Volkswagen products stand out for their mechanical excellence, well honed refinement and workmanship. Throughout their range, they strive for the same perfection in driving characteristics, solidity, finish and workmanship. Therefore, when you slide behind the wheel of the latest Polo, you can expect something grand. Certainly, when you know that this car came with the latest, state of the art three cylinder 1 liter petrol engine, coupled to the flawless 7 speed DSG auto box. Just read on…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Petrol engines are becoming more than popular nowadays, and VW has thoroughly prepared itself for this trend. They have been working intensively over the last few years on a new three cylinder gem of an engine, crammed with all the latest solutions in efficient engine design, and the result is more than stunning.
Of course, there were very good examples on which they could orient themselves, like Ford’s EcoBoost three cylinder, and they knew the benchmark was put very high by the competition.
In developing this new unit, they based themselves on the EA211 engine series. EA211 is VW’s recent family of advanced gasoline engines and incorporates both three-cylinder and four-cylinder engines. The EA211 engines made their debut in the small Volkswagen up! and progressively moved into car segments up to that of the Passat. Engine versions with 1.0, 1.2 or 1.4 liters of displacement—with or without turbocharging—are used, installed in the various model series.
Driving is believing
Starting up the engine, one notices immediately its uncanny quietness. Indeed, this is thanks to the combination of various internal engine modifications the engineers reached noise levels of good four-cylinder engines, without using additional sound proofing materials.
It is totally vibrationless too. The aluminium pistons and forged connecting rods were weight-optimized – just like a racing engine – to such precision that the 1.0 TSI can do without a balancer shaft. Moreover, the four counterweights reduce internal forces in the crankshaft, which in turn reduces loads on the crankshaft main bearings, and results in very smooth running.
Besides all this mechanical refinement, there is power. Because, with this engine, VW engineers wanted to achieve real economy, and this means staying at lower to middle rev ranges when used in normal conditions. So they worked on achieving high torque and power at low revs. This 95 HP version develops its maximum power between 5000 and 5500 rpm, is good for 175 Nm (17,8 mkg) of torque from 2000 to 3500 rpm. In this rev band, engine power goes from 50 to 87 hp. You guessed it, from 3500 to 5000 rpm you are having close to maximum power all the time.
Putting your foot down will bring a 0 to 100 acceleration time of about 11 seconds, and the top speed is around 187 km/h. The gearbox then changes up at 6000 rpm, and the sound at these higher revs is now rather more like an efficient six, quite pleasing to our ears. When cruising, the high gearing makes the engine virtually inaudible even up to higher cruising speeds, and at the legal 120 km/h, the 3 cylinder just seems sleeping.
This makes motorway cruising a very relaxing affair, and the Polo overall totally belies its weight and size. Subjectively, you have the impression to drive in a much larger car. This is also due to the excellent sound insulation and the comfortable suspension setup. Add to this the overall mechanical refinement and the absence of any vibrations, and you have all the ingredients of a true Gran Turismo. Add to this in the Highline version the adaptive cruise control which works with every new generation ever more smoothly, and you know why we had very often a broad smile on our faces.
A joy in town
The excellent DSG gearbox and the uncanny flexibility of the engine and its good torque make urban driving a genuine pleasure. Gearbox changes are timely and supersmooth, the engine feels totally happy at pulling and doing its work at very low revs, being indeed virtually inaudible in the process. You have almost the impression, when driving at constant speeds over the city boulevards, to drive under E-power.
Moreover, steering is light and precise, the acoustic parking aids and graph display of the Parkpilot in the Highline version we drove were also very welcome when moving into tight parking spaces.
The handling is flawless, this all important platform for the VW group offers everything you want in terms of handling precision, stability, cornering power.
Economy is of course excellent, with the clever gearbox, efficient engine, and weight of around 1100 kg together with decent aerodynamics, it is no pain to reach consumption levels between 5 and 6 liters, and even when you totally trash the car, hardly more than 8 liters per 100 km will flow through the injectors. This engine is also geared for low internal friction.
Like small-sized yet extremely robust crankshaft main bearings and connecting rod bearings for example, which make a significant contribution towards reducing friction. The gearbox is well programmed to meet the engine’s good torque characteristics, and will change up very soon at smaller and medium throttle openings.
The cabin of the latest Polo is roomy for its class, and the seats have just the right firmness and support to make you feel comfortable for hours on end. Ergonomics with all the familiar VW commands, handles and knobs is excellent, there is enough room for your sundry items, the split rear backrest will let you use all the luggage space you want.
The space in the rear is now increased, with very decent legroom for the rear passengers. Remember this Polo is now inside just as big as the Golf Mark IV in 1997. By the way, this new Polo is only produced in a four dour version exclusively, which says a lot… The boot, with both seat backs upright, is a very decent 351 liters, which is 25 % more than the previous model, and only 10 % less than the Golf…
The nice round dials for speed and revs are a joy to look at, and the wide instrument cluster is made to receive a digital version, where the map can dispayed right in front of your eyes. A very pleasant setup, which we experienced in the 115 HP 3-cylinder T-Roc we also tested for you and of which we will also report soon.
Remains also the truly stunning level of finish and quality of workmanship and the materials used in this Polo. A premium feeling every minute you spend behind the wheel of this Polo is the result. Of course, depending on the version, there is all the infotainment and connectivity you want, the option list is vast…
A joy to drive and own, a quality built supermini which is roomy, practical, timelessly styled, with state of the art modern petrol engine power. Giving you smoothness, economy and more than decent performance, which makes it a fine, compact but true Gran Turismo. Of course, urban boulevards are also its home, and this Polo is your ideal everyday companion in every situation for years to come.
Hans Knol ten Bensel