It’s been some time now since Volkswagen Group Malaysia launched its locally-assembled 2014 Volkswagen Polo Sedan, so we thought we ring up the company to book its test car just to see how it’s all holds up after its been shown some miles. The unit we had was just about to reach its 10,000km mark, and with it, a few bruises potentially brought on by one-too-many overzealous test drivers. With that in mind, this was still a German, albeit now assembled in Malaysia. Here’s how it went down…
Buyer’s Guide: At the time of writing, Volkswagen Group Malaysia is making it very easy for everyone to own one of its compact vehicles, Polo Sedan included. Deals of monthly instalments at just RM199 a month are being thrown about, and at the Japanese B-segment prices being asked for this German sedan, it’s all very appealing. However, bear in mind that the monthly instalment of RM199 will end after your first year of ownership, and more importantly, can the German Polo Sedan, now assembled in Malaysia, make up for the difference afterwards?
Driving a 2014 Volkswagen Polo Sedan: As German as you’d expect Initial driving impressions with this car are that you get what you asked for, in a compact and easy to drive B-segment sedan. On one hand, it’s a German-designed car, so you’re bound to have some impressive handling. But on the other, it is one of Volkswagen’s bargain models: a stretched out version of its supermini sibling, originally designed for use in India and Russia. So any overly high expectations of the ‘booted’ tyke may be a little misguided.
PERFORMANCE: Just because the CKD Polo doesn’t get TSI turbocharging, it doesn’t mean their 1.6-litre MPI mills aren’t capable. Off the line, the sharp throttle response of the Toyota Vios may suggest that it’s quicker. While in the Polo, its poise masks the lively abilities of this car. That said, you may be left wanting a little bit more from its 105PS, 153Nm of torque engine, in which case, we recommend using the six-speed auto’s Tiptronic function to manually shift your way pass slower traffic by keeping the revs where you want it. When you’re not in a hurry, the automatic torque converter transmission does get along nicely without too much notice.
ECONOMY: As with its CBU predecessor, the Polo Sedan’s 1.6-litre engine and six-speed auto box pairing has great fuel efficiency about it. 6.5-litres/100km figures aren’t far off in the city, and if you mix in highway driving, those numbers keep improving.
HANDLING: It’s a given that this car handles like a proper German. At the wheel, you can thrash it about left and right, and the Polo Sedan will hold its own very nicely – even though the speed-sensitive steering is always a bit too light, and there’s no ESP (electronic stability control) on board. Too much pace around a corner, and even the least experienced drivers will quickly notice the rear begin to slide slightly, giving you ample time to correct any exuberant driving (which we don’t ever recommend on public roads).
RIDE COMFORT: Conversely, while it may succeed at speed, the Polo Sedan is left behind a little bit when it comes to the bumps: there is a degree of appreciable comfort, but it just isn’t as cushy as its rivals in urban environments. On smoother highways, the car’s firm-biased balance is more tolerable, but only if you’re willing to bear knowing that Japan’s front-liners do offer far better levels of refinement.
Living with a 2014 Volkswagen Polo Sedan: Here’s where it gets a bit hard. Literally…
INTERIOR: Starting out with what would’ve been there already with or without the 10,000km clocked, the interior of the Polo Sedan feels undoubtedly dated against what’s available in the market today for the similar prices. It all just looks a bit uninspired, and in a way, ‘there’ with only the purpose of being there, rather than to bring any sort of advantage to you. The seats aren’t very comfortable to sit in for long, and the fabrics are a little abrasive to nestle in to. The plastic materials used inside were hard, and the panels you’d normally rest your arms on felt unrefined and coarse against what we know is available from the likes of the Honda City and Toyota Vios.
CONVENIENCE & SPACIOUSNESS: Clearly, ‘function’ was the more favoured outcome for the Polo Sedan, with there being a healthy list of features fitted to the car, albeit in a slightly under-refined manner. Rear air-conditioning is always a welcome sight, and the RCD 320 audio system had a multitude of pleasing functions like Bluetooth streaming abilities – in short, there’s enough to appreciate about this car’s creature comforts. However, the monochrome pixelated graphics on the RCD 320 player weren’t the best to look at, and the rear seats were of the same brash fabrics as the front. Also, front and rear spaciousness proved a bit too cramped for someone of my six-foot stature. In the boot, you’ll get 454 litres of space, which is trumped by the Honda City’s 536 litres, but is a handy amount when you need it, and has a wide opening for easy access.
NOISE, VIBRATIONS, HARSHNESS: Likely a problem area limited to just this one test vehicle, the Polo Sedan had quite a lot of unnecessary vibrations coming through the cabin. Yes, outside noises are cancelled out to a satisfying extent, but the engine’s roar was quite intrusive, with the 1.6-litre engine making every its efforts known as you drive along. The car we were driving also had some issues with severe vibrations – we suspect shot engine mounts.
HONK-HONK: However, there is one unforgiveable sin the Polo Sedan commits, and that’s to do with a blaring horn that goes off at maximum volume every time you unlock the car, twice when you lock it. Rather than any conventional and reasonable ‘beep’ or ‘click’ tones, the CKD Polo Sedan whole-heartedly blows its trumpets as mentioned, and apart from waking the neighbours everywhere you go, it startled us repeatedly to the point of not wanting to unlock or lock the car ever. This feature has to go.
ompeting with a 2014 Volkswagen Polo Sedan: Meet the titans Seeing as how the Polo Sedan is price at RM89,888 (without insurance), the B-segment sedan falls right into contention with two of Japan’s hottest sellers in Malaysia. 2014 TOYOTA VIOS 1.5 G: You may get a powertrain that’s been used throughout the generations, with fewer horses coming from it than the Polo, but everything else about the all-new Vios is pretty darn impressive. From the Japanese fit-and-finish, the clever ergonomics and spaciousness, the good looks, nippy drive, and the hardened reliability factor, you cannot deny this car’s appeal. Is it a bit too common? Yes, but there’s a good reason for this. 2014 HONDA CITY V: In its highest spec, the all-new City is fitted with everything a B-segment sedan needs: good infotainment, looks, performance-economy balance, and safety features beyond the Polo Sedan’s arsenal. While slightly shorter on torque, the City does have more horsepowers, and a new CVT transmission to boast. Not to mention some pretty impressive rear spaciousness you must see to believe.
Verdict: Here’s what we think… All in, the 2014 locally-assembled Volkswagen Polo Sedan left us with a very good first impression when it was first launched here. Four airbags, decent infotainment, and the promise of German quality throughout is very appealing, especially at its asking price. Even without an ESP system on board. But since then, Toyota and Honda have released their entries into the segment, which have seriously upped the stakes beyond what the current competition has to offer. Does the Polo Sedan still make a solid case for itself? Unfortunately, the writings on the wall point to no. It’s a good car behind its time.