The sedan version of the Volkswagen Polo has been the car of choice for thousands of South Africans, and rightly so. It is an affordable sedan which is decently frugal, easy to use and reliable. So, it is no surprise that the new Polo Sedan is here with many new bells and whistles.
As is becoming the new norm with VW, the Polo leans heavily on digital implementation. There is a lack of buttons and dials, as everything is either accessed via the infotainment screen or the streamlined air-conditioning slides, which take some getting used to. The clever design of the dash and other aesthetic pieces does give you a cool visual, especially for such an affordable car.
It's stylish, particularly from the front. The LED headlights bring the front end together with the chrome grill in a detailed collective which I was rather fond of. The back end, however, is surprisingly large and doesn't entirely fit the style of the rest of the car. The 16" alloys are nothing to write home about but do fit the overall aesthetic. The ground clearance was rather impressive, not that it's a concern for most owners.
The first thing I noticed upon receiving the Polo Sedan was its cream interior, and although bold, I wasn't a massive fan. Almost everybody who saw the car commented on the colour. Typically, younger occupants didn't enjoy the colour, but the more mature passengers were sold. If you have kids, I would definitely opt out of the cream as it stains easily.
It comes with two front airbags, which was a concern of mine, but it does keep costs down. It also comes standard with ESC, a multi-collision braking system, park distance control and a reversing camera in the Life spec.
The 7" touchscreen blended in well with the dash and was easy to use. If the car is parked in the sun or the screen gets hot, I found that you would lose the ability to use it. It didn't want to pick up touch inputs, and the colour changed to purple. Most of the time, though, it was a good system with pleasant sound and easy connectivity with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
One thing which impressed me massively but didn't come as much of a surprise was the amount of boot space you get. At 521 litres, it lives up to the sedan reputation, but the effect on the overall styling is a rear end that looks somewhat bloated.
The ride quality of the Polo is probably its best feature in the driving department. It handles the bumps well and remains stable on trickier roads, plus there's very little drama at highway speeds. As you can imagine, with 81 kW and 152 Nm, the Polo's 4-cylinder 1.6-litre naturally aspirated motor feels sluggish and could do with slightly more power, especially at reef altitude.
It completes the 0-100 km/h sprint in a not-so-impressive 11.2 seconds. The 5-speed manual gearbox is decent at best; I found the throw was rather long, forcing you to sit at higher revs on the highway. Hopefully, the 6-speed automatic gearbox will help alleviate this issue. Assists like cruise control make an extended trip more bearable, coupled with the all-around comfortable driving experience from the Polo Sedan; there's not much to complain about, despite the lack of power.
Traditionally Polos have been the benchmark for good entry-level vehicles, and the same can be said for the current Polo sedan. It starts at R318,300 for your manual and tops off at R365,500 for your automatic with the Life spec. I have been testing the Life manual, which is in the middle at R360,900. The Polo also comes with a 3-year/120,000 km warranty and a 3-year/45,000 km service plan. This is on the short side, especially since many sedans will be raking up big numbers on the odometer. I would have preferred to see a 4-year plan with more than 45,000 km of service support.
The new Polo Sedan is stylish for a run-around sedan. It has a striking front end, and the interior has a quirkiness about it, despite the colour. It is a comfortable drive despite the transmission's notchy character.
There is enough space to fit five passengers with few complaints, and the tech adds to its modernized atmosphere. Although cars are getting increasingly expensive, the Polo sedan comes in at around R40,000 cheaper than its Toyota Corolla competitor, which is impressive. If you are looking for a family run-around or a fleet vehicle with more than enough boot space, a comfortable ride and a modernized atmosphere, then the Polo Sedan may very well be for you.
*Follow-up testing of the Volkswagen Polo sedan 1.6 Life auto
After a follow-up test with the VW Polo Sedan auto, we can conclude that the 6-speed automatic gearbox doesn't alleviate the gearing issue. In fact, we’re of the opinion that it’s completely unsuited for the car, despite the increasing demand for automatic gearboxes. With the Polo's relatively low torque output from the naturally aspirated engine, it seeks out the higher end of the rev spectrum to maintain momentum – a quality that has a negative effect on fuel consumption and engine noise penetrating the cabin.
Other TGSA team members appreciated the sharp lines of the Polo Sedan's rear styling, especially at the rear.
As for the beige interior? Well, the auto derivative we had on test had just over 7,000 kilos on the clock with already prominent stains seated in the cream-beige interior. This begs the question of cleanliness following 100,000 kilometres of fleet or family use.