Compact, tough, aggressive… The new Polo would make a great rugby player
MILES PER GALLON: 51.4
CO2 PER KM: 128 GRAMS
GOOD FOR: RUCKS & MAULS
BAD FOR: SHOPPING MALLS
The charismatic coach of my young son’s rugby team – a front-row veteran of many campaigns and a fearsome master of the dark arts of scrummaging – is a great believer in the inspirational sporting slogan. He bellows these from the touchline, and loves to print them up on the team’s kit. We’ve had “Pain is just weakness leaving the body”; “Pain is temporary, trophies last forever” and “Mini rugby: half the size, twice as mean”. And “Small but tough!” – the advertising tag line for the latest Polo, VW’s most feisty and endlessly durable veteran – could easily be one of his.
So omnipresent is VW’s second-bestselling car, that 34 years after it first went on sale, the Polo is now inseparable from its moniker. Mention the word “polo” and there are few among us who still have a mental image of a snaggletoothed hooray in tight white trousers staring down from his horse. Most of us will think of our first car… (Incidentally, after the Golf and the Polo, I’ve always felt the motoring public would welcome a VW Rugby.)
This latest edition of the Polo is the fifth generation to have gone on sale. With each iteration it has become longer, wider, taller – and cleverer. I owned a Mark II Polo back in the early 90s and for me its most pleasing aspect was the fact that it was simple and sturdy… Still, we can’t reverse to those heady low-tech days. Modern cars have to be larger to accommodate all the extra technology and safety features they now come packed with, and possibly also the fact that we are all getting larger, too (though not necessarily cleverer). This “biggest-ever” Polo is actually 7.5% lighter than the outgoing model, which contributes to its higher fuel economy and lower emissions. It is, reassuringly, 20% cleaner than the Mark IV.
The appearance of the car comes from the pen of VW’s head of design, Walter de Silva, so it’s no surprise that it looks like a slightly shrunken version of the Golf. While most things (photos, stews, waistlines) improve as they are reduced, the diminutive Polo now looks a bit overwhelmed by its large lower lip and wide grille. It may share the same “face” as many other cars in the VW line-up, but as we all know the same features can look dramatically different across a family. (The bulbous “Love nose” my brother and I have both inherited doesn’t look half as bad on our father.) The car comes with five engine choices and four trim levels, so there’s something for everyone, from teens to pensioners. And all variants have airbags, ABS and ESP fitted as standard. This year alone, VW expects to sell just under 40,000 of these Polos in the UK – to add to the 1m previously sold in Britain and the 10m-plus worldwide.
Despite the fact that the year has only just begun and the car has just gone on sale, the Polo has already been named Car of the Year 2010 – narrowly pipping Toyota’s brilliant IQ into second, with the new Astra taking bronze.
So, small but tough and now it seems unbeatable, too. If only I could say the same about my son’s rugby team…?