Volkswagen Polo 1.5 TDI Review
The facelift to the Volkswagen Polo isn’t merely cosmetic, it gets improvements on all fronts

2014 Volkswagen Polo Review

Car Tested: 2014 Volkswagen Polo Facelift

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 5.67 – 8.51 lakhs

The new 1.5-litre TDI engine in the Polo gives it some seriously impressive performance

One of the best cars in the premium hatchback space, the Volkswagen Polo has finally got a comprehensive update which follows the global facelift which was unveiled a few months back. The Polo is a very well engineered car but the big gripe was the lack of punch from the 1.2-litre 3-pot diesel engine. Volkswagen did try to satiate the hunger of enthusiasts with the launch of the Polo GT TDI, which was plonked with a 1.6-litre TDI mill from the Vento. The 1.6-litre engine did not fall under the purview of small car excise norms and Volkswagen went ahead and developed a new 1.5-litre engine which killed two birds with one stone. In the higher state of tune, this mill produces 105 PS and 250 Nm which is identical to the old Polo GT TDI. While in the lower state of tune, it replaces the 3-cylinder diesel mill which offered lacklustre performance in the regular Polo. So do the changes transform the Polo for the better?

Volkswagen Polo 1.5 TDI Road TestVolkswagen Polo 1.5 TDI Test Drive2014 Volkswagen Polo Review

The Polo gets minor cosmetic updates, some of them are difficult to spot but the changes make it look fresh

Exteriors – The Volkswagen Polo has always been a good looking car and the design is so well executed that inspite of the vehicle being on the road for 5 years, it never felt like it was losing its sheen. The minor cosmetic updates on the outside do induce freshness in the vehicle. The headlights get minor revisions on the inside and now accommodate dual barrels while the fog lamps get cornering lights next to them (work up to 40 km/hr and are activated on bends). The three slat grille gets the black treatment on the upper two slats while the bumper is heavily revised, getting a chrome strip running across for that premium touch. The side of the car remains the same but the Polo gets new alloy wheels. The rear too remains more or less the same, the big difference being the new bumper which incorporates reflectors on the bottom and a new license plate holder. The tail lights are re-profiled but very minutely. We would have loved it if VW had offered daytime running lights and blinkers on rearview mirrors on the updated Polo.

Volkswagen Polo 1.5 User Experience
The 3-spoke flat-bottom steering wheel has transformed the visual appeal of the cabin

Interiors – The changes on the inside are more comprehensive although still not a world apart. The highlight is the leather wrapped three-spoke steering wheel which gets a flat bottom with chrome and piano black inserts, it is very nice to hold and makes you feel that you are driving a much more expensive car. It gets new audio control switches which are more intuitive to use as they are placed on both sides of the wheel (the right side ones are used to control the multi-information display which has sub-menus, in the old car these controls were on the right stalk). The instrument cluster remains the same but the multi-information display now features a bigger font in white colour which is easier to read than the red coloured font found on the old car. The centre console gets metallic silver finishing which looks good while the seat fabric has also been altered minutely. The horn has a better tone and the car also gets footwell lighting which activates whenever you open any door.

Volkswagen Polo 1.5 TDI Rear Seat
Rear seat continues to lack space but the quality inside is stupendously good

The interior gets a dual-tone finish like the old car which continues to induce an airy feel inside the cabin. The front seats are supportive and offer good comfort but the same can’t be said about the rear seats which lack legroom. The boot though, continues to be big and can accommodate a lot of luggage. Quality of the cabin is par excellence, everything is so well put-together and the attention to detail is simply outstanding for a car of this segment. Small touches like auto up/down of power windows for all doors is a very small yet useful feature unseen in this class of cars. Disappointingly though, the Indian model skips on a completely new instrument cluster, new infotainment system and a front seat arm rest which is offered on the international Polo facelift.

Volkswagen Polo 1.5 Engine Review
This oil burner offers improved low and mid-range performance with reduced NVH

Performance – The pre-facelift Polo diesel was offered with a 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder mill which generated 75 PS and 180 Nm. While output figures were on par with rivals, the 3-pot mill had poor NVH and sounded like a tractor when you pushed it near the redline. What made matters worse was the pronounced turbolag which made city driving a pain. This engine has been replaced with a 1.5-litre 4-cylinder engine (downsized version of the 1.6 TDI) and immediately the Polo boasts of class leading output figures, this mill thrusts out 90 horses at 4200 RPM and peak torque of 230 Nm between 1500-2500 RPM. Performance and NVH is just drastically improved, the new Polo having more than enough steam for both city and highway duties.

Volkswagen Polo 1.5 TDI Performance Review
New 1.5-litre diesel engine replaces the 1.2 TDI, produces 15 PS and 50 Nm more

The 1.5-litre diesel engine gives the Polo excellent drivability in the city and a lot of punch out on the highways

Turn on the 2014 Volkswagen Polo and the oil-burner settles into a refined idle. Get going and one will immediately appreciate the good low-end pep which makes ambling around town such a breeze (you can get through speed-breakers in third gear). There is good juice right from the word go but the mid-range is where this motor feels the strongest as it does take time for all the power to come in full flow. There is no kick in the pants feel as power delivery is linear with no signs of bogging down till 4000 RPM. The engine does rev all the way to 5400 RPM but post 4000 RPM, the trail off in power is very evident. Thus it’s best to keep the engine in its mid-range as that’s where it excels. First gear is good enough for 45 km/hr, second for 80 km/hr while third will take you all the way to 120 km/hr.

Volkswagen Polo 1.5 TDI Redline
The Polo 1.5 TDI takes 12.34 seconds to do 0-100 km/hr, it redlines at 5400 RPM

The 1.5-litre diesel engine performs even better on the highways as you can simply go down a gear or two to make quick overtakes. 0-100 km/hr takes 12.34 seconds as per our VBOX runs, which is 2.72 seconds faster than the old 1.2-litre diesel Polo (for reference, the old Polo GT TDI did the sprint to the ton in 9.88 seconds). The clutch is on the heavier side but the gearbox offers slick shifts. 100 km/hr comes up in third gear while doing the ton in fifth gear results in 2300 RPM on the tacho. The ARAI claimed mileage for the 90 PS Polo is 20.14 km/l and the old 1.2 TDI was rated at 22.07 km/l. The minor reduction in mileage isn’t any bother considering the leap in performance given by the new and more powerful heart is drastic.

Volkswagen Polo 1.5 TDI Handling Review
Volkswagen has improved the ride, handling, steering feel and brakes of the Polo

Driving Dynamics – Volkswagen has worked on the suspension of the new Polo and it has an even better balance of ride and handling than the old car, which was already very good in this department. The steering has more feel and offers better feedback than before, helping you to attack corners with more confidence, it feels heavier even at low speeds. The ride quality also sees an improvement and at low speeds the suspension is more compliant. High speed stability remains good as always but when you do reach near limit while cornering, understeer kicks in abundance, this car could do with more grippy tyres. Stopping performance has improved too and the brakes are more responsive.

Volkswagen Polo 1.5 TDI Test Drive Review
The Polo is now an all-rounder in the hatchback segment, it ticks most boxes

Verdict – The Volkswagen Polo has always been a top pick in the segment but only the GT models as the other engines lacked the firepower to exploit the car’s fantastic chassis. Now with the new 1.5-litre diesel engine, all versions of the Polo become an attractive bet. One need not stretch to the GT versions to get their fair share of fun as even in 90 PS guise, the diesel Polo offers effortless performance in all situations. With the facelited model, the Polo is not only nicer on the inside and outside, it’s even better to drive, making it one of the best hatchbacks in its class.

The Volkswagen Polo is a drastically improved car with the change of engine. For being powered by an average diesel mill to now getting one of the best oil burners in the segment, the new Polo packs in quite the punch with attractive pricing to boot.

Volkswagen Polo 1.5 TDI Safety
The Polo is the only car in its segment to get dual front airbags as standard

What’s Cool

* 1.5-litre diesel performance
* Excellent quality, fit and finish
* Ride and handling balance

What’s Not So Cool

* Rear seat space

Further Reading

2015 Volkswagen Polo Long Term Review
Hyundai Elite i20 vs Maruti Swift vs Volkswagen Polo vs Fiat Punto Evo