The small Volkswagen Polo, introduced in 1975 to accompany the Golf that had debuted a year earlier, remains a vehicle of global importance for Wolfsburg, having shifted over 14 million units over its life span. But it’s never been exported to the United States. Volkswagen has just unveiled the sixth generation of its successful supermini, and no, Jeff, it’s not coming to America.
Now based on the compact version of Volkswagen Group’s ubiquitous MQB platform (MQB A0), the new Polo features a 3.7-inch wheelbase stretch over the outgoing car. The car offers more passenger room and cargo space (12.4 cubic feet) than the slightly smaller previous model, not to mention the fourth-generation Golf of twenty years ago—a car that is four inches longer than this new Polo. It’s handsome, too, offering a more pugnacious, slit-eyed take on the still attractive seventh-generation Golf aesthetic. Quoth VW: “The sixth-generation Polo has become a masculine car, which generates charisma from all perspectives.” We could come up with a lame kicker here, but trust that you’ll have more fun just reading the preceding sentence out loud to yourself in your best Arte Johnson German accent.
Available powertrains include a range of six gasoline engines displacing 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0 liters with outputs ranging from 64 to 197 horsepower. The two lowest-output mills are available only with a five-speed manual transmission, while the 69-hp 1.0L offers a choice of a five-speed stick or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The three hottest mills offer either a six-speed manual or the seven-speed dual-clutch. Diesel options include a 79-hp/five-speed manual combo or a 94-horse unit backed by either a five-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch. Both diesel engines displace 1.6 liters. For the first time in a Polo, VW is offering a turbocharged 1.0-liter that burns natural gas. The 89-hp unit is available only with a five-speed manual transmission.
The new Polo is offered in five trim levels: basic Trendline; slightly nicer Comfortline; fancier Highline (a leather-wrapped shifter!); the Dr. Dre-approved Beats (featuring a 300-watt sound system); and, of course, the Polo GTI, which boasts the 197-hp 2.0-liter engine, the all-important horizontal red grille stripe, and, crucially, plaid seats,. The new Polo is available in 14 exterior colors, 13 dash-pad colors, 11 different seat colors, and with a total of 12 wheel designs, ranging from the base 14-inch diameter units all the way up to the GTI’s optional 18-inchers. Other options include wireless inductive phone charging, full-LED headlamps, adaptive Sport Select suspension, and the Air Care Climatronic HVAC system, featuring an air-quality sensor and allergen filter.
The Polo’s driver-assistance suite includes standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, as well as optional features such as blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, semi-automated parking assistance, keyless entry, and adaptive cruise control with stop/start functionality. The responsibility of keeping the driver informed falls to VW’s new-generation Active Info digital dash display; the Polo is the first VW Group vehicle to feature this iteration of it. Infotainment systems come in both 6.5-inch and 8.0-inch varieties.
Volkswagen’s also using the launch of the new Polo to trot out We by Volkswagen, which it calls “a digital user platform from Volkswagen for all drivers.” So far, you can use it to pay for parking in Berlin, or at least you’ll be able to by the time the car goes on sale later this year, starting at just €12,975 in Germany. That’d be about $14,500 in the U.S., but the only way Americans can pay for a Polo is to rent one while traveling overseas. We’re seeing ads at $48/day if you pick it up at the Berlin airport.