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Test Drive: Volkswagen Polo 1.6

by Tan Dee May 15 Apr 2014
Test Drive: Volkswagen Polo 1.6

“Okay, I’ll give you one more chance,” says the Volkswagen marshall.

Accelerating as much as my rationality would allow me to on the tarmac, I flicked the car to the right and yanked the handbrake, skidding the car into a near-impossible perimeter of orange cones, just about pulling off a J-park—at fourth try nonetheless.
 
Assembled in Pekan, Pahang, the Polo 1.6 is Volkswagen Malaysia’s third CKD model, following the Passat and Polo Sedan. Unveiled at the Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show last December, with a price tag of RM87,888—almost RM30,000 less than the previous fully-imported Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI—the Polo 1.6, at face value, makes an attractive pitch over the Fiesta or Cerato.
 
However, compared to the Polo 1.2 TSI, which the current Polo 1.6 CKD takes after for its looks, the Polo 1.6 CKD has shaved off a few features, such as the four-airbag system and fabric door trim to a dual airbag system and fabric door side armrest trim.
 
Although the Polo 1.6 targets the younger, first time car buyers, Volkswagen also casts a wider net, exclaiming that switching from a sedan to a hatchback practically makes you feel “ten years younger”.
 
Any younger and I probably shouldn’t be driving but I certainly felt more daring behind the wheel. Whether this was because I was doing handbrake turns with a car that wasn’t mine is another story. No orange cones were hurt in the process by the way.
 
 
HANDLING
The torque, if you must know the numbers, 153Nm at 3,800rpm, gives the car a satisfying surge, which makes overtaking on highways effortless, and not to mention stylish.
 
With 15-inch Riverside alloy wheels, the Polo 1.6 just about exudes that sporty feel—particularly when it comes in red, the car almost screams for a racing stripe or two
 
For those who prefer a more reserved shell, note that the Polo also comes in white, grey, silver and black. On the road, the Polo 1.6 provides the driver with confidence and is brand-worthy enough for most cars to give way to when cutting lanes, small enough to double-park when you need to dash out to the ATM, but large enough to ferry around your entourage for a night out. 
 
The hatchback is also certainly appealing enough for a hotel doorman to rush over to your door side and presentable enough with its sleek appearance that’s almost, but not nearly, as good looking as its popular sibling the Golf GTI, but just enough to impress that new friend you just offered a lift home.
 
The Polo 1.6 prides itself on fuel efficiency with fuel consumption of 6.3 litres per 100km—roughly 16km per litre. At a slower pace through the back roads, suspension seemed a little stiff resulting in a windy, bumpy ride.
 
However, on the highway, the vehicle was easy to handle—within the speed limit. Ultimately, the Polo 1.6 checks off all the points for a city car.
 
 
SKINS
In the driver’s seat, the leather finishings on the steering wheel, handbrake lever and gear knob are notable, as well as the chrome accents on the control panel, around the radio and AC knobs, light switch and steering wheel—adding that little touch of luxury to every manoeuvre of the car.
 
The Livon upholstered seats provide adequate support and complement the Polo 1.6’s sporty exterior. However, when seated in the passenger seat with all senses disregarding traffic, I couldn’t ignore that the fabric felt coarse against exposed thighs and found myself wishing for a higher thread count.
 
Space-wise, the rear seats fold down—handy for those productive trips to the ol’ Swedish furniture mega store or the occasional airport pickup runs. The car comes with cruise control along with an up-to-date entertainment system with Bluetooth connectivity for mobile and audio streaming, SD card slot, USB and iPod support as well as AUX-IN support for the music junkies who won’t settle for local radio.
 
 
VERDICT
Some may object to the comparison, however I honestly can’t help but assess the Polo 1.6 CKD against the Polo TSI 1.2 CBU without feeling somewhat shortchanged.
 
Bearing in mind that the German-engineered, Malaysian-assembled car is nearly RM30,000 cheaper than the CBU, I was left wondering if the ‘savings’ really came from the lower import tax or simply off the corners of the previous Polo TSI 1.2 as import tax on CKDs below 1,800cc is a low ten per cent compared to the 30 per cent for CBU vehicles.
 
But the question at the end of the day is: would I buy the Polo 1.6? For its looks and the brand, yes, I would buy this car. I’d say it’s a safe choice for first time car buyers who want to own a car that they’ll be proud to keep without fantasising about an upgrade as soon as they drive out of the showroom. Thirty thousand saved is 30,000 saved.
 
The Polo 1.6 is versatile, practical and, after spending a few hours of acquaintanceship, desirable—it grows on you, and is far from juvenile as some higher end, hot(ter) hatchbacks appear to be. The car somehow moulds according to the personality of the driver, making it a great all-rounder pass-along car within the family. 
 
As the saying goes: it’s not what a car does, it’s how it makes you feel while driving it.
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