For many years, the Polo has been a hit in South Africa, where it has gained a devoted following among budget-conscious consumers. In a market where low-cost hatchbacks are plentiful, I set out to understand why this one is so popular.
First things first, tough, and Volkswagen has parted ways with its popular ‘Comfort Line’ specification. An interesting change-up, since the Comfortline has traditionally been a popular choice. When considering a Polo, there is now a Life derivative to choose from being Polo Life and Polo Life DSG. Higher up in the hierarchy is the R Line which, in turn, slots underneath the Polo GTI.
So, how about the exterior of the Polo Life? Its design impressed me at first glance, and I could tell fairly quickly that despite its compact size, this vehicle definitely has character. The engine has a peppy feel, and the cabin is comfortable and well-appointed.
I enjoyed the comfortable nature of the TSI's cabin. The seats are comfortable, and it's easy to find a natural driving position. Unfortunately, it's not as comfortable for rear passengers, especially if they are more vertically inclined, with cramped legroom for the rear bench.
On the flip side, the interior is quite stylish, despite the widespread use of plastic trim. Then again, this isn't supposed to be a premium car... The digital driver's display is my favourite part of the TSI with its straightforward and intuitive design, making the information easily accessible. The infotainment screen maintains a simple yet sleek layout, making navigating the system an effortless task.
When I first took to the wheel of the Polo TSI, I was struck by how easy it is to drive. Because of the light and predictable clutch, the elevated seating position, and the substantial ground clearance, you can drive with complete confidence across gravel roads or even dodge the occasional potholes in relative comfort.
I was surprised by the lively nature of this engine. While it may not set any sprint records, its long first gear ratio enables a reasonably quick launch, and it maintains good torque in the mid-gears at higher speeds.
The TSI is not a sports car, but it offers an exciting driving experience. It becomes apparent in the corners that the Polo is a sensibility-first compact car, with noticeable body roll and understeer that quickly squashes your initial confidence.
VW's Polo TSI comes with the brand's popular 1.0-litre turbocharged motor, which squeezes out a healthy 70kW and 175Nm of torque paired with a 5-speed manual transmission. The result is a 0-100km/h time of 10.8 seconds for this hatchback, which is far from dynamic but well suited to city environments. At high speeds, the box's lengthy, notchy throws and lack of a sixth gear leave some room for further refinement.
Despite the lack of sixth, the TSI slowly sips away at your fuel, with an average fuel consumption figure of 5.4l/100km recorded during our test period. This begs the question, though: performance or economy? If you favour the latter, the Polo TSI should definitely be on your shortlist.
The Polo Life TSI is an impressive hatchback that has significantly improved in quality compared to previous generations. With a reasonable, if a bit costly, price of R385,300, it's certainly worth considering what other options are available in this price range. Its main competitor in terms of tech loadout and engine options is the Hyundai i20, which starts at just over R300,000. In the same price bracket, the Kia Rio and Opel Corsa also offer good value.
The Polo Life TSI is R42,200 more expensive the base Polo and gives you a selection of additions including 16-inch alloy wheels over the standard 15-inches, an optional panoramic sunroof, VW's Digital Cockpit Pro, an optional reversing camera, adaptive cruise control and a variety of other driver safety features. If you fancy better music quality from a Beats 6-speaker sound system and 17” wheels then the R Line is perhaps the better option at a price of R456,800.
The Polo Life TSI may be more expensive than its rivals, but it offers Volkswagen's renowned dependability and will hold onto a good percentage of its resale value. Furthermore, it comes with a 3-year/120,000km warranty and a 3-year/45,000km service plan.
The Polo Life TSI is a small and energetic hatchback that boasts attractive aesthetics, a youthful interior, and a good amount of advanced features within the confines of its segment. While a 6-speed gearbox would be ideal, it's easy to understand the car's popularity in SA.
It offers a smooth and responsive driving experience, thanks to its turbocharged engine and its compact size also makes it easy to manoeuvre in tight city streets and parking spaces. While the Polo provides a well-rounded package for those seeking a stylish and practical hatchback option, it might benefit from a lower price, less plastic, and more rear legroom. Still, it's a solid option that should make all aspects of your daily commute more enjoyable.