo Life 70kW is priced at R350 000 and comes standard with a three-year or 120 000km warranty, a three-year or 45 000km service plan, and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty.

Volkswagen Polo
2022 Volkswagen Polo Life
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