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“In the compact hatch segment customers have tons of choice including the Ford Fiesta 1.0T EcoBoost, Renault Clio 900cc turbo, Opel Corsa 1.0T and with Kia set to introduce their own 3-pot turbo soon, the choice is ever expanding. How does the new VW Polo BlueMotion Eco Warrior stack up against the competition?”
Engine downsizing, it’s an automotive cold hard truth. It’s happening across the board too. High-end supercars are moving away from high-revving naturally aspirated V12 engines in favour of smaller displacement turbo V8s, and smaller in some cases. Same story with SUVs who perhaps have the least favourable image to turn around, with their gas-guzzling un-green hangovers.
In the compact hatch segment customers have tons of choice including the Ford Fiesta 1.0T EcoBoost, Renault Clio 900cc turbo, Opel Corsa 1.0T and with Kia set to introduce their own 3-pot turbo soon, the choice is ever expanding.
It’s surprising then that Volkswagen – who have long championed smaller displacement turbo engines – have taken until now to join the 3-pot turbo fray.
Three-cylinder engines are not new to the group. The Up!, which has been available for some time employs three cylinder power, so too the BlueMotion Polo, albeit in diesel guise.
Until now that is. The car you see here is the first BlueMotion Polo to be powered by a Volkswagen petrol TSI engine and is the replacement for the current diesel-powered model.
Power is rated at 70kW compared to the previous 3-cylinder 1.2 TDI BlueMotion which produced 55kW. Peak torque output is 160Nm.
Impressive for a 3-cylinder. So what does BlueMotion stand for?
In short it’s Volkswagen’s catchphrase for fuel efficiency and besides the tiny petrol engine, there are other efforts at play here in order to make the Polo as fuel efficient as possible.
The tyres, for example, are low rolling resistance spec, meaning they stick to the road less than regular tyres. The underbody has been redesigned to make air flow under the car as smoothly as possible and the front bumper sculpted to be as aerodynamic as possible causing less drag. Special louvres in the grille also open and close depending on how hot the engine is, also allowing for less drag on the front end.
All these aspects, combined with an auto stop/start system, regenerative braking and a gear-change indicator for the driver means that this Polo BlueMotion will sip just 4.2 litres of petrol every 100km!
But what does it all mean?
Well, in short that this new Polo BlueMotion is one of the most fuel-efficient cars on the market. Bar fully Electric Vehicles (like the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 and i8) the Polo’s real world fuel consumption which I managed to average at around 5.5/100km makes it one very frugal machine.
Compared to the Toyota Yaris Hybrid which has a claimed 3.6/100km fuel consumption, yet in real life conditions manages closer to 5.5l/100km, making the Polo’s consumption all the more impressive.
Granted, if you want to achieve the best fuel economy you will need to make sacrifices and adapt the way you drive. Saying that, though, achieving outstanding economy in the BlueMotion Polo is no hardship. Paying attention to road conditions, anticipating traffic and traffic light changes and being mindful of not accelerating harshly will help you achieve a low 5 figure, or a higher 6/7 or 8 figure per 100kms. Shifting up gears early and not revving the little engine also make a huge difference, and I found that if I changed gear according to the onboard gear shift indicator and kept to a maximum 100kph speed, 5.5l/100km or lower was easily achieved. On a longer run, I managed to get 4.2l/100km which is spot on with what Volkswagen claim.
What is the interior like?
As most of you are aware, Volkswagen interiors are some of the best around and while the Polo is a bit too grown up for my liking, it is by no means poorly finished.
Quite the opposite. Fit and finish are top-class and with the interior chrome package, which is fitted to all but the entry level models, an even higher level ambience is achieved with chrome trim added to the central dashboard, gear lever and air vent surrounds, instrument binnacle and door cards. It all works and functions with aplomb as you’d expect from a German brand, but having driven the new Mazda2 recently which manages the same levels of quality with far more design flair, a little extra funk in the Polo’s interior would be a welcome addition.
Whilst premium brands tend to rest of the allure of a premium badge and build quality alone, as opposed to a stacked standard specification list like their less premium, often Asian competition, the Polo does manage a decent level of standard specification. A height adjustable seat for driver and front passenger with storage draws under the seats as well as height adjustable steering column make finding the optimal driving position relatively easy. Driver and front passenger airbag, as well as side airbags, round off the safety features.
Other standard features include a leather wrapped multi-function 3-spoke steering wheel, gear knob and handbrake lever. Air conditioning, electric windows all round and electric side mirrors. Taking care of entertainment is a standard colour touch screen, with CD/MP3 functionality, auxiliary-in and SD-card slot.
For longer journeys, cruise control and a front centre armrest are definite nice-to-haves.
Optional extras on the car I drove included a 5.8-inch touchscreen with 6 speakers, which adds Bluetooth hands-free, audio streaming and USB connector (R2 550). A lights and vision package further includes items such as an auto-dimming rearview mirror, low-beam assist, follow me home headlights as well as rain sensor wipers (R3 700).
Park distance control front and rear (R3 050) are always a very useful options and the bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights (R8 650) provide excellent nighttime illumination as well as looking very smart. Taking the Polo’s standard price from R235 800.00 to R248 150.00 as tested.
Let’s wrap this up
The Toyota Yaris Hybrid costs R277 000.00 making it a whopping R41 200 more expensive than the base price BlueMotion Polo. Even with the optional extras fitted you’d save over R28k over the Yaris. Sure, the Yaris packs a clever (gimmicky) supplemental electric engine and can run purely on electricity when it wants to, but at that price it makes the Polo look like a giveaway in comparison.
With both of these compact hatchbacks sole existence devoted to saving fuel, it begs the question do we actually need hybrid vehicles? After driving the BlueMotion Polo, I’d say ‘No!” and as a very clever package it goes to show what can be achieved by changing nothing, and rethinking everything.