New-look Polo is a pleasure to drive

THE new Volkswagen Polo might have been conceived and designed in Germany, but this new generation is as South African as braaivleis and sunny skies.

THE new Volkswagen Polo might have been conceived and designed in Germany, but this new generation is as South African as braaivleis and sunny skies.

Built and assembled in Uitenhage in Eastern Cape for overseas export as well as the local market, a key member of the design team - who was on hand for the launch last week - is Karoo-born Oona Scheepers.

Now living and working in Germany, Scheepers gave some insight into what goes on when designing a vehicle.

"The initial design is still done using a sketch pad and pen. It's a very important stage and one that hasn't changed over the years," she explained.

"You then strip down what you don't need. If it doesn't add value or beauty to the vehicle, get rid of it."

Well, the design team seem to have got the styling just right since the new Polo has just been voted European Car of the Year 2010.

Originally launched in Europe in 1975, the Polo found its way to South Africa in 1998 and this latest model is the third generation to have reached our shores.

The most noticeable difference between this new model and its predecessor is the lower and wider body, which gives it that distinctive sporty look.

The vehicle is also available in eight colours - two new - as well as two different trims.

Under the bonnet you have the choice of three different engines - 1,4 petrol, 1,6 petrol and 1,8 diesel - all of which are available in either automatic or manual.

A nice balance of power and safety features will ensure that the Polo finds many fans who want a well-rounded package.

Even with the base 1,4 model expect to find front and side airbags, 3-point seatbelts, child-proof locks on the doors, ABS brakes, "bee-sting" antenna and a power steering.

As you move up the range the number of luxury features increases until you get to the 1,6 Comfortline Tiptronic, which basically has everything that opens and shuts.

The three models we had on test all had their strong points. The 1,6 diesel is economical with a claimed economy rate of 4.2 litres per 100km; a top speed of 189kmh and 77kW of power.

The 1,4 petrol might have less power - 63kW - but it makes up for it with a five-speed gearbox that is a pleasure to use.

Then there's the 1,6 petrol with an automatic gearbox. Sipping only 6,4 litres per 100km it will still be affordable to run and the 77kW of power definitely gives it that extra bit of oomph.

The interior of all the vehicles is nicely laid out and for a car of its size the space for rear passengers is roomy.

The build quality is true German and the Volkswagen pedigree speaks for itself.

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