Has Volkswagen made the world’s best small car better, or just heavier?
| Agencies |The entire world of city cars has traditionally had one benchmark, and that benchmark has just taken a big leap forward.
The Volkswagen Polo has just moved on to its sixth generation, growing in every dimension to become not only bigger inside and out than the Mark 5 Polo, but surpassing the 1997 Golf Mark 4 in most critical dimensions, too – a vehicle from the next segment up.
Volkswagen promises the all-new Polo will introduce ground-breaking safety systems into the AO segment, including emergency braking, pedestrian recognition, active cruise control and lane-keeping assist, while adding optional parking assistance.
By moving the Polo on to the smallest version of the Golf’s MQB architecture, Volkswagen has introduced the front-drive small car into the world of the Golf and Passat parts modules, so it also scores a digital instrument cluster as an option. On the downside, it has killed off the three-door variant.
Headlined by the 147kW, 2.0-litre GTi, the Polo remains Volkswagen’s second-biggest selling car in Europe, though it slipped behind the Tiguan to rank third globally.
Such has been the strength of the Polo Mk 5, though, that it was still the biggest-selling small car in the world and the 15th biggest-selling vehicle overall in the first quarter of the year, attracting 148,331 people a full eight years after its introduction in 2009.
“The Polo is a young, fresh car,” Volkswagen’s CEO, Dr Herbert Diess, said. “It combines charisma with strong technology.
“No other car offers so much space for its size. This makes our Polo the number one compact, and it will remain number one.”
The move to the all-conquering MQB architecture has seen the Polo stretched almost everywhere, crashing through the four-metre barrier for the first time in its storied history. The car’s length has grown 81mm to 4053mm, while its wheelbase has been augmented by a considerable 94mm, to 2564mm.
Inside, the Polo gains another 15mm of front headroom and 21mm more in the rear. Critically, its luggage space has ballooned by 25 per cent from 280 litres to 351 litres, which surpasses even the 330-litre capacity of the Golf Mk 4.
“The new Polo brings the future to the compact class,” Volkswagen’s board member for development, Frank Welsch, said.
Volkswagen’s designers claim the other key dimension is that, at 1446mm, it is only 7mm higher, which let them give it a sportier, leaner look.
The Mk 6 will begin life in Europe with five petrol engines, two diesels and a gas-powered model, though there are plans for both hybrid and full battery-electric versions in the future.
One new bit of tech to the Polo is an optional keyless locking and engine start system, derived from the Golf.
But it’s the assistance systems that will deliver much of the Polo’s real-world safety improvements, derived directly from larger, more expensive Volkswagens. The active cruise control is similar to the system in the Golf and Passat, complete with stop-and-go for the DSG-equipped cars, despite its old-school manual parking brake.
While many of the advanced systems will be optional on upper-level cars, even the base versions of the Polo will have City Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Monitoring to alert the driver of people or stationary traffic and then brake. There are also optional systems, like blind-spot detection for changing lanes, a rear-traffic alert for reversing out of car parks and a semi-automated parking system.
The adoption of the optional digital screen pushes the technology down to new lows on the pricing ladder, while the infotainment screens range from 6.5 to eight inches.
Volkswagen has joined the two digital screens together to form one extended panel that stretches across two-thirds of the dash.
The move has forced the central face vents down to become central navel vents, though the outboard vents remain at face height, while the air conditioner’s controls move down as well.