Driven - March 2017

Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI R Line – First Drive

Rewind 20 years and anyone claiming to have had a vehicle with a 1.0 – litre 3-cylinder motor producing 81 kW and 200 N.m would have been labelled a madman. If they were to continue, stating that this revolutionary vehicle would sip just 4.4 l/100km and exhibit refinement to match the then contemporary E39 5 Series, the automotive community would have locked them away in a Corolla in solitary confinement until they came around.

Having now grown accustomed to the trend of downsizing, most of the above doesn’t really come as a surprise to both the public and motoring scribes alike. What does come as somewhat of a surprise is that the vehicle boasting all of the above figures isn’t even a brand new vehicle, but rather an updated version of a car that’s been on sale in South Africa for the past 8 years. There’s no denying that the Volkswagen Polo is the most impressive vehicle within its segment and now it has been given quite a nice little final hoorah if you will.

Its full name is the Polo 1.0 TSI R-Line and it features VW’s hugely impressive 3-cylinder 1.0-litre unit, mated to the 7-Speed DSG gearbox we’ve come to know and love. Along with its the drivetrain, the Polo has also been visually tweaked with a smattering of R-Line goodness in the shape of R-Line design front and rear bumpers, R-Line sill extensions, a rear diffuser, chrome exhaust tip and 17” alloys. 8 years on, the Polo is still a handsome thing and while the interior on this model is much the same as the rest of the range, it remains a superlative example of build quality and tactile pleasure.

Set to make its way into a number of VW Group Products, the 1.0-litre unit features active balancing shafts which cancel out the inherent vibrations within a 3-cylinder motor. It’s a very smooth unit which delivers maximum torque from just 2 000 rpm.  Due it being lighter than the locally produced 1.2-litre unit alongside which it is offered, it’s a free-revving and spritely motor and is surprisingly characterful thanks to the triple thrum emanating from behind the bulkhead. A claimed consumption of just 4.4 l/100km is 0.5 l/100km less than that of the 1.2-litre motor, yet 25 N.m more torque is on offer.

While pottering around town, the low-down torque and the slickness of the DSG transmission really do make it all a bit effortless and brisk bursts between traffic lights actually bring a smile to one’s face. Dynamically, the chassis handles the twisties with aplomb and the sometimes rough and constantly undulating roads along our test route in the countryside of Port Elizabeth were where the Polo did better than expected. Its high-speed stability is far superior to that of its competitors and again, this is all thanks to a well-sorted chassis and incredible refinement, as well as the use of Volkswagen’s XDS Electronic locking diff which you can certainly feel doing its bit in the corners and comes as standard on this model. If I were to briefly sum up how the Polo drives, I would have to say that it is confidence inspiring and effortless, and can be different things to different people. The R-Line package adds an impressive duality to the Polo in that it can be sporty and playful if that’s what you ask of it, as well is comfortable and docile if its economy and a leisurely drive you’re after.

Other standard features include the usual raft of safety features, rest assist, 4 airbags (6 optional), air-conditioning, multi-function steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, sports seats with drawers beneath them and a front-centre armrest with storage compartment.

Priced at R290 200, it comes in at the same price as the already available 1.2 TSI Highline Auto but offers a different box of frogs to that vehicle. Yes, it is rather pricey, but you certainly get your money’s worth – just remember that if you were to tell someone in 1998 that your Polo would be able to match their 523i in all but size and thirstiness, it’d be back to the Corolla for you!