Tuesday, January 19, 2016

TEST DRIVE: 1,000km in a Volkswagen Polo 1.6 Hatchback (Polo Trophy Limited Edition spec)

Long ago, but not too long ago, about early March or April 2014 actually, I was handed the key to the locally assembled Volkswagen Polo 1.6 Hatchback which I promptly tested and reviewed. It was a very accomplished hatchback. I did enjoy its well though out simplicity and I thought that it was one of the most pleasant sub RM90,000 car that Malaysian Ringgit could buy at that time. This time, that same model has now been around for a while and many are seen plying the Malaysian roads.

The Mk 6 Polo has been in its current form since 2008. Of course, by now Volkswagen had face lifted the car as it has been around for a while. Malaysia got the face lift sometime mid last year. And this face lifted Polo Trophy Limited Edition was what I managed to get my hands on. The face lift adds some redesigned bumpers (front more noticeable than the rear), a new Blaupunkt touch screen infotainment unit (which looks better than the one with the tiny LCD readout with a few lines on it) and a new steering wheel (that looks like the one used in the current Golf TSI). 

The Trophy Edition adds some large stickers and a boot lid spoiler that even a Polo GTI would be jealous of. Of course, the Polo GTI would just think that this is just some pretender as the Polo Trophy still keeps the tiny 15 inch wheels and tyres and the same 105ps / 153Nm normally aspirated 1.6liter engine. But the Trophy Edition was launched to commemorate Volkswagen's victory in the 2015 WRC. Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday. And yes, the facelift is actually nothing to shout about. Its basically the same ol', same ol'.

I have to report that this car is still a bit of gem in terms of what is offered. Last time, I used to Polo Hatch on the usual urban routes and I also took the car on my favourite bit of hill climbing route – Jalan Gombak to Genting Sempah. It performed well and was one of the nicer cars that one could buy in the sub RM90,000 price range. You see, it is one of those cars that costs under RM90,000 and it is sold in the hotly contested B and C segment of cars. I remember writing this:

For RM87,888 (without insurance) the Volkswagen Polo 1.6 Hatchback is indeed a nice car to own. If anyone is looking for a car in this RM90,000 region this is one of the cars you should look at. Of course being Malaysia the tax structure is darn frustrating as you could buy a Proton Inspira which is a larger car and is actually a better buy. The Polo is very well designed and has a certain perceived quality in a car that is not from this price range. If you want this car as a capable second car, one that you could use for outstation trips, this Polo is it. If you are one that does not travel outstation and want a nippy city car. This car would do well too. More than you'd think too.

I did say that this is a capable second car and one you could use for outstation trips. So what I did with the car this time was use it for a roadtrip with the family on board. I drove all the way south to Desaru, Johor with the Polo Hatch. About 1,000km was covered by Yours Truly and family in it and the tiny car is darn capable. In this compact hatchback, I basically did what I usually do with our larger C segment or D segment cars that we usually use for our short three day two night family getaways.

As you can see we managed to load it up with some cabin sized bags, a laptop bag, the kid's float for the pool, a bag full of shoes and (not in the photo) a few more plastic bags full of food and miscellaneous stuff. These were stuff for four people to go on a short three day two night trip to a beach report somewhere. We left early that day from Petaling Jaya and headed to our first stop which was the Johor Premium Outlet located some two and a half of non-stop driving (if the traffic was good) from PJ.

As there was not much traffic, we were at JPO after about two hours or so. The Polo hatch performed as it should and it was a stress free drive on the North-South Highway. The car was actually able to cruise at the national speed limit quietly. Even if you took it up to about 140kmh it was still able to cope with ease. You have to give credit to the 6 speed automatic gearbox that the car has. It would give ample acceleration even with four persons and luggage inside as well as long legs to allow cruising at speeds of about 130-140kmh with ease. The revs were basically kept low because of the gearbox. This also means less fuel consumption. It also shifts smoothly and efficiently. Anyway, after a bout of shopping (I bought a shirt!) we pushed off for Desaru by about 5.30pm.

Desaru is about an hour and a bit more from JPO using the Senai-Desaru Expressway. This highway is relatively new as it only opened in June, 2011. This tolled highway is a combination of a four-lane dual carriageway (Senai-Cahaya Baru section) and a two-lane single carriageway (Cahaya Baru-Penawar section). The first stage is basically quite straight with some sweeping high speed corners. This means that you make great progress in the first stage where you can drive at highway speeds and overtake slower moving vehicles. But when you reach the single carriageway sections, the skill of overtaking comes into play. The road is still straight with sweeping bends most of the time but it has a surface that has a lot more undulations, bumps and crests than the first part of the highway. But whatever the case, it still cuts short the travel time from a good two and a half hours to about an hour these days.

As stated, the Senai-Desaru highway is that it isn't as smooth as the North South Highway. This is especially so on the single carriageway section. But it is a great place to test the Polo Hatch's suspension and body control. On the bumps, crests and undulating surfaces the little Polo was unfazed and still blitzed its way on the road towards Desaru. The small 15 inch balloons work well with the suspension which throughout the trip did not bottom out one bit and kept the little Polo planted. Even with a full load I have to say again that the Polo's body control is excellent and handling is good for such an entry level car. What the Polo Hatch showed me when I road tested it alone on the roads to and from Genting it could do the same with more people on board. So getting to Desaru was really easy in the Polo Hatch. No pressure or fatigue whatsoever. When you driving this car on the small kampung (village) roads in and around Desaru it is also easy as it is essentially a compact hatchback. The turning circle is good too.

I had one complaint the first time I tested the Polo Hatch was that the seat squab was a little thin. Actually it wasn't. I drove over a thousand KM in the car from PJ to JPO to Desaru and back without any complains that my thighs and my bum was suffering. It was all okay. And I am a chubby boy you must remember. Even the passengers did not complain. My eleven year old daughter could also sleep at the rear seat without any complaints. I even asked her about the level of comfort and she (who usually spends her time in large sedans) thinks that the back seat is a pretty decent place to be seated in. I also think that the Polo Hatch's NVH levels are low for a B segment car. I think it is closer to something that you could buy in the C segment. It is that refined.

I suppose this is because the Polo is designed by Germans who also designed the Autobahn, that highway where some stretches of it are without a speed limit. So most German cars would have automatically been designed for high speed cruising. This is why high speed stability and good levels of NVH is a must for even the smallest German car out there. This Polo is excellent. I already stated that it has good body control, and now I have to add that it has good NVH too. It may have been designed with the most basic, normally aspirated engine and gearbox that Volkswagen has but when it comes to being a good drive, it still scores well. I also have to say that Desaru scores well as a holiday destination too. Nice scenic beaches without much of a crowd compared to Penang, Langkawi, Port Dickson, Melaka and anything on the west coast of the Peninsular. 

Of course, no car is without faults. I didn't like the new touchscreen infotainment unit. It may now have more colour displaying on its screen but I think radio signal tracking in this Blaupunkt unit is horrid. If you are just commuting in one area like the Klang Valley it is okay but if you have to go outstation a lot I am of the opinion that the signal tracking is a bit weak. This could be due to the built in antenna. It needs a bigger antenna for it to receive radio signals better. It was a hit and miss with the radio in and around Desaru and along the Senai-Desaru Highway. This radio signal reception is an issue if you do a lot of roadtrips. And the number plate holder came loose....which has nothing to do with the car really. 

Fuel consumption is great too. I filled up the Polo's tank from empty to about three quarters full when at Desaru and then on the trip back where we ended up at Putri Harbour / Nusajaya and the surrounding area before heading back home towards PJ late in the evening  (the light work well, illuminating the road ahead of us on out trip home). After an average of 140-150kmh on the highway on the trip back I topped up for fuel somewhere in Kajang. The car basically sips petrol and does not like guzzling one bit. Even with a hard right foot the little car came back with about 8.2liters/100km with a full load on board. Holy crap! This car really saves you some petrol.

The Polo Hatchback is still an enjoyable car to drive. Now add the fact that this is the only Volkswagen that comes without a turbocharger and a dual clutch gearbox reliability should be extremely high and maintenance costs low .Remember folks, this is the only Volkswagen out there that is simple enough for anyone to even DIY its maintenance. This is why I recommend it to everyone unlike the other models which add the complexities of a TSI engine and that dual clutch gearbox (DSG). It may only lack outright grunt if you are used to something more powerful. But it took me to Desaru and back without missing a beat.

 I actually enjoyed that smooth traditional torque convertor gearbox that actually added to the refinement of the car (as well as being sporty by kicking down at least two gear ratios when you need it the most). The engine, just a basic, no frills 1.6 is actually quite good with torque at the right place and at the right time.. Not a scorcher, 11 seconds to 100kmh from 0 if you're alone but if you carry your family, you need about 13 seconds. But note that most family cars in the B and C segment out there only manage 12-13 seconds most of the time. You also have that higher than usual cruising speed from such a small car. You need this to get from one far away place to another quickly without feeling fatigued. This little car actually allowed me this pleasure. Not many small cars have this ability to cover long distances without making the driver feel worn out. This Polo is one of them.

Conclusion: Still highly recommended. Does not feel long in the tooth even though it has been around since 2008-2009 (globally) but most manufacturers out there also keep their cars out on the market longer these days (eg Ford Fiesta - 2008, Suzuki Swift -2010, both over 5 years on the market). In stock (non-performance form unlike the Polo GTI) it is still as good or better than some of its competitors out there. The long legged 6 speed automatic helps a lot as does the torque of its 1.6liter engine (most of the cars in the B segment come only with a 1.5liter which may have some valve timing and other wizardry still loses out on 100cc – you cannot beat displacement still). It is one of the small cars which could replace the bigger car you already have if the need arises. 

Oh, if you do buy this Trophy Edition, do remember that this is just the normal regular Polo with some make-up on. It still is the same thing and not a fire spitting hot hatch. Even though marketing says it is.

PriceFrom RM89,888.00

Polo 1.6 MPI
Price (RM)
Version77 kW (105PS) MPI
Recommended Retail Price - Peninsular Malaysia 1)RM 89,888
Recommended Retail Price - East Malaysia 1)RM 92,888
Engine, gearbox, electrical system
Engine type4-cylinder petrol engine
Cubic capacity, litres/cm³1.6/1598
Injection methodMulti-point fuel injection
Max. Output, kW (PS) at rpm77 (105)/5250
Max. Torque, Nm at rpm153/3800
Emission categoryEuro 4
Gearbox, standard6-speed automatic with Tiptronic
Fuel tank capacity, litres45
Weight, kg
Gross vehicle weight1570
Unladen weight (kerb weight)1020
Top speed, kph
With automatic gearbox with Tiptronic184
Acceleration from 0-100 kph, s
With automatic gearbox with Tiptronic11.1
Fuel consumption, litres/100 km 2)
Fuel grade 3)Premium unleaded, min. 95 RON
CO2 emission combined, g/km162
Exterior dimensions
Body type5-door hatchback
Length/width/height, mm3970/1682/1453
Wheelbase, mm2456
Track front, mm1463
Track rear, mm1463
Wheel size6J x 15
Tyre size185/60 R15
Turning circle, m10.8


Sharul said...

You know what, after 2 years I still keep coming to this article. Well written review. I think this is possibly the only comprehensive review of VW polo 1.6 in Malaysia. No other reviewer seems interested to review this little car. Kudos to you

Rigval Reza said...

Thank you for the kind words. 2 YEARS? A long time...but I have to say I still think that this is still a very nice car to drive in 2018.