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28 February 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Refreshed Polo hatchback heads to the Philippines; available from PHP950,000

2015 Volkswagen Polo (Philippines)

The refreshed version of the Volkswagen Polo has recently gone on sale in the Philippines. The evergreen small VW first hit the Philippines market last year in sedan form, and now the hatchback joins it as the refreshed fifth-generation 6C package. Available to order from PHP950,000, an ‘attractive’ financing scheme is offered to entice buyers, as well as a low PHP95,000 downpayment.

Polo hatchbacks in the Philippines are powered by a 1.6-litre, 104bhp petrol engine married to a six-speed automatic gearbox. Equipment includes 15-inch ‘Riverside’ alloy wheels, multifunction leather steering wheel, ‘Livon’ upholstery, 60:40 split-folding rear seats, RCD320 radio/CD/MP3/aux-in/SD card/USB multimedia system, Bluetooth connectivity, and air-conditioning.

Available in five colours – Copper Orange, Candy White, Night Blue Metallic, Flash Red, and Carbon Steel Grey – all Polo hatchbacks bound for the Philippines are produced at Volkswagen India’s Pune factory which exports Polos and Polo saloons (also called Vento/Polo Sedan) to a total of 32 global markets.

‘The Polo hatchback is indeed a perfect combination of quality and driving pleasure and is targeted to be one of our volume sellers. Now on its fifth-generation, the Polo hatchback offers excellent levels of comfort, functionality, reliability, and long-term quality,’ said John Philip Orbeta, President and CEO of VW Philippines.

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24 February 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Driving the future (in 1994):
the Volkswagen Golf Ecomatic

It was a super-eco version of the standard diesel Golf

As the rise of environmental concerns have gathered pace over the past few years, stop-start technology and energy recovery systems are now commonplace in most modern cars. But, in 1994, it was a very different story.

Following the stop-start system-equipped Formel E models of the early 1980s, Volkswagen sought to bring back the environmentally-conscious car with a special technology-laden version of the humdrum Golf. The Ecomatic.

The Eco-what?
Not familiar with the name? You’d be forgiven for not remembering it, or not even being aware of it in the first place. The Golf Ecomatic was launched in July 1994 and was technologically advanced for its time. The name was an amalgamation of ‘economical’ and ‘automatic’.

Featuring a 1.9-litre 64bhp normally-aspirated diesel engine, the Golf Ecomatic was fitted with a semi-automatic gearbox which decoupled the engine when pressure from the accelerator pedal was reduced.

Clever. And confusing.
Simply put, Volkswagen compared the idea to the principal of a cyclist who only pedals when power is needed. So, in the Ecomatic the engine cut out when the accelerator pedal was lifted, but sprung back to life when the pedal was pressed again.

Reducing both fuel consumption figures as well as emissions, it followed on from those more environmentally-sound Polos, Golfs, Jettas and Passats of the 1980s, bringing the concept up-to-date for the contemporary age.

How clean was it?
Volkswagen claimed that the Golf Ecomatic drivers would benefit from a 22 per cent improvement in fuel consumption when compared to a standard Golf with the same engine (61.4mpg vs 43.5mpg respectively) and a 22 per cent drop in CO2 emissions. The company also claimed that with familiarity, savings of up to a 30 per cent could be achieved in urban driving situations.

H2 and NOx emissions were reduced by 25 per cent, and particulate emissions also fell by 11 per cent. Engine operating time was also reduced by around 60 per cent. The Ecomatic was also the first VW which could run on rape seed biodiesel with no adjustment thanks to hardened seals in the fuel system.

What’s it like today?
Driving the Golf Ecomatic today, the technology seems rather rudimentary (even more so when you’ve spent the morning in an electrically-powered car). Equipped with a five-speed manual gearbox yet no clutch pedal, at first the Golf Ecomatic feels both old and plain odd. And very, very noisy.

With the gear lever in neutral, a turn of the ignition key starts the engine in the usual way. To move away, engage first gear and press the accelerator. From then on, gear changes are made by removing your feet from the accelerator and slotting the gear lever into the selected ratio.

The 1994 Volkswagen Golf Ecomatic was based on the Golf L

The 1994 Volkswagen Golf Ecomatic was based on the Golf L

It was a super-eco version of the standard diesel Golf with fuel consumption of 61.4mpg

It was a super-eco version of the standard diesel Golf with fuel consumption of 61.4mpg

A semi-automatic gearbox and stop-start system lowered emissions and raised fuel economy

A semi-automatic gearbox and stop-start system lowered emissions and raised fuel economy

The Golf Ecomatic pioneered many ideas which are implemented in 'green' VWs today

The Golf Ecomatic pioneered many ideas which are implemented in 'green' VWs today

The 1.9-litre naturally-aspirated diesel engine developed 64bhp

The 1.9-litre naturally-aspirated diesel engine developed 64bhp

Unassuming and familiar Mk 3 Golf looks concealed cutting-edge technology

Unassuming and familiar Mk 3 Golf looks concealed cutting-edge technology

The Golf Ecomatic cost £11,495 on its launch in 1994

The Golf Ecomatic cost £11,495 on its launch in 1994

The Ecomatic's interior was shared with other mainstream Golf models

The Ecomatic's interior was shared with other mainstream Golf models

Permanent engine braking could be switched back on via a button on the wiper stalk

Permanent engine braking could be switched back on via a button on the wiper stalk

Volkswagen UK planned to sell 1,000 Golf Ecomatics: only a tenth of that number found homes

Volkswagen UK planned to sell 1,000 Golf Ecomatics: only a tenth of that number found homes

Sounds easy enough.
Once on the move, when you’ve become accustomed to changing gear without a third pedal, the Ecomatic is as easy to drive as a standard Mk 3 Golf. It’s never fast, and you have to prod the accelerator rather hard to make anything happen, but it does make you think.

Think about when you’re going to disengage the engine at motorway speeds, or think about when is the right time to coast the car to a half.

Yes, it is odd having the engine disengage at motorway speeds and the car coast along for long-ish distances, but with an extra large 92Ah battery and 90 amp alternator, Volkswagen ensured that the braking and electric systems remained fully functional.

(A second smaller battery ensured that the external lights didn’t flicker when the Ecomatic was restarted at night.)

Any snags or glitches?
The lack of a clutch pedal occasionally catches you out at roundabouts and road junctions, but it’s just a case of remembering what to do to make the system work. And when it does, it’s a very smooth and well-thought out operation.

A button at the end of the wiper stalk (just as in the Formel Es a decade earlier) switches the ‘Digi-Swing’ decoupling engine control unit off and also enables permanent engine braking. Warning lights in the dashboard inform you that the system is active or switched off.

An orange gear change light also illuminates for the best fuel economy – another nod to the earlier fuel-sipping VWs and one feature which has also survived the transition through the decades to become a defining feature of a model range’s most economic version.

What was the price?
The £11,495 Ecomatic was based on the Golf L, enabling Volkswagen UK to bring the car to market at the lowest possible price. Standard equipment included power steering, a five-speed gearbox, removable Sony radio cassette, a folding rear seat and a pollen filter. Not exactly high-tech stuff.

The Golf Ecomatic is a fascinating insight into an early form of green motoring. Now, as a historical document, it’s a fascinating insight into what could have been. Volkswagen UK intended to sell around 1,000 examples to several major organisations.

How many were sold?
In the end, just over a tenth of that volume was achieved. Is that because, just as with the Audi A2, it was a car ahead of its time or because drivers of the mid-1990s just couldn’t understand Volkswagen’s self-billed ‘New Concept in Motoring’?

Whatever the reason, the Golf Ecomatic’s role was arguably a pivotal one. Following the pioneering Formel E Volkswagens of the 1980s and spawning the BlueMotion models which were born in the late 2000s, the Golf Ecomatic is a long-forgotten but important milestone in Volkswagen’s environmental development path.

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20 February 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Our cars: 2014 Polo SE 1.2 TSI –
report one

Auto Express content editor Tom Goodlad has just taken delivery of a 2014 model year Polo SE 1.2 TSI. In his first report for PoloDriver.com, he runs us through the spec and his first impressions. After being used to driving an Audi A3 2.0 TDI, how does a small, petrol-powered hatchback compare?

Reflex Silver paintwork a classy £540 option

I thought a ‘3-4 month delivery time’ was something I wouldn’t be able to handle – such is the demand for a new Volkswagen Polo! Having had the keys for 4 weeks now, I can safely say it was worth the wait.

The reason I had to wait this long for my Polo SE 1.2 TSI was down to my inability to buy things ‘off the shelf’. So let’s quickly run through what I’ve added to my car. First up was the look – I’m a sucker for a sporty-looking car and (unashamedly) a bit of bling – so the first thing I ticked on the options list was the £565 ‘Knight’ 16″ alloy wheels. They add a significant visual boost to what would otherwise be quite a plain-looking car. I think they contrast fantastically with the £540 Reflex Silver paintwork, too.

Having become used to a few luxuries in my old Audi A3, I added the reasonably-priced ‘Light and Sight’ pack (£150) which, as the name suggests, consists of automatic lights and wipers – the lights feature a ‘Coming Home’ and ‘Leaving Home’ function which leaves them on when you lock the car, and come on when you unlock it in the dark.

Last is the ‘Cruise and Park’ pack. While not essential on a supermini, I regularly have to park in some tight spaces at my local railway station and would like to keep the car as pristine as possible. It’s safe to say I now take more care to ensure I don’t kerb those great alloys, too! For £400, it didn’t seem too bad a price if it reduces the risk of little bumps here and there. The cruise control has already proved its worth on the car’s first trip down to my family home in Devon.

Speaking of which, after a 500-mile round trip from Hertfordshire to Devon, I’ve been left impressed with VW’s latest incarnation of the 1.2 TSI powerplant. While I’m obviously noticing the difference from my old 2.0 TDI Audi, I was never left trying to keep up with traffic on the madhouse that is the M4. While 89bhp doesn’t seem like much, the car has plenty of poke when you need it.

Tom's Polo is in mid-range SE trim, forecast to be the most popular

Tom's Polo is in mid-range SE trim, forecast to be the most popular

The fifth-generation Volkswagen Polo was updated last year

The fifth-generation Volkswagen Polo was updated last year

Reflex Silver paintwork a classy £540 option

Reflex Silver paintwork a classy £540 option

16-inch 'Knight' alloy wheels are a popular upgrade – and £565 extra

16-inch 'Knight' alloy wheels are a popular upgrade – and £565 extra

New Polo SE features 6.5-inch 'Composition Colour' touchscreen infotainment system

New Polo SE features 6.5-inch 'Composition Colour' touchscreen infotainment system

Polo particulars: 2014 Volkswagen Polo SE 1.2 TSI, Tom Goodlad

Polo particulars: 2014 Volkswagen Polo SE 1.2 TSI, Tom Goodlad

More impressive, though, is the refinement. For such a small car, it certainly lives up to its reputation as a mini-Golf. It’s hushed at speed, barely hearing the engine working away under the bonnet. The larger wheels roar slightly more than the standard 15-inchers fitted to SE models, but it’s by no means intrusive.

Three hours later I got out of the car in the middle of the Devon countryside feeling refreshed – the seats are supportive and I could play all my cheesy tunes all the way through the car’s updated infotainment system lifted straight from the more expensive Golf.

So far then, I’m impressed. The buying experience was an absolute joy, as was picking up the car, and so far I’m loving ownership of my new Polo. It’s proving to be the perfect companion around town, and a grown-up performer on the motorway. I’d just like to see slightly better fuel economy, but the car is still bedding in, so I’m hoping I’ll see it improve over time and I get more used to driving the car.

The next test is Volkswagen’s aftercare… The car has a broken USB socket so it’ll be heading back to the garage soon to be sorted out. Volkswagen’s dealer service has been criticised in Auto Express’ Driver Power dealer rankings, so it’ll be good to put them to the test.

Read more about Tom’s buying experience here: www.autoexpress.co.uk/car-news/90349/a-car-buyer-s-diary-how-did-we-fare-when-we-bought-a-vw-polo

Polo particulars: 2014 Volkswagen Polo SE 1.2 TSI, Tom Goodlad

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19 February 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Ogier sweeps to spectacular Rally Sweden win; Mikkelsen’s talent proved

Volkswagen Polo R WRC, Rally Sweden: Ogier/Ingrassia

A very tense and exciting Rally Sweden handed Volkswagen Motorsport’s Sébastien Ogier his second FIA 2015 World Rally Championship victory in as many events last weekend. The Frenchman fought off rally leader and team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen in a tense and dramatic final stage of a rally which was full of spectacle and where the battle between the two Volkswagen drivers was down to the wire.

In the end, a possible loss of concentration saw Mikkelsen suffer an off during the final Power Stage, handing Ogier the win. Mikkelsen hit a snow bank with the rear of his Polo, forcing the front into the snow, whereupon the car just dug in further, costing the Norwegian time. The world champion’s win meanwhile made it the 20th time in 27 Power Stages that a Volkswagen driver has collected the maximum haul of three points up for grabs at the crucial final stage.

Fast and furious pace
It all started at Shakedown, with Ogier declared the fastest driver. Mikkelsen set out his stall from the very beginning, setting the fifth quickest time. Finnish team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala was one place behind in sixth. After day one, Mikkelsen and co-driver Ola Fløene topped the overall placings, 19.1 seconds clear of Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville. The Norwegians had undoubtedly set the fast and furious pace among the metre-high snow banks lining the icy tracks.

The second loop saw Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia gain on the front runners, though, with the French pair taking the lead on stage two. However, a rare slip saw them hit a snow bank near on the ‘Torsby’ stage the end of the first day. A deficit of 24.7 seconds behind Mikkelsen saw them down the field, but still within reach of the top-scoring teams.

Latvala and Miikka Anttila also came to grief on the very same stage. Moving into the virtual lead, the Finns left the road and had to call on the event’s spectators for help to get them going once more. Dropping a total of nine minutes, Latvala slipped down the points table, eventually finishing the event in 12th place.

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19 February 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Volkswagen scores 1-2 in January 2015 European car sales chart

2015 Volkswagen Polo (Norway)

The Polo may sit in the second half of the UK’s top 10 best-selling car chart, but in Europe, it’s a very different story. Volkswagen’s perennial supermini was the second best-selling car in mainland Europe last month. Selling 23,512 units, the total number of Polos that found new homes was up 3.3 per cent on January 2014. And the car that topped the chart? The Polo’s bigger sibling, the Golf.

UK best-selling superminis the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall/Opel Corsa were fourth and fifth in the European chart with tallies of 21,833 and 21,255 respectively, meaning UK buyers are a patriotic bunch. Another small car rounded out Europe’s top five – the Renault Clio sold 22,238 examples in January. The Peugeot 208 was in eighth place and the Toyota Yaris tenth.

Overall, the picture was a buoyant one. New car sales for the month of January were up 6.4 per cent over the same period in 2014, say JATO Dynamics’ latest figures. Volkswagen, Ford and Renault were the best-selling brands, while the five biggest markets in Europe (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom) all recorded growth, as did a further 14 countries.

The top 10 best-selling cars in Europe (sales figure in thousands) are as follows:

1 Volkswagen Golf: 41,307
2 Volkswagen Polo: 23,512
3 Renault Clio: 22,238
4 Ford Fiesta: 21,833
5 Vauxhall/Opel Corsa: 21,225
6 Nissan Qashqai: 18,163
7 Skoda Octavia: 17,294
8 Peugeot 208: 16,047
9 Audi A3/S3/RS3: 15,438
10 Toyota Yaris: 15,298

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