A few months after the Polo's debut, the diesel version is here. The diesel Polo has the same engine displacement (1.2 litres) as the petrol version, but unlike the petrol powerplant, which is essentially a revised version of the Fabia's engine, this engine is brand new. In fact, this diesel is so new that it made its global debut under the hood of the Indian Polo!
In three-cylinder guise, this engine puts out a modest 75bhp which seems par for the course when compared to the brigade powered by the Fiat Multi-jet engine and the Ford Duratorq. But, how does it drive?
Twist the key and the engine comes to life with a slight shudder. It idles with a perceptible thrum, and you can feel a slight tingle through the gearlever and pedals. It's not as quiet as other small displacement four-cylinder diesels but it's not really obtrusive. Depress the delightfully light clutch pedal, slot the stubby lever into first, release the clutch (which has nice bite), and the car pulls away smartly. However, when you press down on the throttle pedal further, you realise that the Polo's power delivery isn't as linear you would like. There's a fair amount of turbo-lag, and though VW claims this engine makes its peak torque of 18.3kgm at 2000rpm, the truth is that you feel the tug only when the tacho nudges past 2500rpm. So, there's not much action initially, and then power suddenly comes in with a rush. You quickly learn to keep the engine in the mid-range of its powerband where it feels the strongest and gives the Polo sufficient pep to happily keep up with the flow. However, it's easy to get bogged down by the turbo-lag in traffic or driving up a twisty hill road, and this can be irritating. You have to constantly use the gears to keep the engine on the boil, but thanks to the super-slick and light gearshift, it's not all hard work.
Unlike most diesels, this motor is quite rev-happy and spins to 5300rpm. However, power tails off rapidly as you near the rev limit, and top-end performance can at best be described as modest. The dash from 0-100kph comes up in 16.7 seconds, but given the road the Polo will canter on to hit a maximum speed of 167kph. The gearing is on the low side, which means the engine is quite buzzy even at cruising speeds, and the drone from the diesel is always there.
In terms of fuel economy, the Polo is a winner. Despite the need to constantly use the gears in the city, we managed to get a frugal 14.0kpl in our urban cycle. On the highway, the Polo gave 18.9kpl, which again is brilliant when you consider the overall shorter gearing.
The rest of the car remains pretty much the same. On the outside, there's little to distinguish the diesel Polo from its petrol sibling – there's only the TDI badging on the bootlid. On the inside, you'll find the same high quality materials, the large, legible dials and a very practical, if unexciting, cabin. The front seats are extremely comfortable, but the rear seats, though cosy for average-sized adults, feel a bit restricted for tall people. We assume that diesel car owners will spend long hours in the cabin, and hence the stingy space in the back seat is one weakness, which is accentuated in the diesel Polo.
However, long journeys will play to the Polo's strengths as well. The ride is extremely cushy, and it tackles bad roads with aplomb. It is supremely stable at any speed which puts the driver completely at ease and gives passengers a sense of security. In fact, the Polo's solidity and big-car feel are an intrinsic part of its appeal.
The cost factor
The base Polo diesel comes at a premium (a whopping Rs. 1 lakh than the petrol equivalent). The Trendline is aggressively priced at Rs 5.42 lakh. Equipment isn't lavish, and the Comfortline or mid-trim level, which we tested, had some basic kit — audio system, alloy wheels, rear wash/wipe — missing. Viewed in this light, the Polo does seem a bit pricey.
But this VW is for someone who spends long hours behind the wheel and wants a no-nonsense, sensible hatchback that should last long.