Volkswagen wants to “own” the private market in which its small Polo hatchback (above) competes against the likes of the Toyota Yaris, Honda Jazz, Suzuki Swift, Ford Fiesta … the list goes on.
“We need to get on the shopping lists of more people,” says VW New Zealand general manager Tom Ruddenklau, introducing the new-look Polo range at a new-look price. Engines are new, too.
The updated Polo gets new exterior treatment front and rear, along with an overall improved interior, classier instrument cluster and infotainment system, new steering wheel, and safety upgrades. A turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol engine replaces the current car’s 1.4-litre unit. The bonus is more power and torque and better fuel economy. Ruddenklau expects this bundle of improvements to grow Polo sales in readiness for the all-new model in a couple of years.
The outgoing Polo is number five in small private sales so far this year, behind the Swift, Jazz, Fiesta, and Holden Barina and ahead of Yaris, Mazda2, Hyundai i20 and Kia Rio. Polo is number seven in the overall small segment, ahead of Mazda2 and Kia Rio.
Yaris jumps from sixth in private sales to second overall, because of its fleet/rental sales. “We (VW) don’t have the margin to deal in big rentals,” says Ruddenklau. “We need to build growth around the private market.”
VW research shows the market believes Polo is a bit too twee – “too Ponsonby”, says Ruddenklau – too expensive, and that European servicing costs in general are too high. “We are not helping ourselves; we are not communicating,” he said. “We have to lay the cost of servicing on the table.”
Price, too, has been studied. “The bulk of the small car market is priced between $24,000 and $28,000, so we have priced Polo where the meat of the market is,” he said. The higher-riding CrossPolo, for example, once retailed for upwards of $36,000. The facelifted model now lists at $29,990.
There are three models in the updated range: Comfortline, Highline, and CrossPolo. The Euro6 1.2-litre unit in Comfortline and Highline generates 66kW/160Nm, or 3kW/28Nm up on the old 1.4-litre. Claimed fuel use has improved, too, 4.7-litres/100km (60mpg) against 5.5 litres. The CrossPolo’s 1.2-litre engine delivers 81kW/175Nm, a 4kW improvement. VW claims fuel use for the higher-riding CrossPolo of 4.9 litres/100km (58mpg).
Comfortline gets 15-inch wheels and the choice of a six-speed manual ($22,990) or seven-speed DSG double-clutch gearbox ($25,990). Highline ($27,990) and CrossPolo ($29,990) get DSG units. Highline rides on 16-inch alloys, CrossPolo on 17-inch ones.
Polo isn’t the most powerful of the small cars – that belongs to the 1.5-litre Jazz and its 97kW – but it delivers the most torque, flexibility that was obvious on a brief drive. VW says Polo is the only car in the segment with town-and-around fuel use of under 5 litres/100km. That makes Polo 31 per cent more fuel-efficient than its closest rival and consequently $580 cheaper on fuel each year, it says.
- The market for small crossover/SUVs like CrossPolo is growing to the point where Toyota is preparing a ‘CrossCorolla’. Toyota as usual remains tight-lipped about the car but spy photographers from Europe’s Automedia group say the camouflaged Corolla pictured below rides higher and on bigger wheels than the standard model. “That in combination with what appears to be off-road type bumpers and a front end that could hide a facelift for the entire Corolla range leads us to think this is a new Corolla variant,” says Automedia.