October 03, 2014 @ 05:25 PM

Volkswagen Polo: Local Spices

Local assembly pushes the Polo 1.6L variant price down. Ahmad Zulizwan sees if it’s worth it.

Local assembly pushes the Polo 1.6L variant price down. Ahmad Zulizwan sees if it’s worth it
You should check out VW Malaysia’s website and have a look at the Polo model page. The fully imported 1.2 litre version, with a modern, direct injected turbocharged engine and 7-speed DSG gearbox, is represented by vibrant car with a paint lustre so brilliant it must be the work of Photoshop.
Right next to that picture is the 1.6-litre variant. The car is locally assembled and for that, the exact same shade of red is as dull as elevator music for a building filled with tax accountants. Excuse my observation, but is this supposed to mean the CKD version is that much a downgrade?
The CKD Polo has its own mission – to thrust sales, using the RM87,888 price tag as means to achieve that target. Has sales improved? It should, yet no numbers to confirm this since the Pekan-assembled Polo sedan were only introduced late last year (the hatchback came into the market in January 2014).
Another benefit is that it positions the brand in the correct manner: in Malaysia, the VW logo is seen as somewhat ‘premium’, which does not reflect the more humble meaning of Volkswagen that literally translates to ‘people’s car’. This is VW Group Malaysia playing the long game, where a good push of sales figure perhaps take a back seat in establishing the brand in a lighter, more accessible light. Of course, the reliability of every product and after sales service must be up to the mark as well. But this is a test drive report so let’s leave it at that.
Just like in the Polo sedan, a 4-cylinder 1598cc multi-point injection (MPI) engine resides underneath the bonnet. What MPI means is that it’s a simple manifold injection set-up where one injector is assigned to each cylinder. At the other end of this drivetrain is a 6-speed automatic that handles the modest 104bhp going to the front 185/60/15 Apollo tyres.
Obviously, the car is not meant to impress you in the same manner the 1.2 litre variant would. Seat adjustments are all manually done, cruise control is omitted and the seats are all wrapped in unflattering fabric. However, this simplicity actually helps to highlight the car’s character more, especially in reference to how the powertrain package and dampers perform.
In that sense, the Polo 1.6 litre is as honest as you can expect a hatchback to be. Treat the throttle lightly as there is not enough juice to bail you out of trouble. I like cars like this, it claims nothing more that it can deliver, and does what it can do with high competence. It’s not slow but you have to understand that without forced induction, it struggles to overtake swiftly. The gearbox is smooth, not that you expect shift-shock from 153Nm of torque, and it’s well spaced for comfort and efficient driving.
Comfort level and chassis composure are delightfully high, making you believe that there’s more wheelbase underneath you. NVH is more than decent, with engine roar becoming an issue only at high engine speeds. The steering feel is decent but just like the engine and transmission, the more you push it, the less rewarding it becomes.
The biggest draw may be its price – which equips the car only with airbags for those in front compared to the 1.2L that includes curtain airbags – but the car’s basic charm is too hard to dismiss.
RM87,888 (excluding registration, road tax, insurance)
Inline 4, 1598, fuel injection, 104bhp @ 5250rpm, 153Nm @ 3800rpm
6-speed auto, front wheel drive
On sale
To The Point
Love Keeps it charmingly simple
Wonders if a low RM80k price is possible
A good second car purchase
4 stars

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