Fleet News

New Polo: quality and finesse

Big is beautiful in the small car sector at the moment. Volkswagen's latest Polo is bigger than the Mk I Golf, and it will soon be joined on the market by a bigger Ford Fiesta, and a Citroen C3 which will sit between the Saxo and Xsara.

The new Polo went on sale in Germany last month and is loaded with big-car features - standard kit across the range in most markets includes ABS, twin front and side airbags, and air conditioning from S models upwards.

The message from VW's German PR people was the new Polo is a bigger car, but customers will get better value through the extra equipment and there is not expected to be much change in prices over the current model.

It's clear the Polo is set to play a major role in the European fleet market — particularly in the rental and leasing markets. But Volkswagen Group managing director in the UK, Robin Woolcock, said analysts should not necessarily expect company car drivers to downgrade to the supermini class from the Golf class.

He told Fleet News Europe: 'I think company car drivers will downsize in terms of engines but they would be unlikely to choose a smaller car. People are too worried about what the neighbours or colleagues might say if they have a smaller car parked outside their home.'

There are two new three-cylinder petrol engines (replacing the current four-cylinder 1.0-litre unit) and there will be a new direct injection petrol engine joining the range later next year. Diesels include a 1.9 SDI developing 64bhp, a 1.4-litre three-cylinder TDI PD producing 74bhp, and a 99bhp 1.9TDI, the former two already available in the existing Polo, while the 1.9 TDI can be found in other VW models.

I was expecting to return from the launch with good news for fleet managers about diesels which meet Euro IV emissions criteria, but there was no such news.

VW's technical experts were keen to point out that the TDI engines meet German 'D4' emissions, meaning German drivers would qualify for tax breaks.

But there was no information about when the engines would meet the more stringent Euro IV rules.

In many markets the current Polo has the strongest supermini residual values and there is good reason to believe the new car will continue that tradition.

Martin Ward, national research manager at CAP Network, said: 'Demand for the Polo will be strong as a new car, but if cars cover a low mileage and come back in three years with only 30,000–40,000 miles on the clock they will be much sought after as used cars.'

It's the predictability of a new Volkswagen that makes cars like the new Polo so successful on the used market. Peerless build quality is taken for granted, as are comfort, safety and cost-efficiency.

In common with a couple of other mainstream VWs, driver enjoyment is somewhat hampered by the Polo's vague steering, but few fleets will mark the car down for that reason.

The Polo does everything you could expect a modern small car to do, and will definitely be competing for class leadership when the Fiesta and C3 arrive next year. (December 2001)

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