The Volkswagen Polo

By Brendan Moore

12.26.2007

I received a PR email about the new VW Polo Match from Volkswagen UK this morning, which made me reflect for a bit on the fact that 99% of the American public are oblivious to the fact that there is another world (from a size perspective) that exists in the VW lineup underneath the Golf (now the Rabbit again). This is not any Johnny-come-lately model; the Polo has been available in the VW lineup in Europe and other parts of the world for decades now.

But we’ve never seen it in the United States because, well, because, gasoline and diesel has always been pretty cheap here, and not only that, the Polo is smaller than the Rabbit, which a lot of Americans already consider too small. VW looked at those two big reasons to keep the little car out of the States and decided against bringing it to the U.S. many times over the years.

But the Polo has always sold well in Europe, and now that we have a couple of cars here in the U.S. that punch in the same weight/size class (e.g., Honda Fit), I am wondering if the time might be right for VW to consider producing the Polo here or in their Mexico plants for sale in the U.S. The VW Polo, like the Honda Fit, slots nicely between the speck-sized Mercedes-Benz Smart and the Volkswagen Golf, and most importantly, like the Fit, feels like a real car.

Just to give you a feel for the car, here is an excerpt from the press release copy from VW:

Set to be the biggest selling model in the Polo range the Match replaces the S level in the line-up. Compared with the S, the new Match offers even greater value and increased equipment while retaining the virtues of quality, efficiency and practical ability for which the Polo is famed.

The new Polo Match is distinguished by a set of 15-inch ‘Charade’ alloy wheels and body-coloured bumper strips, door strips, door handles and wing mirrors inset into which are integrated indicators. At the front a pair of foglamps are set into the twin airdams.

The revisions continue to the Polo’s interior. A leather-trimmed steering wheel, gearknob and handbrake grip are joined by the option of either a six-disc CD autochanger or an iPod connection to allow access to your digital music library on the move. Practical additions include electric front windows, a split folding rear seat, height adjustment for the driver’s seat and a useful drawer under the passenger seat.

All these enhancements represent an £825 improvement in value.Powering the new Polo Match is a choice of engines ranging from the compact petrol 1.2-litre unit up to the flexible 1.4-litre TDI engine – the latter of which is placed in VED band ‘B’ equating to an annual tax bill of only £35.

It’s worth noting to our American readers that the Volkswagen Polo returns over 70 mpg (imperial gallon, which is a little larger than a U.S. gallon) in one of the diesel models, and no, that’s not a misprint. The Polo gets around 73 mpg on the highway, and does this while producing very low emissions. It will put any Toyota Prius to absolute shame in the fuel economy category.

Of course, there are many cars the size of the Polo sold in Europe whose diesel-powered versions get extraordinary fuel economy, and I’m offering up the VW Polo merely as an example – it is the one I got the press release on this morning. Whether it’s a VW or an Opel or a Nissan, these small diesel-powered cars would fill the needs of a lot of American motorists nicely.

It really begs the question: When will we see these cars in the States? The new CAFE requirements are now in place, so the question now is not so much if, but when. If the retail cost of gasoline keeps rising, it might be within 24 months. If gasoline settles in around $3.00 a gallon for unleaded regular, then it may be much longer. Up until recently, there was also the issue of making the diesels meet the emissions requirements here in the States, but it looks as if that will not be a problem going forward in the next few years as the manufacturers are making great strides in cleaning up the exhaust from their respective diesel engines.

With such great fuel mileage, it’s difficult to argue the viability of a car like the VW Polo as a commuter car. Many Americans commute long distances in their cars every day, alone, and don’t need a large car for that sort of drive. Something like the Polo might be perfect for their needs.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant.net – All Rights Reserved

Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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5 Comments

  1. Are you kidding me? 70-plus miles per gallon? WTF?!?!?! Why doesn’t VW sell this car here? Seems like they’d sell a million of them in the first year. I can’t understand why this car is not sold in America.

  2. grinning idiot. it’s not like there is any plot to keep these small cars from Americans, it’s just that gasoline here is very inexpensive compared to Europe and so far, Americans like big cars and big SUV’s. If gasoline gets more expensive and Americans decide that they want something smaller, then you’ll see cars like this here PDQ. They’re not here now because the manufacturers don’t think they can sell them here and they’re probably right.

  3. I believe the fuel economy ratings for the VW Polo are measured with the British Imperial gallon, which is larger than the 128 fluid ounce gallon of the States. The conversion is 1.201 imperial to 1 gallon here.

    Or in liters, 4.5 to 3.8.

    That said, the fuel economy is still impressive. I wish I had the money to import a Blue Motion diesel polo…

  4. It is with some chagrin that I admit that I did not make the conversion from imperial gallon to U.S. gallon – a mistake I haven’t made for over a decade. Nonetheless, I didn’t do the conversion, and this is my mea culpa. I have been so used to looking at fuel economy in liters from the rest of the world that the conversion slipped right by me. I have made the notation in the post and I thank our sharp-eyed reader pointing out the error.

    – Editor

  5. Actually that type of mpg is not that impressive for a small diesel viehicle. I’ve known several folks with early 80’s VW Diesel Rabits that got 54 mpg (US), and that’s a 20 year old car. And this thing is smaller than a Rabit.

    Possibly a viable car if built in Mexico. The Euro/Dollar exchange rate would make a european produced version too expensive for the marketplace.

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