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Driven: Volkswagen Polo TSI – 1.2 turbo for 105PS/175Nm.

When I received the keys for the Polo TSI, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. In unconventional fashion, I test drove the Polo GTI before the less powerful TSI variant and if I have to be honest, was prepared to be disappointed. In truth, I need not have worried. After all, I’ve never really driven a disappointing VW before…

The ‘regular’ Polo TSI has recently been replaced by the Polo Sport some months back. You could call it a facelift of sorts because tech wise, not very much has changed. Under the bonnet lies the same 1.2-litre turbocharged mill that makes 105PS/175Nm and is paired to a seven-speed DSG box. It might not sound like a lot of power; especially not when you compare it against the GTI’s 180PS/250Nm, but you have to remember that the Polo is a small car that weighs less than 1,200kg.

Although potential buyers will face an RM5,000 price hike, they also stand to gain a little bit more kit. These enhancements include fog lamps, 17-inch wheels, USB connectivity, as well as stability control. All these extras are significant additions, especially when they really should have been included from the start. But it is perhaps the bigger wheels and safety tech that makes the small-ish price increase seem almost good value for money; most Japanese sedan on the market right now make do with neither.

Step inside and you’re greeted by the standard VW layout – neat and well built. The armrest is a new addition and can occasionally get in the way, the buttons to control the side-mirrors are still in their awkward position, and dashboard is still clearly missing a few buttons. Despite those shortcomings, the Polo Sport can be a pretty practical car. There’s more legroom in the rear compared to the GTI (regular seats versus sport seats), and plenty of hidden stowage space. Boot space is decent and rear seats can be dropped to accommodate bigger loads; this despite having a full-sized spare.

We’re not saying the Polo is a spacious car though, so don’t get us wrong. This is a small car; the smallest in the price range in fact, and smaller than most of its competition. It will seat four average sized adults in relative comfort, but if the driver is of above average build, then it can become a fairly cramped affair in the back.

Out on the open roads, the Polo Sport was surprisingly capable. Initial throttle response carries a slight lag but the engine is gutsy with good pick-up as long as you keep the revs bubbling in the mid range. In fact, I found little need to slot into S mode (presumably for Sport), the Polo cruising effortlessly in most traffic conditions. Steering is a little light, but feels natural when you’re threading through curves. Body roll is contained well and there’s good grip from the tyres, but the brakes take time to modulate. Suspension on the Polo Sport is fairly compliant and copes well in most Malaysian surfaces. However, bigger wheels equals firmer ride; as my rear passengers pointed out during moments of enthusiastic driving.

Ultimately, the Polo Sport is the sort of car that has its fair share of plus and minuses. Its biggest drawbacks are perhaps the price (too much) and size (too little). But put those aside and you get a really competent package – good looks, agile with decent power, and economical to run. You could say that this is the best balanced car in the entire Polo line-up (Sedan/Sport/GTI) in terms of price and specs; albeit not the most sensible car for first time buyers.

In Malaysia, the Polo Sport will appeal to young urbanites that have little priority for space, opting instead for premium badge appeal. Admittedly, even I see the appeal in the little car. VW’s standard, unlimited mileage five warranty, five year Mobility Guarantee, and longer service intervals only serve to sweeten the deal.

Volkswagen Polo Sport 1.2 TSI
Zerotohundred: 9.7secs
Top Speed: 200km/h (tested)
Engine: 1.2L 4-cylinder turbo
Power: 105PS / 5,000 rpm
Torque: 175Nm / 1,550 – 4,100 rpm
Weight: 1,126kg (kerb weight)
Fuel Economy: 5.2 litres/100km (combined)
Wheels: 7J x 17
Tyres: 215/40 R17
Price: RM113,888 (OTR excluding road tax and insurance)

From taking pictures of supercars on the streets, Won has taken his hobby to a whole new level, by regularly contributing to '(00). Owner and purveyor...
  • A
  • Nov 4, 2012
I own the polo you test driven, i found the tyre grip is terrible, i wonder how you justify it has a good grip?
  • C
  • Jul 16, 2014
Don't ever buy the 1.2 TSI. You'll be sorry later. Seach Google for problems of all TSI engines. Better buy japan cars.