Daniel DeGasperi’s 2018 Volkswagen Polo 85TSI Launch Edition Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, ownership, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: Volkswagen is plying a size advantage with its latest hatch to help ensure its Polo player can win against rivals.

2018 Volkswagen Polo 85TSI Launch Edition Specifications

Price $22,990+ORC Warranty three-years, unlimited km Safety 5-star ANCAP Engine 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol Power 85kW at 5000-5500rpm Torque 200Nm at 2000-3500rpm Transmission seven-speed dual-clutch automatic Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4053mm (L) 1751mm (W) 1446mm (H) 2548mm (WB) Seats Five Boot Space 351 litres Weight 1152kg Towing 570-1000kg Fuel Tank 40 litres Thirst 5.0L/100km claimed combined/7.1L/100km as-tested

VOLKSWAGEN has never needed to throw tinsel around to get buyers into its showrooms. It has never needed to offer a budget pricetag, or glitzy extras, or woo over people with a size advantage compared with rivals. That is, in the case of the latter, until now with the Polo.

The new-generation Polo is tired of playing in the toy sandpit among other light cars such as the Mazda2 and Suzuki Swift. Especially given that Volkswagen doesn’t yet have a small SUV in sight for the Australian market, it wants to subtly shift its baby upmarket and upstream.

With a bigger boot than a Mazda3 and Ford Focus, the Volkswagen Polo is now knocking right on the door of the next-size-up small car class.

What’s in the range and how much does it cost?

Until the Polo Beats and Polo GTI arrive in late August, the Polo 85TSI Launch Edition is the flagship model grade, priced from $20,490 plus on-road costs with a six-speed manual transmission and $22,990+ORC with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic tested here.

2018 Volkswagen Polo 85TSI Launch Edition DSG.

If you can do without 16-inch alloy wheels, foglights, wireless phone charging and tinted glass, then there’s the Polo 85TSI Comfortline at $19,490+ORC manual/$21,990+ORC auto, which still retains 15in alloys, automatic on/off headlights and wipers, vanity mirror lights, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rear map pockets and a front centre armrest.

2018 Volkswagen Polo 85TSI Launch Edition DSG.

At the bottom of the ladder, the Polo 70TSI Trendline does without the above items, from $17,990+ORC five-speed manual/$20,490+ORC auto. It also trades the 85kW/200Nm 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol, for a 70kW/175Nm version of the same engine.

2018 Volkswagen Polo 85TSI Launch Edition DSG.

For a limited time, though, Volkswagen will throw in free driveaway pricing for its base model, while the ‘85s’ add on-roads for $1000 extra – a couple of value tricks up its sleeve.

What’s the space and practicality like?

The new-generation Polo is produced on the same MQB modular-platform as its Golf sibling, and it certainly poaches that larger hatchback’s semi-premium feel. The front seats are wider and cushier than the narrow and flat items used previously, and the freshly designed dashboard feels similarly broad and is formed with pleasant soft-touch plastics in entirety.

2018 Volkswagen Polo 85TSI Launch Edition DSG.

Meanwhile the rear seatbase is nicely tilted upwards to afford rear riders great under-thigh support, there is plenty of legroom, newfound shoulder width, and the practicality of a 60:40 split-fold backrest to enhance the sizeable 351-litre boot (and it scores a full-size spare underfloor). For context, a Mazda2 has a 250L boot, while the Mazda3 totals 308L.

For illustration purposes only: Showing the rear seat of the 2018 Volkswagen Polo 70TSI Trendline Manual.
For illustration purposes only: Showing the rear seat of the 2018 Volkswagen Polo 70TSI Trendline Manual.

Complaints are few. Hard door plastics are still a giveaway that this is a light car rather than a pricier small car, so it would have been nice had Volkswagen continued the soft-touch trim theme over to the sides. For the price the 85TSI Launch Edition should arguably include climate controls, too, as an equivalent-priced model grade in the last generation did, while keyless auto-entry with push-button start is noted by its absence. Also gone are roof grab handles that were standard on every previous-gen Polo – a rare sign of penny pinching.

For illustration purposes only: Showing the rear seat of the 2018 Volkswagen Polo 70TSI Trendline Manual.
For illustration purposes only: Showing the boot of the 2018 Volkswagen Polo 70TSI Trendline Manual.

Are the controls and infotainment any good?

A high-resolution 8.0-inch colour touchscreen seals the deal, and although it doesn’t feature integrated satellite navigation or a digital radio – which might be expected for this pricetag – the simple interface is backed by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, twin USB ports, wireless phone charging and a terrific six-speaker sound system as standard.

2018 Volkswagen Polo 85TSI Launch Edition DSG.

What’s the performance like?

The 70kW/175Nm 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol in the 70TSI Trendline is a sweet engine, but with 85kW of power between 5000rpm and 5500rpm, plus 200Nm of torque from 2000rpm until 3500rpm, this 85TSI Launch Edition really permits the baby three-cylinder to shine.

Best not be afraid of just three cylinders. With less reciprocating mass than a four-cylinder, it spins with what feels like friction-free verve, and thanks to superb sound insulation, the Polo is one of the quietest cars among both light and small models. Quite simply, there is response and enthusiasm anywhere from just off idle through to the redline, and it certainly feels quicker than its modest 9.5-second 0-100km/h claim (vs 70TSI’s 10.8s) might suggest.

2018 Volkswagen Polo 85TSI Launch Edition DSG.

Other than some slight hesitation from the seven-speed dual-clutch auto – dubbed Direct Shift Gearbox, or DSG – it otherwise delivers all the gears a driver could want and slick shifting. And although the unbelievably low claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption figure of 5.0 litres per 100 kilometres wasn’t in reach, an urban-biased 7.1L/100km on-test tally still proved exceptional given the excellent performance and refinement.

What’s it like on the road?

In terms of steering, ride and handling, well the first part is merely good, the second part great and the third part very good. It would be nice if the steering had a touch extra sharpness, and if the dynamics were a bit more agile like best rivals (such as Swift) manage to feel. The flipside, however, is a level of maturity and suspension finesse that few can match. The Polo feels grown-up, composed and controlled, super-smooth and serene.

2018 Volkswagen Polo 85TSI Launch Edition DSG.

Is there a spare?

The 85TSI Launch Edition gets alloys wheels in 15×5.5in (same as standard only the entry level gets steel wheels with covers). The spare is a full-size steel wheel.

Can you tow with it?

Theoretically, yes, but with a maximum braked towing capacity of 1000kg and an unbraked capacity of 570kg it’s not an ideal towing platform, but given its tiny tot size we doubt towing will be high on a prospective buyer’s list of priorities.

What about ownership?

Volkswagen’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty is behind the times these days, with Ford, Holden and Mazda all moving to five-year cover within a matter of months. Servicing isn’t overly cheap, either. Annual or 15,000km intervals are fine, but the capped-prices of $307, $549, $357, $834 and $357 for each of the first five are expensive.

What about safety features?

Quite impressively, every Polo gets sub-30km/h autonomous emergency braking (AEB) standard on every model, as well a forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, reverse-view camera and the usual ABS, ESC and six airbags.

A $1400 Driver Assistance Package, as fitted to our test car, further includes adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors with auto-reverse park assistance and rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitor and electric-fold door mirrors – rare features for the class.


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