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Volkswagen Polo Trophy Review – The Career Librarian in a Racing Suit

REVIEW BUYER'S GUIDE
Daniel Wong February 10, 2016 22:33

Considering how a Formula One race car is far removed from the car you can buy off the showroom floor, many these days would instantly roll their eyes at the old “Race on a Sunday, Sell on a Monday” quip. To them it sounds like the parroted excuse of a few to take their cars out racing over the weekend and charge it under the company accounts under the pre tense of marketing.

That may be the case, but it doesn’t explain the enthusiasm of some owners to inject some motorsports inspiration into their cars, or deck them out in the liveries from their favourite past time, such is the case of this, the Volkswagen Polo Trophy. The only question to ask is whether this a hatchback that had spent the weekend racing, or one that had been merely flying its motorsports affiliations comfortably by the grandstands. 

Volkswagen Polo Trophy Specifications
Price: RM89,888 Retail (without registration, road tax, and insurance)

Engine: 1,598cc 4-cylinder
Max Power: 105hp @ 5,250rpm
Max Torque: 153Nm @ 3,800rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Safety Features: Dual airbags, ABS with brake assist, Intelligent Crash Response System, ISOFIX child seat anchor point.
Origin: Locally assembled from Pekan, Pahang

Overview
The Polo Trophy is a limited edition version of Volkswagen’s recently facelifted Polo 1.6 hatchback, which can be singled out from the crowd with its eye-catching WRC-inspired blue and silver livery, black wing mirrors, and a rear spoiler. With a limited run of only 100 units and priced similarly to the standard 1.6 hatchback at RM89,888 (recommended retail price), the Polo Trophy poses as a rather attractive proposition in the compact car market.

Don’t however think that this is a hot hatch version of the understated Polo hatchback, as the drivetrain and standard spec wheels remain unchanged. Though like the Jetta Sport Edition, the Polo Trophy does come with additional goodies in the form of the Blaupunkt Philadelphia 835 7-inch infotainment head unit with navigation and window tinting.

Exterior
If you are the sort of chap who fancies decking out their ride in iconic motorsports liveries, then the Polo Trophy’s livery would definitely get your inner WRC interest buzzing as the Trophy comes with the layout and colours that is reminiscent of the Polo R WRC rally machine – sans the various sponsorship logos. Though the Trophy gets a prominent black rear spoiler, it isn’t quite the WRC car’s massive rear wing appendage, but not like you would need the extra drag and downforce when doing an economy run to and from your workplace.

Otherwise the Polo Trophy comes with the same updated features that was introduced with the facelift, such as the black headlight clusters, black front grille inserts, wider lower grille with a chrome strip, and darkened taillights.

Interior
Aside from the big new Blaupunkt infotainment system, the Polo Trophy retains the Polo’s refreshed new interior. While its clean layout and solid build quality is retained, the update brings with it the modern flat-bottomed item from the Mk7 Golf along with the addition of silver highlights on the centre console, adding a more upmarket ambience to the interior.

Drive and Handling
As mentioned earlier, though it dons rallying clothes and a swank new name, the Trophy isn’t any more different to drive than your average Polo 1.6 hatchback. It has the same 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder MPI powerplant with 105hp and 153Nm of torque on hand and smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission that you would find on the standard Polo hatchback and Polo Sedan.

That being said, while the Polo Sedan powertrain felt very torquey at the low end of the rev range, and was better suited at highway cruising, the engine in the Polo Trophy lacked the Polo Sedan’s low-revving and torquey nature. Instead it had most of its power stuffed above the 4,000rpm mark. Though the nature of its power distribution feels different, the 1.6-litre engine doesn't rev willingly, and as a result it feels a little lethargic to pick up the pace at low speeds. Even the transmission seems to be following the engines tune as it feels ponderous in both shift speed and response at lower engine speeds. According to Volkswagen Group Malaysia, the Polo Trophy test unit is representative of all Polo Trophy units in Malaysia.

On the subject of handling however the Polo Trophy eschew from the city car genre. Fitted with a slower steering rack, the Polo doesn’t feel as easy to chuck around as its contemporaries, such as a Honda Jazz or a Mazda 2. Its relaxed steering is more at home plying the highway routes rather than scurrying about the city or down country roads. That being said however, the Polo manages to derive surprising amounts of traction to work with from humble 185mm width tyres, and it is safe to say that the chassis has more grip on hand than the drivetrain has power to work with.

Comfort and Practicality                                                                                                            
Despite its size and standing in Volkswagen’s model hierarchy, the humble Polo Trophy has all the Volkswagen hallmarks of class-leading refinement. Its sound insulation is excellent at suppressing external wind noise as well as road roar, resulting in a remarkably quiet ambience for a car of its class.

Though there is no denying that the Polo’s cabin is a quiet place to be, it isn’t one to find relaxation in as the ride is quite hard. This is due in part to its suspension tuning that has been made to deliver a better ride stability at high speeds, rather than a cushy or one that wallows about. It has to be noted that the ride isn’t harsh as the damping has been tuned to absorb most ruts and bumps you might encounter on the road, so you and your occupants would be quite well off in the Polo Trophy, even with its hard padding foam in the seats.

In terms of rear accommodations however, leg room is pinched, no thanks to its diminutive dimensions, and the rake of the rear seats is quite steep, which makes it suitable for shorter jaunts for tall individuals. Another limitation with the Polo hatchback is its rather tight bootspace, which is good enough for four average sized duffle bags and backpacks, or a single large luggage with a laptop bag.

Ironically, despite its limitations in carrying luggage and occupants, the Polo has plenty of storage bins in the cabin. Besides the two centre front cup holders, there is a huge storage bin beneath the centre console and a small storage place located beside the hand brake, there is even space in the door panels to stuff 1.5-litre sized bottles. Impressive.

As for the Blaupunkt infotainment system, it is well integrated with its features and functions hooked up to the steering wheel controls. However in order to facilitate its hands-free Bluetooth phone pairing, a small microphone had to be attached to the base of the steering column, which does look slightly out of place.

Fuel Economy and Maintenance
On our drive from Kuala Lumpur, up to Genting Highlands and back again with four occupants on board and weekend away luggage, the Polo Trophy managed a consumption figure of 9.5L/100km. As far as small hatchbacks go, the Polo Trophy’s fuel consumption is average and expected, considering the load it was carrying.

While it might not have the sophisticated turbocharged and dual-clutch transmission of other Volkswagen models, the Polo Trophy also comes with a lengthy 15,000km service interval. The Polo Trophy is also covered by Volkswagen Group Malaysia’s 5-Year unlimited mileage warranty with 5-Year mobility guarantee. Over a 5 year ownership period, Volkswagen puts the maintenance cost for the Polo Trophy at RM4,357.

Safety
If there is one shortcoming the Polo Trophy has is that its safety features aren’t quite up to today’s expectations. The Polo Trophy comes fitted with all the necessary safety features with the inclusion of dual front airbags, ABS with brake assist, and ISOFIX child seat anchor points.  

Conclusion
From the spec sheet you can already tell that the Polo Trophy isn’t going to be that much different from the regular Polo CKD hatchback. Nevertheless while it may not be quite ideal for those who need ample rear legroom and plentiful luggage capacity, the Polo hatchback is a very good car for those who find themselves driving great distances on a regular basis. There isn’t any other small compact car that can deliver the Polo’s blend of big-car refinement and stability.

Admittedly while the addition of the livery and blacked out set dressing is entirely up to your personal preference, the Blaupunkt infotainment system is definitely the main attraction here, considering that you can have it for no extra cost over what you are expect to pay for the standard 1.6 hatchback. So as much as it looks as though it lives for the weekends with its livery, the Polo Trophy is better suited for the humdrum life of the weekday.

About Daniel Wong

Born with a sizable cranium that is only humbled by Rubens Barrichello's, Daniel doesn't care much for numbers or figures but the immediate sensations and experiences one gets from a drive. To him a measure of a good car is one that does what it was set out to do well. A great car is one that draws a smile on your face with a quality that isn't quantifiable and keeps it there.

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