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Old 09-28-2007, 01:00 PM
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Arrow CAR: Volkswagen Polo 1.2 range

Suddenly, this supermini no longer ranked alongside a Bridget Jones DVD and a cookbook emblazoned with the gurning mug of a moped-riding chef as the first three items in the Home Counties student essentials kit. Polos were yesterday??ôs news and Volkswagen??ôs bottom line took a good pranging. What was required was a Polo that was as cute as it was practical whilst remaining as affordable as, well, a Polo. A tall order? Maybe, but if any car could manage that, it would be the entry-level versions of the latest generation model, which means those powered by a 1.2-litre engine.

These budget models are nothing if not versatile. In an attempt to cover all the bases, Volkswagen offers two different 1.2-litre engines - a 55bhp version and an uprated 64bhp variant. Two body styles are also available, three and five-door, at prices starting from ??7,600. In truth, there??ôs a lot more to the Polo 1.2 - for students anyway - than the ability to ferry four drunken colleagues and a bootful of road cones, economy beans and lager back from Kwik Save. The Polo has long been a mainstay supermini in Britain and the latest iteration 1.2-litre versions offer a fresh spin on the theme.

Certainly, the 65bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine is a beguiling unit, its distinctive offbeat thrum giving the car genuine character. The 55bhp version of this powerplant struggles to shift the Polo??ôs expanded size with any great alacrity, so you??ôre better off shaking the piggy bank a little further if you??ôre after one of these. Both engines use a balancer shaft to reduce vibration and Volkswagen claim they are as refined as a four-cylinder. Whilst that may be true as regards vibration, they are quite vocal, especially when extended.

The key difference between the two engines is that the 65bhp version features a quartet of valves per cylinder whereas the 55bhp version makes do with a pair. With the 65bhp version, 60mph is 14.9 seconds away en route to a top speed of 101mph, whilst the 55bhp car keeps your licence that little bit safer by topping out at 95mph. Combined fuel consumption figures are identical at 47.1mpg, a creditable figure given the Polo is so solidly built.

An integral aspect of the Polo??ôs appeal is the drive to downsize. Although this may sound odd given that the car??ôs girth has manifestly swelled, it now caters very well to drivers no longer interested in running something Mondeo-sized without making them feel as if they??ôve suddenly become a member of the underclass. Swap from a Passat to a Polo and you certainly won??ôt feel as if your station in life has taken a dive; you??ôll just feel as though you??ôve taken an informed decision to downsize.

The key themes behind the Polo are the worthy (but slightly dull) avenues of safety and environmental friendliness. Both have been ratcheted up a notch or two in recent times, all Polos now being fitted with anti lock brakes with electronic braking assistance, twin front and side airbags, ISOFIX child seat mountings and a switchable passenger airbag.

With 270 litres of boot space, the Polo, especially in five-door form, can now realistically function as family transport, with rear legroom particularly generous. Park yourself behind the steering wheel and you??ôll witness a level of fit and finish unseen on Supermini class cars. The steering wheel design is slightly unusual, resembling an early Porsche 911 design, but the rest of the cabin has that elegant, understated simplicity of all Volkswagen Group products. It takes enormous corporate confidence to build something this tasteful and without resort to gimmickry to pull the punters in, but Volkswagen have pulled it off with aplomb. All models get power steering, an adjustable height driver??ôs seat plus a tiltable and telescopic steering column.

Of the trim levels on offer with the 1.2-litre engine, the entry-level E version will probably attract most interest, but should you feel tempted to invest more in your Polo, the S model adds anti-hijack central locking, climate control, alloy wheels, electric front windows and various body-coloured exterior trim.

Has the Polo regained its relevance? It??ôs difficult to tell. Sales figures are the acid test and in that respect, it??ôs over to you lucky people with pens hovering over dotted lines. Would I? The Polo??ôs philosophy is admirable, but an influx of new citycar products (like Volkswagen??ôs own Fox) may make this high-end supermini seem a little over-blown. Old boxing wisdom dictates that a good big ???un will always beat a good little ???un, however, and any model trying to wrestle sale from the Polo will have a fight on its hands.

Source: [url=http://www.acceleratebristol.com/carReviewsMain.asp?lngDocID=%7B4787991B-038F-427F-8744-A3415D0CB7C9%7D&manufacturer=Volkswagen]Accelerate Bristol[/url]
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