Unlike other car manufacturers out there, Volkswagen Malaysia has found itself in a very unique situation. It now has a car for pretty much every segment of the market, with prices that start from a hair under RM100,000, right up to a few strands under RM400,000.
The company’s latest is also the least expensive of its offerings. This is the Polo Sedan, and it’s made in India, one of the many Volkswagen factories in the world that produces cars to the exact specification and quality directives that come from Wolfsburg.
The car you see here is also sold in Russia, South Africa, India and China. It comes at a price of RM99,888, to make it a viable choice to those who want a starter Volkswagen, but need something bigger than the pocket-sized Polo.
But earning 454 litres of boot space is not as simple as taking a Polo and gluing a boot behind it; that would just make the car look awkward. Instead, the Polo Sedan has been designed from a clean-ish sheet of paper.
Clean-ish, because the sedan sits on a stretched version of the PQ25 platform that the hatchback is currently running on. It gives the sedan another 82 mm to the wheelbase, for a total of 2,552 mm. Elsewhere, the car measures in at 4,384 mm long, 1,699 mm wide and 1,466 mm tall.
Truth be told, the look of the Polo Sedan is not one you’d call awe-inspiring. In fact, the car has the same subdued tone and manner similar to the Passat. That said, I do think that the look of the headlight assembly is one of the best in the market.
The interior looks simple as well. One glance is all you need to see most of the car. All amenities are in here and accounted for, and there are quite a number of storage areas. Two catches my attention – the bottle holder on the door panels can fit a 1.5 litre bottle snugly, and the pocket underneath the radio is surprisingly deep. If you need to know more of what the Polo Sedan has inside, I’ve already covered that in the launch report.
There’s also quality in here. While most of the materials used for the dashboard and the door cards feel inflexible, they are well textured to cheat the eye into thinking otherwise. The bits of chrome also successfully elevate the status of the interior. The pieces of the interior are well joined together, with no glaring gaps that commonly plague cars in the similar segment.
Let me side track a bit, still going about its quality. The doors open with the slightest of touches and it takes getting used. You’ll pull the door too hard at first, expecting something heavy to move, but the door is light feel like feather at the handle, yet gives a satisfying solid thud when you shut it close.
The sedan also ticks the ‘comfort’ box. The foam is not too firm and the fabric holds quite well. Importantly, there is space in here. Admittedly, I am one of those who feel like a gorilla in a cage whenever I get into a Polo hatchback. Not so with the Polo Sedan. Space in here seems to have been expanded … as if it has been pushed outwards, none more obvious than with the rear seats. Not only I can easily get inside, there is also significant legroom that actually allows my knees some breathing room. Headroom is adequate, although you might find it nearer if you’re above six feet in height.
You can also turn the rear seating area into an extension of the boot. The seats folds flat and fit flushed to the boot floor without much fuss. And figuring out what folds where is easy. Here’s a paultan.org seat-folding top tip: tilt the seats forward before removing the headrests.
Move to the front and we’re at the bonnet. Pop it skyward and you’ll notice how light the lid is. Inside the engine bay is a controversy, in this case a 1.6 litre MPI (multi-point injection) powerplant that does 105 PS at 5,250 rpm and 153 Nm at 3,800 rpm. The engine comes with its long-standing partner, a six-speed conventional automatic transmission with tiptronic.
The Polo Sedan clocks its 0-100 km/h in 12.3 seconds and has a top speed of 183 km/h. The numbers are not extraordinary, but they are what you would normally squeeze out from a 1.6 litre naturally-aspirated engine.
If these facts make the Polo Sedan feel like its less compensated, well, it isn’t. There’s a reason this choice has been made. For one, Volkswagen has employed the engine and transmission partner many times, and the pairing has proved reliable. Also, if you stop to ponder about it, the maintenance will also be easier, because the engine and transmission is less complicated. Still, does this mean that Volkswagen’s latest pride and joy is any less ‘momentous’?
A step on the accelerator proves that it is not. It feels more powerful than the quoted 105 PS, and it definitely feels more able than examples that boast 120 PS with their petrol burners. The six-speeder picks up the power quickly and makes for a lively push away from zero.
So, maybe a slushbox transmission with a non-charged engine isn’t the end of the world, as you might think. You’ll barely notice the transmission going through up or down the gears. The engine noise is muted until you stand on the accelerator, at which point do you begin to hear the engine straining to meet your demands.
You’ll also hear wind noises coming in at around 100 km/h, and you’ll hear the road noise throughout. No shakes and rattles from the dashboard though, even when the car is traversing on a particular piece of craggy road. Then again, Langkawi does not have beaten up roads like the rest of Klang Valley.
The ride has that signature Volkswagen pliability, dialed in enough to make the spring and dampers firm without forgetting creature comfort. Handling is respectable too. The Polo Sedan does well in restraining body roll and understeer does not kick up a big fuss.
The car also feels sure-footed, a sign that the unfamiliar-brand tyre is up to task. There’s enough communication through the steering, which also feels immediate and sharp. It is a class above than the rest of the B-segments, with the exception of the Fiesta.
In spite of the fact that the Polo Sedan is a basic car, it also has the same Volkswagen vibe that a high-range Passat gives. There is no denying that it is better than most of the crop out there, and my initial impression of it has been a positive one.
Still, there’s only so much you can take back from a one-hour test drive around a small island on the Straits. A preview drive indeed; a more complete four-day test drive is in the works, and we’ll be giving you a full report once that happens.