VW Polo Scoops European Car of the Year Title
By Andy Bannister
Volkswagen has triumphed in this year’s European Car of the Year contest, narrowly beating Toyota’s iQ for the top spot in a ballot featuring a jury of 59 motoring journalists from across the continent.
The Polo secured 347 points versus 337 for the baby Toyota. Both were miles ahead of the third place Opel/Vauxhall Astra, with 221. An impressive 25 jurors scored top marks for the Polo, against 20 for the iQ.
VW Group’s other entrant, the Skoda Yeti, came 4th with 158 points, just three ahead of the Mercedes E-class.
In a disappointing outcome for the French motor industry, the Peugeot 3008 (144 points) and Citroën C3 Picasso (113 points) made up the rear of the seven-strong field, narrowed down from an initial 33 new cars.
Volkswagen’s previous track record in the contest has been pretty poor, with only one solitary victory for the brand (the Golf Mark 3, way back in 1992). Sister marque Audi has one twice but even more distantly, with the 100 (1983) and the 80 (1973).
In many ways the Polo’s elevation to greatness this time is something of a surprise. It is certainly not the boldest new offering of the year, being an evolution of an existing model, using mostly familiar mechanics and a look which owes plenty to its Golf sibling.
Toyota’s iQ is indisputably far more radical than the VW, and the Japanese may feel a little rueful that the cleverness of their entrant was not universally recognised. The iQ does have its detractors, however, who have criticised the model for its high price and excessive width, which negate some of its city-car credentials
For VW, the timing of the Polo’s win couldn’t be a better way to raise the profile of its smaller hatch, which has for years been in the shadow of the Golf.
The range’s most interesting version is a 1.2-litre turbo, although most sales will probably be the normally-aspirated model, and of course the diesel.
Commendably, the latest Polo tips the scales at less than its predecessor model, and perhaps it is this new-found sprightliness which has endeared the car to this year’s voting panel.
A super-economical and low emission Blue Motion version is next on the cards, and in due course a sporty GTI will follow.
The new range is a quality product, and clearly now sets a benchmark in its class which others will need to follow. In fact it is so refined that Volkswagen may find that some buyers eager to save a little money decide to downsize their Golf purchase and opt for its little brother instead.
The Polo name has been around since 1975, with the original model being a tiny 895cc competitor for the likes of the Fiat 127 and Renault 5.
That first Polo was actually a badge-engineered version of a long-forgotten Audi twin, the 50, developed to replace some ancient little rear-engined NSU cars. That was back in the days when the respective roles of the Volkswagen and Audi brands hadn’t been fully sorted out.
Several generations on, the latest Polo has grown up vastly in size and sophistication. Initially available only as a five-door, the model has recently been unveiled in three-door form, with a four-door saloon to follow.
Although best known in Europe, it is a global product, made in markets including South Africa, Brazil and China. It is likely in due course to be the first-ever Polo model sold in North America, where it should be a formidable competitor for the likes of the Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit.
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