Published on Wednesday 31 August 2016 15:16
Ten Second Review
The Volkswagen Polo R Line is, if we're honest, just a bit of fun. Available with the 1.2 TSI, 60 and 70ps engines, R Line buyers get a styling kit, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a well-equipped interior. If you're going to buy a petrol Polo and feel like treating yourself, it's a decent pick.
Volkswagen has done much in recent years to improve the Polo's value proposition. This supermini still sits towards the upper echelons of the class, but it's no loner priced in such a way that it's conspicuously removed from its more mainstream rivals. For a car with a premium look and feel, it's perhaps surprising that there haven't been more convincingly sporty Polos down the years. Enthusiasts might recall the supercharged G40 with nostalgia but since then we've had a few GTI models that while competent have never really manage to downsize the Golf GTI's almost universal appeal.
This Polo R Line isn't going to change that position. It's a ritzy trim for the 1.2-litre TSI model that suggests it's a hot version with its spoilers and alloys but is in fact just a styling job. While petrolheads may sniff at it, it's nevertheless a very smart looking car that keeps a firm cap on insurance bills. There's a lot to be said for that.
The 1.2-litre TSI engine might sound a little underwhelming at just 105PS, but the bald paper figures give no clue as to its real verve. This engine propels the Polo R Line from rest to 60 mph in 9.4 seconds, and on to a top speed of 118 mph, but the turbocharged tot feels like a bigger capacity normally aspirated motor in some regards and the way it picks up cleanly from low revs is better than many such powerplants. It's remarkably refined at speed too and given that the suspension is entirely Polo standard, you'll be treated to a firmish ride but one that successfully conquers the high-speed patter that can flummox many superminis on motorways. The driving position would appear hard to better and the car's damping is excellent. The inert feel of Polos of the past has well and truly gone. This is a car you can enjoy driving.
The standard six-speed manual gearbox isn't the last word in tactile delight, but the steering is accurate, the brakes extremely reassuring and it's all backed up by the fitment of ESP stability control should your ambition outweigh your ability. There's a noticeable difference in how the Polo rides on 16 and 17-inch wheels, the latter giving a bit of thump through the chassis in town. Fortunately this R Line model goes for 16-inch rims.
Design and Build
The R Line gets a body styling pack that comprises deeper R Line front and rear bumpers, a black gloss radiator grille with R Line badging, deeper side sills and 16-inch 'Mallory' alloy wheels. From the B-pillars back, the glass is dark-tinted and 65 per cent light-absorbing, while the standard front foglights also include a static cornering function. It's a well-judged set of styling adornments; not so over the top that the car runs the risk of being a sheep in wolf's clothing but just enough to get it noticed as something a little different to a basic Polo Match.
There's plenty of space inside, with this latest Polo's length up by 36mm to 3,952mm compared to its predecessor. Passengers benefit from increased leg and headroom as well as more space in the rear to stow their luggage. There's a 280-litre boot which increases to 952-litres when the rear seats are folded down. Volkswagen has worked on another low key but high quality cabin environment for the Polo. Soft touch plastics and subtle aluminium detailing are the order of the day alongside the more extrovert R Line details.
Market and Model
The R Line opens at just over £15,000 for the three-door car, with the five-door tacking just over £600 onto the asking price. Is that reasonable? Given the amount of gear you get, I'd say it's not far off the mark. Customers get brushed aluminium scuff plates with R Line logos, sports seats with 'Kyalami' cloth upholstery and an R Line logo on the headrests, along with a leather-trimmed three-spoke steering wheel with R Line logo and aluminium-capped pedals.
Otherwise the kit list is fairly generous, including an RCD 310 radio/CD player with six speakers and an interface for plugging in an iPod or similar devices, Semi-automatic air conditioning, a multifunction trip computer, electric windows (including in the rear on five-door models), height-adjustable front seats, a split-folding rear-seat backrest, electrically operated and heated door mirrors, illuminated vanity mirrors, front and rear reading lights, a tyre pressure monitor and remote central locking are all standard fit items.
Cost of Ownership
Insurance bills have been kept in check by the fact that the R Line is mechanically identical to other 1.2-litre TSI models in the Polo line up, and the Group 13 rating isn't going to scare too many away. Economy and emissions aren't anything to get too flustered about either. As long as you aren't perpetually buzzing the turbocharger up to speed, you might well approach the 53.3mpg fuel consumption figure. Even around town Volkswagen reckons the Polo R Line will get 41.5 miles from a gallon, although if experience is anything to go by, this may well be a more realistic target to aim at as an overall figure in day to day driving.
Emissions are rated at 124g/km which isn't bad but is far from the best in its class. Residual values, however, are some of the most impressive and this R Line model looks set to be in strong demand on the used market, buoying residuals beyond the usual 38 per cent after three years mark for the Polo 1.2 TSI.
The Polo R Line isn't a model that Volkswagen is getting too excited about. In fact, it slipped into their model line up with virtually no fanfare at all. It might well have escaped your attention but it's a car that's worth consideration. These sorts of 'spoilers and go-faster interior bits' specials are usually cars we can brush off with a bit of jocularity, being nothing particularly serious and while the Polo R Line doesn't deviate too far from the formula, it's an interesting little car.
In offering a very handsome, well equipped and fun to drive supermini for reasonable money and, most importantly, carrying a modest insurance premium, Volkswagen has created a very aspirational Polo for younger drivers with a bit of creditworthiness. Or generous parents. Either way, this most socially mobile of small cars just became that little bit more desirable again.