No, the headline is not a mistake. I know that this is a brave, bold statement (some would say it’s daft). But I can assure you that I know which car will win the 2019 WesBank South African Car of the Year (COTY) competition: the new Volkswagen Polo.
I guess that I am being a bit brazen in making this prediction. After all, the 2018 COTY winner hasn’t even been announced yet (that will happen on March 13). And, to be perfectly honest, even though I’m a judge, I have no clue which car will win; there are just so many amazing finalists this year. Of course, the same could happen in the 2019 contest. But I’m sticking to my guns. The Polo will win. And here’s why.
When the judges evaluate the COTY finalists, we look at a number of factors: exterior design, interior materials, interior layout, technology, engine, transmission, engineering integrity, build quality, ride quality, steering/handling, affordability, value for money and overall excellence. And really, the new Polo ticks all these boxes!
I love the new exterior design; it’s sporty and chunky (I adore the wedge shape). The materials used in the interior are top draw; it feels like a far more expensive car. The interior layout is quite faultless.
When it comes to technology, the Polo excels yet again (it boasts a multitude of driver assistance systems – a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert and semi-automated Park Assist system to name but a few – that were previously reserved for the Golf and Passat class; it’s also the first Volkswagen ever to offer a new generation of Active Info Display).
Then there’s the engine. Actually, I could write an entire article on the engine alone. It is Simply Superb! The Polo comes with a choice of two turbocharged engines: both one-litre powerplants. The smaller of the two has an output of 70 kW. Standard with both the Polo Trendline and Comfortline, it’s perky, responsive and surprisingly quick. It is available with a five-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed DSG.
Then there’s the 1.0 TSI with an output of 85 kW (which is matched to a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed DSG). At the launch, I drove with a guy who used to edit one of the largest motoring magazines in the country – so he really knows his (motoring) stuff. There was one thing that he said over and over again while behind the wheel: “This engine is amazing; I cannot believe it’s a one-litre.” I totally concur with his sentiments. The manual gearboxes are terrific but the DSG is just incredible; in my mind, Volkswagen’s DSG is THE benchmark transmission.
The newcomer to the Volkswagen stable is superbly engineered and built; there are absolutely no rattles or squeaks. This is something of which we – as South Africans – can be really proud, since the Polo is built right here in sunny South Africa.
The ride quality of the Polo is also superb (gosh I’m really waxing lyrical, aren’t I?) The steering is faultless and the handling is predictable. My colleagues on the Women’s World Car of the Year jury tell me that the new Fiesta (which comes to South Africa in the second quarter of this year) pips the Polo in the handling department – but the Volkswagen certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Finally, there’s the pricing. Volkswagen normally sells its cars at a premium because, quite frankly, it can. However, the pricing of the Polo is surprisingly competitive:
1.0 TSI 70kW Trendline: R235 900
1.0 TSI 70kW Comfortline: R264 700
1.0 TSI 70kW Comfortline DSG: R280 700
1.0 TSI 85kW Highline: R286 200
1.0 TSI 85kW Highline DSG: R302 200
In conclusion, one needs to consider the overall excellence of the car – in my mind, this is the single-most important factor when it comes to judging COTY. I’d have to give it 10 out of 10 in this regard. The Polo is a truly excellent vehicle. It will deservedly wear the 2019 COTY crown.