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The Volkswagen CrossPolo is based on the Polo, its less rugged-looking sibling. It is essentially a Polo with larger wheels, a rugged SUV-like bodykit and a raised suspension. Don’t expect to go very far off the tarmac with the CrossPolo, though a higher ride height may give you a little more peace of mind when negotiating mildly flooded highways – like the Middle Ring Road near Bandar Tasik Selatan.

Read my test drive report after the jump.

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The Volkswagen Polo is a B-Segment hatchback. It’s quite familiar to me because I wrote about a Skoda Fabia 1.4 some time ago, and the Fabia is essentially a rebadged Polo with lower specifications. Unlike the Fabia 1.4, the Volkwagen CrossPolo comes with a 1.6 litre engine. It’s not one of those funky new FSI engines – this is a plain vanilla 1.6 litre 16 valve DOHC engine that puts out 105 PS at a surprisingly low 5,600rpm, and 153Nm of torque at 3,800rpm.

Peak power and torque is not as high as say, the 110 horsepower Campro or the 125 horsepower Suzuki Swift Sport engine, but with the CrossPolo’s engine they kick in at a lower speed, making the engine feel much more punchier during city and mildly aggressive driving. The CrossPolo also feels pleasantly rapid from a standstill, thanks to its 6-speed gearbox which has ratios that are closer together, helping keep the engine in its peak torque band.

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The interior of the CrossPolo is colour-coded – this means it matches its exterior colours. My test drive unit has a black and Lime Green interior because it has a Lime Green exterior. I am not really a fan of this particular colour. My favourite is the orange of the CrossPolo they displayed at the car launch. There’s also bits of aluminium and silver around the interior, with the most prominent being the silver steering wheel spokes.

Interior fit and finish was good, and items like the shifter and knobs had a better, more upmarket feel than the Fabia, which was surprising as I thought they would be exactly the same. The Polo has an interesting front cupholder. It pops out of the dash horizontally, and looks a little flimsy but had no problems holding a full venti-sized cup of Starbucks. The cupholder has a vertical grip that is adjustable according to the size of the cup you want to place in it. Not sure how it would stand the test of time. Because of the way it pops out, you can probably hang stuff on the cupholder too, though you’d probably want to make sure it’s something light like a take-away packet of ais kacang and not anything more substantial.

CrossPolo Center DashThe dashboard meter panel lights up in blue with red dials. In the left dial is a clock, while the right dial has a trip meter. Sadly the trip meter is not a trip computer, so it can’t tell you details like distance to empty, real time fuel consumption, average fuel consumption and etc. The in-car entertainment (single disc MP3) and climate control area is lit up in red, with a little blue status panel. (click the image on the left to enlarge) I particularly liked the little storage area at the top of the dash – it allowed me to place my Nokia E90 there within eye’s view without it sliding all over the dashboard. With it placed there, I can have my very own makeshift in-car GPS navigation.

The suspension is much firmer than what you’d normally expect and it can get a little uncomfortable on bad roads, with no help from the low profile 215/40R17 tyres wrapping the 17 inch BBS wheels. But I can live with that, and it wasn’t a major gripe with the passengers either. I’m not sure if all CrossPolos around the world are specified with this firm suspension or it is just the Malaysian version.

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The only seriously major gripe that I have with the CrossPolo is its blue meter panel backlighting. The blue seems darker than the blue backlighting on say, the Proton Satria Neo. Somehow looking at it at night gave my eye some fatigue, and asking a few other people to try checking it out resulted in the same feeling. I’m no expert on color science or human usability but I reckon this isn’t the best colour for our eyes to focus on at night. Looking at the meter panel for longer than a few seconds tired my eyes out. It’s either the designers missed this little detail or all of my friends and I have defective eyes.

Other than that, I can say I enjoyed having the CrossPolo around for the few days I had it. It’s built of higher quality materials than its Japanese B-segment competition. It offers a reasonably fun drive as the speed-sensitive steering is decently weighted and the chassis behaves well until you push it to reckless limits. The 6-speed auto keeps the engine working at its best and it has 2 overdrive gears (0.86 and 0.69) for a more relaxed highway cruise and potentially better fuel economy. Other than the 6-speed auto, another nifty piece of equipment not found in its segment is the heated side mirrors, which are also electrically adjustable. There’s no spare tyre anywhere to be found, but Volkswagen has provided a tyre seal and inflation kit.

It’s also the only car in its class and price range loaded with 6 SRS airbags (2 front, 2 side, 2 curtain), which protects both the front and rear passengers. In addition to that, you’ve got disc brakes all-round with ABS function.

The Volkswagen’s CrossPolo has been revised this month and now goes for RM108,888 (or RM109,778 OTR without insurance) fully imported, making it much more competitive than before as it is now in the same price range as its premium B-segment contenders, instead of being priced head to head against Japanese C-segment saloons.

It is a decent entry into the continental car market, which offers a more refined driving experience and exclusivity on teh road at the expense of post-warranty maintenance costs and comparatively lower resale value.

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