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Stripped to the basics

autos Updated: May 26, 2010 12:51 IST
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Volkswagen polo diesel
A few months after the Volkswagen Polo’s debut, the car’s diesel version is already here. The diesel Polo has the same engine displacement (1.2 litres), but unlike the petrol powerplant, which is a revised version of the Skoda Fabia’s engine, this engine is brand new.

It has now made its global debut under the hood of the Indian Polo!

Engine
In three-cylinder guise, this engine puts out 75 bhp, which seems par for the course when compared to the brigade powered by the Fiat Multi-jet engine and the Ford Duratorq.

Twist the key and the engine comes to life with a slight shudder. It idles with a perceptible thrum and you can feel a slight tingle through the gearlever and pedals. It’s not as quiet as other small displacement four-cylinder diesels but it’s not obtrusive and doesn’t have audible levels as the Fabia’s three-pot diesel.

Depress the light clutch pedal, slot the stubby lever into first, release the clutch — which has nice bite — and the car pulls away smartly. However, when you press down further on the throttle pedal, you realise that the power delivery isn’t as linear.

There’s a fair amount of turbo-lag and though VW claims this engine makes its peak torque of 18.3 kgm at 2000 rpm, you only feel the tug when the tacho nudges past 2500 rpm. So there’s not much action initially and then power suddenly rushes in. You learn to keep the engine in the mid-range of its powerband where it feels strongest and gives the Polo sufficient pep to keep up with the flow.

Drive
However, it’s easy to get bogged down in traffic by the turbo-lag or driving up a twisty hill road, and this can get irritating. You have to constantly use the gears to keep the engine on the boil but thanks to the super-slick gearshift, it’s not all hard work.

The motor is rev-happy and spins to 5300 rpm. But power tails off rapidly as you near the rev limit and top-end performance is modest. Zero to 100 kph comes up in 16.7 seconds but the Polo canters on to hit a maximum speed of 167 kph. The gearing is on the low side, which means the engine is buzzy even at cruising speeds, and the drone from the diesel is always there.

Fuel economy
Despite the need to constantly use the gears in the city, the Polo managed to give back a frugal 14 kpl in the urban cycle. On the highway, the Polo gave 18.9 kpl, which again is brilliant when you consider the overall shorter gearing. The rest of the car remains pretty much the same. On the outside, there’s little to distinguish the diesel Polo from its petrol sibling — there’s only the TDI badging on the bootlid.

On the inside, you’ll find the same high quality materials, the large, legible dials and a very practical, if unexciting, cabin. The front seats are comfortable but the rear seats, though cozy for average-sized adults, feel a bit restricted for tall people. Diesel car owners might spend long hours in the cabin and hence the stingy space at the back is one of the diesel Polo’s weaknesses.

However, long journeys will play to the Polo’s strengths as well. The ride is extremely cushy and it tackles bad roads with aplomb. It is supremely stable at any speed, which puts the driver completely at ease, and gives passengers a sense of security. In fact, the Polo’s solidity and big-car feel are an intrinsic part of its appeal.

Equipment quality
The base Polo diesel (Trendline) is aggressively priced at Rs 5.42 lakh but take a look at the equipment list and the huge price jumps between trim levels, and the Polo diesel comes at a premium. More so when you realise that it costs a whopping Rs 1 lakh more than its petrol equivalent. Equipment, too, isn’t lavish and the Comfortline or mid-trim level which we tested had some basic kit missing.

Strangely enough, the driver has no controller for the rear power windows, no alloy wheels (the car pictured had them retrofitted) and features like the rear-wash/ wipe are available only on the Highline trim. You also miss the audio system that comes with the Rs 6.82 lakh Highline variant. Viewed in this light, the Polo does seem a bit pricey.

Verdict
The Polo diesel is a polished, mature-feeling premium hatchback. The light steering, which is devoid of feel, the mushy suspension and mediocre performance don’t make it a thrilling drive. But then, that’s not what it’s meant to be. The Polo diesel with its light controls, comfortable ride and solid build comes across as a user-friendly and safe hatchback.

Yes, we wish that it had more equipment and that it cost a bit less than the Rs 5.92 lakh VW wants for it but for someone who spends long hours behind the wheel and wants a no-nonsense, sensible hatchback that should last forever, this is the one.

Autocar India
Price:
Rs 5.92 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) (Comfortline variant)
0-60 kph: 6.7 seconds
0-100 kph: 16.7 seconds
Top speed: 167 kph
Fuel economy: 16.4 kpl
Fuel: Diesel
Installation: Front, transverse
Layout: 3-cyls in-line, 1199 cc
Bore/ stroke: 79.5/ 80.5 mm
Compression ratio: 16.5:1
Valve gear: Four valves per cyl, DOHC
Power: 75 bhp at 4200 rpm
Torque: 18.35 kgm at 2000 rpm
Power to weight: 66.6 bhp per tonne
Torque to weight: 16.31 kgm per tonne
Specific output: 62.55 bhp per litre
Transmission type: Front-wheel drive
Gearbox: 5-speed manual
Ratios/ kph per 1000 rpm:
1st 3.78/ 7.41
2nd 2.12/ 13.22
3rd 1.36/ 20.61
4th 0.97/ 28.90
5th 0.73/ 38.40
Final drive ratio: 3.938:1
Construction: Monocoque, five-door hatchback
Weight: 1,125 kg
Tyres: 185/ 60 R15, tubeless
Spare: Full size steel wheel

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