Volkswagen will be first with the new Polo, but the Honda Jazz comes at virtually the same time, soon to be followed by the Citroen C3 before the new Ford Fiesta makes an appearance in late spring. Volkswagen is offering an incomplete engine range to start with, although both three-door and five-door hatchbacks will be available straight away.
The new three-cylinder 65bhp 1.2-litre, expected to be a volume seller, kicks off the range, but there will also be a 75bhp four-cylinder 1.4-litre unit carried over from the outgoing car. It will be joined later by a 100bhp variant and a new 1.4-litre FSI direct injection petrol engine developing 85bhp.
Two existing diesel engines are also carried over - the 1.9 SDI normally aspirated unit, developing 64bhp and the 1.4 TDI PD three-cylinder unit developing 75bhp. However, the new Polo also gets the 100bhp 1.9 TDI PD unit already used in the Golf, Bora, Passat and Beetle, promising a strong balance of performance and economy.
The increase in size (this Polo is seven inches longer than the original Golf) could make the new car attractive to drivers of lower-medium cars.
Five levels of specification are available, starting with the entry-level E, rising to S, the new S a/c (which is S plus air conditioning), SE and Sport.
Even the E models include ABS, height and reach adjustable steering wheel, power steering, 'lights on' warning buzzer, electric door mirrors (except the 55bhp 1.2 due to arrive later in the year) and twin front and side airbags.
S models add central locking, electric front windows, front seat height adjusters and drawers under the front seats, while the S a/c version adds 'Climatic' semi-automatic air conditioning (Climatronic is available as an option).
SE models include body-coloured door mirrors and door handles, upgraded audio system, remote central locking, while Sport models add alloy wheels, front fog lamps, trip computer and sports suspension.
Volkswagen expects to sell 44,000 new Polos in the UK during 2002 - an increase on the 40,655 hatchbacks sold in 2001 (an extra 2,200 were saloons and estates). The Polo also has the strongest residual value forecasts in its sector, with CAP Network expecting models to retain between 40 and 44% of their value over three-years/60,000-miles.
As very few of them will be driven 20,000 miles in a year, it seems the new Polo will be a sound investment for any fleet.