VW Polo 1.0 R-Line DSG BlueMotion: economy meets driving fun
The Volkswagen Polo hatchback epitomises smart, efficient, subcompact hatchback motoring. Whether you’re a student, a young family, a housewife, a commuter or an empty nester, there’s a Polo that’s right. There’s even a Polo GTI for robot racers.
But the 1.0 R-Line DSG Bluemotion is a Polo with a difference – a high-tech three-cylinder model that points the way to Volkswagen’s future.
That somewhat long-winded designation is a contradiction in terms, however. The R-Line badge is synonymous with racy, distinctive motoring with a touch of individuality and flair – perhaps not exactly what you’d expect of Polo.
BlueMotion, on the other hand, is all about high tech-inspired efficiency, fuel economy, energy regeneration and low emissions. So how do these two seemingly divergent concepts find common ground in a humble, mainstream, subcompact hatchback?
At face value, this little Polo is all about attitude and aggression. The R-Line badge confirms that the more pugnacious appearance is the result of a sporty body kit that includes deeper front and rear bumpers, sill extensions, a rear diffuser and an integrated exhaust. But as it turns out, all is not what it seems.
That body kit may give this Polo an extrovert appearance, but under the skin, the emphasis is more on efficiency and eco-friendly tech than on tar-burning performance. The Bluemotion tag gives the game away: it confirms that the Polo is fitted with a stop/start system, as well as battery regeneration under braking.
Both features are aimed at reducing fuel consumption and exhaust emissions – the one by shutting down the engine when stationary at traffic lightS, for instance, and the other by generating power to charge the battery under braking.
The tech might be focussed on efficiency, but the Polo’s cabin is hardly Spartan. There’s smart dark upholstery for the sports seats, a multi-speaker audio with Bluetooth and USB, air-con, remote central locking and electric windows.
Our test car had a further R30 000 worth of options, including a larger colour touchscreen for the entertainment system, a panoramic sunroof, and park distance control. However, at this level, cruise control should be standard, while shift paddles can’t even be had as an option.
At the heart of the Polo’s Bluemotion concept a 1,0-litre, three-cylinder turbo petrol mill, the first of a series of small-capacity, high-output engines destined to power VW’s next-generation models, including the recently facelifted Golf range.
Who would have thought that you could squeeze 81 kW of maximum power from just 999 cc? Or that those kiloWatts would be partnered by a 200 Nm torque peak? That’s more than 80 kW per litre.
Also contributing to the efficiency agenda is a latest-generation seven-speed DSG gearbox, which transfers the urge to the front wheels.
Naturally, the engine’s focus is squarely on economy, with Volkswagen claiming an ultra-frugal 3,8 litres/100 km at a steady 120 km/h, and a combined cycle thirst that’s still just 4,4 litres/100 km. However, as it turns, the real charm of this Polo lies elsewhere …
It might have a sporty body kit, but nobody would expect a one-litre Polo to be a ball of fire. And indeed, it’s by no means a pocket rocket in straightline terms. Even so, there’s something about the gruff engine note, the rapid gear shifts, the short ratios and the responsive chassis that encourages the driver to give it stick.
And if you do, you’re rewarded with a car that offers just the right balance of zest, poise and sparkle. In straightline terms, the Polo stops the zero to 100 clock in 9.3 seconds, while top speed is just short of 200 km/h.
That’s by no means fast nor furious – but then you don’t need to go fast to have fun. There’s good low-down shove, but you still need to work your way through the slick gears to make full use of the muscle on offer, which is no hardship.
The brakes have loads of bite, and the steering gains some decent heft when pressing on. The ride is compliant, but those low-profile tyres add a welcome edge of tautness, together with just enough grip to keep things tidy.
So, is the Polo 1,0-litre R-Line an econobox or a driving delight? Well, both actually: piloted with some circumspection, this Polo will squeeze around 20 kilometres from each litre of unleaded.
But if you’re keener on its dynamic virtues, it offers plenty of entertainment without risking being locked up. It’s an unusual, but unusually satisfying combination of virtues that makes this Polo stand out from the rest.
Engine In-line three-cylinder, 999 cc, turbo
Power 81 kW @ 5 000 rpm
Torque 200 Nm @ 2 000 – 3 500 rpm
Gearbox Seven-speed DSG dual-clutch, FWD
0-100 km/h 9,3 sec
Top speed 197 km/h
Fuel consumption (claimed/tested) 4,4 / 6,7 litres/100 km
Operating range (claimed/tested) 1 020 / 670 km
CO2 emissions 102 g/km
Retail price/as tested R290 200 / R319 649