Test: Volkswagen Polo TDI
By Damien Tomlinson - 20/Oct/2006
Volkswagen Polo is a very small car. It measures less than 4 metres
long and only 1.65 metres wide, and competes for market share against
similar sized vehicles like the Toyota Yaris, Peugeot 206, Mazda2,
Holden Barina and Ford Fiesta. Unlike most of these cars however, the
Polo has two very neat tricks up its sleeve.
The first is the GTI
model, powered by a turbocharged 1.8-litre petrol engine. Feann
reviewed this one and gave it an 80% score, which you can read about here. The second neat trick in Volkswagen Australia's Polo range is the TDI model. This
cheeky little German car is powered by a 1.9-litre turbo diesel
engine, giving the vehicle incredible fuel efficiency figures, an
impressive cruising range and plenty of power.
And at the time of writing it has no direct competitors.
Peugeot releases it's new 207 model in Australia, which will include a
diesel model, the VW Polo TDI has free reign in its market segment and
unless you go up a level to the B-segment, where vehicles like the Fiat
Punto, Peugeot 307, Holden Astra and Volkswagen Golf exist, you will
not find any other diesel options.
With solid build quality,
good standard safety systems, and having recently benefitted from a new
exterior style, the Polo is an attractive proposition if you don't mind
spending a bit more on your new car. Priced at $22,990, this model
is more expensive than most compact cars, yet is the lowest entry price
for a diesel passenger car in the Australian market. Worth the money?
Model: Polo TDI
Transmission: 5-speed manual
inline 4-cylinder, turbo diesel
Safety: 2 airbags (driver
and front passenger airbags), ABS, EBD
Volkswagen's Polo is a cost-effective way to
get into a diesel car, and is almost as frugal as
some hybrid cars, and more powerful to boot
Engine: VW Turbo Diesel 1.9-litre 4-cylinder
transversely mounted inline
4-cylinder diesel engine has a 1.9-litre (1896cc) capacity, with dual overhead camshafts (DOHC)
that actuate a total of 16-valves. The direct injection diesel motor
has an 19.0:1 compression ratio
and features a turbocharger to improve torque levels, and has a 45 litre fuel tank.
Claimed Fuel Consumption: 5.0L/100km
Max Power: 74kW @ 4000rpm
Max Torque: 240Nm @ 1800-2400rpm
Max Speed: 188km/h
0-100km/h: 10.7 seconds
Polo TDI is the most cost effective way to jump on the diesel
bandwagon and take full advantage of the economy and grunt these
engines have. I reckon it is only in smaller-capacity diesels that you
reap the benefits to the full, and the Polo's 1.9-litre 74kW engine is
more than capable at pulling the car around at oh-so-low revs, albeit
with that somewhat agricultural noise from the bonnet region.
The benefits of these engines can be markedly lessened when there is a bigger car attached. Take Audi’s A4, whose 2.0-litre diesel works so hard that its fuel benefits are almost negated in all but city driving.
the Polo TDI is a wonderful city car, and the diesel is the perfect
accompaniment for this bantam cruiser, weighing 1222kg. Here is a zippy
small car that is practical for city applications, it is comfortable,
refined and, with combined consumption of just 5.0 litres per 100km
travelled, will only need a drink every 900km or so.
This 5.0L/100km fuel efficiency rating is not far off the Honda Civic Hybrid's startling 4.6L/100km, which gives you a good idea of frugal diesel engines can be.
The TDI model gets none of the Polo GTI’s
luxury or performance enhancements; it ships with 14-inch steel wheels
with hub caps, cloth trim and grey rub strips. That said, it does gains
solid rear disc brakes over the the base 'Club' variant's rear drum
brakes, and benefits from braking aids such as ABS and EBD and gets a
couple of airbags too, and is in fact the most expensive of the three
But with its strong pulling power and efficient
engine, this price is more than justified, and being a German designed
car (built in South Africa) it's more likely to hold its resale value
better than something like the Korean-built Barina and other vehicles
built of its type.
Due to the diesel engine's low end power - it
generates 240Nm @ just 1800rpm - this means you can leave the car in
third gear when coming to a crawl in a traffic jam, and then just
tickle the clutch and wind in the power and off she goes. It's pulling
power is great, and overtaking at freeway speeds is much less
frantic than trying to stir a 1.6-litre petrol engine into action.
Volkswagen Polo TDI will race from 0-100km/h in 10.7 seconds on its way
188km/h top speed, which is pretty quick for such a small car. Inside
the vehicle, the cloth seats are a little unsupportive and flat,
and the shifter is a long drop down from the wheel, but you'll still
have fun giving the diesel a workout.
Other than the flat front
seats and low gear shifter, the interior of the Polo TDI is better
than most compact cars. Everything is well polished, from the sporty
blue-lit instrument cluster to general fit and finish, and though the
boot has only 270 litres of space, it opens up to 1030 litres when the
60:40 splitfold rear seat backs are folded back. There's also a
4-speaker stereo with a CD player and climate control air conditioning
to keep occupants happy on long, hot journeys.
As far as driver's
cars go, the Polo probably isn't going to make it into the top
20 most desirable cars in the world. It understeers often and the
steering isn't communicative enough to inspire confidence through fast
corners. But that's not its purpose. At $22,990, the Polo is only ever
going to be a car for the missus or your daughter's first car, but it
really deserves more than that. The plucky turbocharged diesel is a lot
of fun to punt through the gears (5-speed manual only) and it's as
comfortableand as stylish as anything else going around at the moment with a fairly smooth ride.
the Polo succeeds in achieving its purpose – great fuel
economy, good levels of equipment and safety in a well-styled and
package. With the breaking down of barriers that once barred Aussie
drivers from access to decent passenger diesel cars, the Polo TDI
is a great way to take advantage of all that this
“new” technology offers. If you find the idea of a 900km
cruising range appealing, not to mention the kind of power delivery
that makes driving completely effortless (yes, even in a manual), then
you should seriously consider this compact diesel car.
With competition non-existent in the compact diesel car segment - Peugeot will begin selling a diesel here in its new 207
range in '07 - there's really no reason why you shouldn't check this
out if you're in the market for a fuel-efficient compact car. It's well
built, looks stylish, and everything works. Worth the money? I think so.
- Fuel Economy
- Fun To Drive
- Boring Seats
- 5-speed Manual Only
on the review? The Car? Your Car? Email us.