27 February 2013 ~ 0 Comments

Exclusively enjoyable: road test – Volkswagen Polo R-Line

2013 Volkswagen Polo R-Line: looks like the £4135 more expensive GTI

The current Polo has been with us since 2009. Four years is a lifetime for some automotive models, but with the latest version of Volkswagen’s evergreen small car, it seems we’re still in the infancy of its lifecycle. Deliveries of the eco-warm hatch Polo BlueGT are just starting to trickle in, as well as the first examples of another new addition to the Polo range – the Polo R-Line. Not to be confused with the limited edition 217bhp Polo R WRC ‘street’ car which takes styling cues from Volkswagen’s Polo R WRC competition car, the R-Line marries a punchy engine with some welcome visual add-ons.

For a not inconsiderable yet competitive £15,295 for the three-door (two extra doors are available for an additional £620), the Polo R-Line takes the 1.2-litre turbocharged engine from the Polo SEL and adds some much-needed aggression, in the form of an R-Line styling kit. R-Line flourishes include restyled front and rear bumpers, a larger rear roof spoiler, deeper side skirts, gloss back grille, 16-inch ‘Mallory’ alloy wheels (similar to the larger rims fitted to the full-fat Golf and Scirocco R models), as well as 65 per cent tinted rear windows and a smattering of ‘R-Line’ badges. It’s a purposeful yet subtle makeover, but one that certainly makes the Polo R-Line look the part.

It’s a similar understated story in the cabin, too, but everything you could wish for is included. Unique sports seats trimmed in Titan Black ‘Kyalami’ cloth with Crystal Grey ‘San Remo’ (a long-standing Volkswagen tradition of using racing circuit names continues) microfibre bolsters carry R-Line-embossed headrests; a flat-bottomed, three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel is borrowed from the Polo GTI; and there are aluminium pedals and sill kickplates. Technical kit includes a tyre pressure monitor.

All Polos now receive a DAB radio as standard, and Bluetooth is now fitted to S models and above. The R-Line also gets black headlining – which really does contribute to the cocooning and sporty feel of the interior – and a gloss black centre console and air vent surrounds. It all adds up to a genuinely go-faster feeling and is unbelievably available for less cash than the SEL, from which the R-Line borrows so much.

The standard chassis settings are from the SEL, too, which is an indication that even Volkswagen doesn’t see this car as an out-and-out performance model. Even sports suspension isn’t part of the R-Line’s gene pool, which could be a good thing – the R-Line rides and soaks up the bumps in the usual calm and no-nonsense Polo manner. Sadly, the Polo R-Line keeps the SEL’s minimum steering feel, too, but it’s pleasant enough, with a nice degree of weighting from the speed-sensitive rack. The 215/45 R16 tyres grip well and the R-Line scoots around corners with the minimum of fuss.

The six-speed gearbox is lovely to use, with a short and precise action, while the brakes are equally responsive. The 1.2 TSI engine must rate as one of VW’s best, with strong performance (even from low revs), and a willingness to rev, accompanied with a welcome aural rortiness as the engine reaches it upper revolutions. Volkswagen quotes a 0-62mph time of 9.7 seconds, and this decent level of performance is married to decent economy, too. Where most cars with a bit of poke may not be so parsimonious, the Polo R-Line scores here – we saw a reading of 42.3mpg over our 200 miles.

Overall, it’s quite a convincing package. The Polo R-Line offers style, performance, practicality and economy, few of which would have bedfellows in the past. It costs less to buy than the Polo SEL on which it’s based, too. With more than a passing resemblance to the £4135 more expensive Polo GTI but with cheaper running costs and enough enjoyable real-world performance, VW’s latest R-Line model is an unexpected range highlight. It may be on the warm side rather than scalding hot, but the Polo R-Line is stylish and spirited enough to be exclusively enjoyable.

VOLKSWAGEN POLO R-LINE
Price: £15,295
Engine: 1.2-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Power/torque: 104bhp/129lb ft @ 1550-4100rpm
0-62mph: 9.7 seconds
Top speed: 118mph
Economy (combined cycle), CO2: 53.3mpg, 124g/km
Weight: 1088kg
Equipment: 16” ‘Mallory’ alloy wheels, R-Line styling kit, front fog lights, privacy rear windows
On sale: Now
Rivals: Alfa Romeo MiTo TwinAir, Citroën DS3 VTI, Ford Fiesta EcoBoost, Suzuki Swift Sport
Find out more: http://www.volkswagen.co.uk/#/new/polo-v/which-model/compare/1291//

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