Volkswagen SA has launched the sixth-generation Polo, with SA having had its first acquaintance with the model in its fourth generation in 1997.

More than 16-million Polos have been sold globally, making the nameplate one of the company’s most successful and revered in the world behind the ubiquitous Golf. The Polo is the go-to vehicle for those looking for a compact, well put-together hatch, with a fair amount of character to go with its unassuming pose.

We travelled to Port Elizabeth to sample the sixth incarnation of the model that has been consistently the second-best selling passenger car in SA, pipped by its Vivo namesake. Replacing a vehicle that is every bit as loved by South Africans as pap and tripe is no mean feat for any manufacturer, but after driving the new and sizeable Polo I reckon VW has managed to meet the brief quite admirably.

Longer, wider and lower than its predecessor the latest model is a similar size to the third-generation Golf, making it one of the largest vehicles in its segment. Referring to it as a junior Golf will not be out of context in the least.

The interior gets plenty of cool tech and some colourful trim options.
The interior gets plenty of cool tech and some colourful trim options.

The new model will be offered in Trendline, Comfort and Highline trim options with an additional Beats edition thrown in for good measure, with the latter featuring a 300W sound system.

What makes the new Polo a more refined offering is its MQB platform that underpins the Golf, Passat and Tiguan, meaning it’s a commonly used platform that can be tailored for different models in the company’s product portfolio.

The wheelbase at 2,548mm is 92mm longer than its predecessor, while overall length at 4,053mm is 81mm longer. Boot space has increased by 70l and now measures a useable 350l.

While the exterior design still harks back to its predecessor in terms of lineage, the new model moves things forward in that the front represents the company’s corporate face that has trickled down from the Passat and Tiguan in recent times and will underscore future models from the brand. Depending on models, there are halogen headlights and LED daytime running lights across the range with LED headlights an option on the Highline models.

While the exterior has seen the vehicle mature in its disposition, it is the interior where things have taken another step northwards in perceived quality, particularly in the instance of the Highline models. The drop-down fascia has been angled towards the driver and is said to give a more driver-focused cockpit. As an option, the Polo can be had with a digital instrument cluster and a number of safety items such as blind spot monitoring, park assist with manoeuvre braking and a multi-collision braking system.

Infotainment is a key feature for the sixth generation.
Infotainment is a key feature for the sixth generation.

Engines come in the form of a 1.0l, three-cylinder turbo petrol in 70kW and 175Nm for the Trendline and Comfortline variants, while the Highline gets a gutsier 85kW and 200Nm version. The former two trims come with a five-speed manual as standard with a seven-speed DSG as an option, while the Highline comes in a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG.

We drove all variants at the media launch and the Highline impressed the most, thanks to its higher specification that enhances its perceived and tactile quality. The engine is surprisingly sprightly and both the manual and DSG gearboxes were more than up to the task. However, it is in the drive polish where the model impresses the most, absorbing bumps with aplomb, all the while remaining surefooted when flung into a series of bends.

For those who want more performance, the GTI version will arrive here around May.

There are a number of options and you can specify your Polo with an R-Line package (R17,000) offering 17-inch alloys, flared side sills and sportier front and rear valances.

Pricing for the model starts at R235,900 rising to R302,300.

The Polo seems to have once again moved the game forward and I have little doubt it will reclaim its position as the best-selling model in its class.

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