16 August 2017 ~ 0 Comments

A sound proposition? Road test: Volkswagen Polo Beats 1.2 TSI 90

Distinctive inside and out, the Polo Beats is a more recent edition to the Volkswagen’s small car range. With upgraded kit and a 300W music system, it sounds like a tempting package. PoloDriver.com editor Rich Gooding takes this special version of the fifth-generation Polo for a final fling and sees if it’s a sound proposition

2017 Volkswagen Polo Beats (UK)

Red mirrors and special graphics: what’s this Polo all about then?
Introduced in May 2016, the Polo Beats started its life as a special edition model, but has become a mainstay of the current Polo range. And yes, its distinct from its siblings by way of (pun intended) loud – for a Polo – body graphics, ‘Beats’ b-pillar branding, a gloss black front grille, darkened rear lights, 16-inch ‘Knight’ alloy wheels, and those red mirrors (which, can actually be also had in black if a mis-matched look is to be avoided).

But, the main attraction of the Polo Beats is its 300W audio system. Yep, as the name suggests, the Polo Beats is a ‘collaboration’ between Volkswagen and Beats Electronics of California.

Volkswagen states that a lower-spec Polo Match comes with an 80-watt sound system as standard, but along with the upgraded output, the Polo Beats also features a digital sound processor, an eight-channel amplifier, seven ‘high-end’ speakers, and unique ‘Beats’-trimmed seats with quilted silver-grey centre sections and alcantara side bolsters. 

There are also red-edged seatbelts, red-edged carpet mats, LED footwell lighting and ‘Isaac Silver’ dashboard trim. A range of four engines power the Polo Beats, with prices starting at £14,355 ‘on the road’ for the 59bhp 1.0-litre three-door. A tempting proposition, does the sound-focused Polo offer much more for its near-£1,000 premium, or is it more a case of the extra kit distorting the appeal?

The current Polo is now eight years old, so how does it drive?
Despite its age, the fifth-generation Polo is still a decent drive. Our test car was fitted with the 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine developing 89bhp, and although it’s been around a while, it’s still a powertrain highlight of the soon-to-be-discontinued Polo range.

Nippy and very tractable with 118lb ft of torque coming in from 1,400-4,000rpm, it scoots the 1,107kg small VW along at a decent lick, and only loses some performance towards the top of its rev range. It sounds nice, too, slightly reminiscent of the thrum belonging to lesser Polos’ turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit. If we’re talking figures, Volkswagen quotes a 0-62mph time of 10.8 seconds, and a top speed of 114mph.

As has been the way with Polos since the introduction of the third-generation model of 1994, the latest version has a very grown-up feel, with sure-footed and safe handling. The Polo Beats can be cornered with moderate verve, and while we won’t pretend it’s the ultimate in small car fun, it offers a good compromise of mildly involving handling with good grip, a largely comfortable ride, and refined road manners.

The power-assisted steering feels naturally-weighted and not overly light, the manual gearbox has a nice slick ‘mechanical’ action, while the brakes are strong and the car is very hushed when cruising. Not that that is too much of a concern when you have a 300-watt sound system at your disposal…

What does the Polo Beats cost?
The special edition Polo Beats range starts at £14,355 for the 59bhp 1.0-litre TSI three-door, with an extra two doors costing £630 more. If you want to upgrade to the 74bhp 1.0-litre engine, you’re looking at £14,880 in three-door form, while the cheapest 89bhp 1.2-litre TSI version is £15,500. With that engine, our five-door test car starts at £16,130. 

The only diesel Polo Beats features a 74bhp 1.4-litre TDI engine, and is priced from £16,545. All Polo Beats models come with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard. A seven-speed DSG gearbox being available on the 1.2-litre TSI only, at a supplement of around £1,365.

The Polo Beats 1.2 TSI has CO2 emissions of 109g/km, which attracts an annual Vehicle Excise Duty cost of £140, while the lowest-emitting 97g/km version, the 1.4 TDI, costs the same amount per year to tax after the first-year rate of £120. Volkswagen quotes a combined cycle economy figure of 58.9mpg for the 1.2-litre TSI, and over a 470-mile test we achieved 45.9mpg. 

Does the extra kit make the Polo Beats feel more upmarket?
In a word, yes. Although the standard car isn’t left particularly wanting in the first place. Build quality still tops the class, and even though the car is very much in its twilight years, the perceived quality still eclipses some of its more modern rivals.

Our test car had some optional extra kit which made it feel even more plush: adaptive cruise control (£400), ‘Convenience Pack’ (auto interior mirror/headlights/wipers and electric folding mirrors, £245), ‘Discover Navigation’ 6.5-inch colour infotainment system with Car-Net ‘Guide & Inform’ (£700), electronic climate control (£380), as well as LED headlights/numberplate lights/daytime running lights and headlight washers (£925).

While we wouldn’t recommend that all the upgrades are necessary, they did make KN66 OWW feel very much the premium small car. But at an additional £2,650, so they should. All in, the optional extras took the total price to £18,780, which is a lot of money for a supermini, however premium it may feel. It’s also only around £800 less than the range-topping 189bhp Polo GTI, which offers a lot more performance and most of that extra kit as standard, as well as more than double the performance. 

As a note, the two-tone dashboard of the Polo Beats adds a welcome visual lift to the usual sombre and dark Polo cabin, while the quilted and alcantara-bolstered sports seats are very comfortable. All the controls are nicely-weighted and just where you want them, while the standard infotainment system features Car-Net ‘App-Connect’ for Apple CarPlay, Google Android Auto and MirrorLink functionality.

On the negative side, rear legroom isn’t vast, but this is something which will be remedied with the all-new sixth-generation model unveiled last month in Berlin, which has a 94mm-longer wheelbase. Practicality is the same as in all other current fifth-generation Polos, though: when the rear seats are in place there’s 280 litres of luggage space, which rises to 952 litres when they are folded down.

And what about that sound system, the whole car’s raison d’être? We’re no audio experts, but the sound is crisp and clear, with little or no distortion. The upgraded set-up consists of two tweeters in the A-pillars, two woofers in the front doors, a pair of ‘broadband’ speakers in the rear doors, while the sub-woofer is nestled in the spare wheel well (a ‘tyre mobility set’ is included in lieu of a spare wheel). The DAB-assisted system itself works as well as any other Volkswagen Group infotainment touchscreen with no stalling or fumbling about in deep-set menus. 

So, is the Polo Beats worth buying then?
It’s a tempting package and although the ‘Beats’ name won’t mean much to buyers of a certain generation, to the younger drivers Volkswagen hopes to attract with this particular vibrant Polo, it’s a name which is synonymous with high-end sound. Not to be confused with the less distinctive Polo Sound special edition on sale in Germany, the Polo Beats is a more complete and unique proposition. 

Although the Beats Audio-trimmed Polo is not an inexpensive upgrade over the Match Edition model, the amount of extra kit  over the lower-specced car seems reasonable enough. The wheels alone cost an additional £595 – with a white finish being a no-cost option for even more individuality – and the seven-speaker sound system with its extra 220 watts of power must account for a good proportion of the remaining £500 or so. 

For a car which is perilously close to the end of its lifecycle, the fifth-generation Polo still ranks as one of the best superminis to drive and own, and is even ahead of some much younger competition in a few areas. It still appears a handsome member of the 2017 small car class, and the vibrant Beats tell-tale exterior features mostly afford it an even more youthful appearance. Whether those updates are to your taste is a matter of opinion, but we don’t think they detract from the overall look too much.

2017 Volkswagen Polo Beats (UK)

To sum up then, the Polo Beats 1.2 TSI is a well-equipped, perky and economical small car, built with as solid a feel as all Polos have been for the past four decades. Far from feeling weary, and good – if not the most exciting – to drive, the Polo Beats is a fine last hurrah to the current range, although buyers will no doubt get a better car if they wait a little while and plump for the all-new sixth-generation model.

A sure sign that the new car is on the way, the Beats (and in fact all current Polos) is now only available from stock, no longer built to order – production of the new sixth-generation model has began in both Spain and Brazil – so if you want one, you may have to quickly ‘beat’ a path to your local Volkswagen Retailer…

VOLKSWAGEN POLO BEATS 1.2 TSI

Price: £16,130 (including VAT, £18,780 as tested)
Engine: 1.2-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged
Transmission: five-speed manual
Power/torque: 89bhp/118lb ft/160Nm @ 1,400-4,000rpm
0-62mph: 10.8 seconds
Top speed: 114mph
Economy (combined cycle): 58.9mpg
CO2 emissions: 109g/km
Weight: 1,107kg
Equipment: 16” ‘Knight’ alloy wheels, ‘Beats’ styling kit, 300W ‘Beats’ seven-speaker audio system with eight-channel amplifier and digital sound processor, and Car-Net ‘App Connect’ smartphone mirroring system
On sale: now

FURTHER INFORMATION
www.volkswagen.co.uk

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