2013 Volkswagen Polo saloon Review

This Indian-made VW is like a Toyota Yaris saloon, but a little more expensive

By Shahzad Sheikh

Polo Sedan

There is no such thing as a bad car anymore. I keep telling myself that as I begin to write this review. The truism does indeed apply to this little Indian-made Volkswagen Polo saloon – it’s not bad. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with it, especially with prices starting from AED57,500 for the S and AED63,900 for the SE.

I remember testing a Polo hatchback with a diesel engine in the mid-2000s around London and finding it an absolute hoot! With that in mind I was rather looking forward to driving the 2013 Polo saloon. Small with a peppy little 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine putting out over 100bhp, this should be fun to punt around in for a few days, I reckoned.

It’s a decent enough looking little thing, unassuming and inoffensive, rather like a Jetta that’s been miniaturised. But from the rear three-quarters it gets a little ungainly. You’re not buying it for svelte good looks are you though? You’re buying it because it’s an affordable daily runabout with a German badge on it.

At first glance the interior seems up to scratch. Then you scratch it. And leave the tell-tale white marks of cheap plastic. It’s a bit hard and brittle, don’t be fooled by the leather-lined simulated finish, there ain’t any real hides in here but yours.

As you’d expect from a V-Dub, all the switch gear is present and correct, and feels of adequate quality. And it’s a reasonably comfortable if humourless place to be, with enough space in the front and back and decent boot.

Testing the SE trim we benefited from 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights and chrome pack, plus leather trim for steering wheel and gear knob. Even on the standard car, the S, you do get two front airbags (a good thing according to recent crash test results on Indian cars), aircon of course, electric mirrors and windows, remote locking and cruise control.

You also get a four-speaker radio with CD player, but no Bluetooth. It sounds tinny and weak, so you try plugging in your iPhone into USB port to see if your own music will sound any better. Good luck with that. It certainly starts charging, but despite the stereo allegedly having MP3 playability, it fails to read music off a device that essentially acts as an iPod. Oh dear.

Polo Sedan

But does it get you around town? Yes of course it does. And it performs rather well on the motorway too with a big car feel to its gait. The performance becomes a little wanting at high-speeds, but for city driving it’s plentiful.

It would be even better of course if the soul-sapping automatic transmission demonstrated a little more interest in proceedings, or perhaps was ripped out and replaced with a manual shifter. It is of course very economical, so the payoff is less, and less costly, visits to the pumps.

The compact dimensions must of course ensure that it handles though, right? Well yes it handles just fine. It turns, goes and stops generally as you will it to do so, and grip is decent from those little wheels.

What it doesn’t do is energise and excite the keen motorist. There is no throttle sensitivity whilst cornering, on lifting off the mild understeer, well, remains mild understeer. The steering complies but isn’t necessarily willing, and there is nothing to be gained from eager peddling or God forbid, spirited driving.

You just plod along in this thing, departing and arriving in utter dependability, in a car that feels fairly solid. It does everything you need it to do, quietly and efficiently.

But then the 1.5-litre Toyota Yaris saloon does all this just as well and starts for slightly less at AED53,500 (that’s AED4k difference, which at this end of the market, is a lot).

But that’s not the point is it? You want to buy this car because it has a VW badge on the nose, and that should stand for something. At the least it should stand for some desirability.

However there isn’t really much appeal here than the rather drab Yaris and you should just frankly save up a bit more and get a Jetta, which is a far better proposition. Other alternatives are the funky Ford Ecosport starting from AED60k or a Chevrolet Cruze from AED61,500. Or if that’s too pricey, there’s always the Renault Duster at AED49,900.

2013 Volkswagen Polo Saloon – The Specs

S: AED57,500
SE: AED63,900
Engine: 1.6 four-cylinder, 104bhp @ 5350rpm, 113lb ft @ 3750rpm
Performance: 11.1secs 0-100kph, 184kph, 8.0L/100km
Transmission: Six-speed auto, front-wheel drive
Weight: 1200kg

This or the Yaris, or something else? Which would you choose? Let us know below.

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