VW DataPlug

Cool factor 5/5
Usability 4/5
Value for money 5/5

Volkswagen has released a plug-and-play device that turns its vehicles into "connected cars" — a Bluetooth-enabled dataplug that pairs with a smartphone.

It will be a standard feature on all VW models from the Polo Comfortline upwards sold from July 2020 but is optional for most older models up to 2008.

The dataplug goes into the onboard diagnostic interface; a 16-pin port beneath the steering wheel. All the data from the onboard computer can be displayed visually on the accompanying We Connect Go app for Android and iOS, which replaces the MyVW app.

The app, which includes a fuel monitor, gives the driver an overview of the condition of the vehicle; among other things it records trips, calculates the efficiency of the way you drive and provides notifications for servicing and tyre changes. It also has a fun feature that earns you badges for skill on the road, safe driving habits and so on.

After lockdown restrictions were eased, I tested the app on an Amarok for general use such as grocery shopping and fitted in a visit to a game reserve in Pretoria.

The app uses GPS data to record trips — a handy feature for automatic logging but it will eat at your smartphone battery, so having a charging cable in the car permanently is recommended.

Trip logs provide the points earned, time, distance and driving style. I know I typically hit the brakes a bit late, and was told "well done, but you’re not quite there yet".

My lowest rating during the five-day testing window was 92%. The test assesses acceleration, braking, speed, RPM and coolant temperature. The trips can be saved as private, business or commuting.

The app asks you to choose your nearest dealership, which can then be used for service appointments.

I found the "breakdown and assistance" tab useful. It lets you call for roadside help or customer care and has the ability to send location data. Additionally, all warning signs are easily accessible with explanations.

The device provides access to vehicle data in a clean interface, has emergency contacts and is the modern-day equivalent of a manual. And it brings peace of mind.

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