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Classy act from VW.

It's billed as the new tough Polo - and that's exactly what it feels like: robust, sturdy and well able to stand the pace.

It offers the kind of peace of mind you want in terms of safety and security, but don't really expect to get from a small runabout.

The latest Polo is neat and stylish enough to grace the frontage of the Savoy, but at the same time it is sufficiently rugged to cope with most of the demands placed upon it from a wide range of customers.

This no-compromise German favourite can also boast some fairly impressive technical wizardry that puts it streets ahead of a good number of its rivals.

Like its predecessor, the new generation Polo has a bootful of street cred.

It doesn't quite match up to the allure of the Golf, admittedly, but it still oozes quality from every corner.

It is difficult not to be seduced by Volkswagen's build quality, though this isn't the only area in which the Polo excels.

Sensing my aversion to three-door cars, Volkswagen had sent a five-door model of the SE FSI 1.4 85 PS Polo for test which proved to be surprisingly spacious.

It is not a lot bigger than its forerunner - 54mm longer, 18mm wider and 47mm taller - yet the designers have managed to produce an interior that feels a good deal larger, probably through the increase in roof height.

The interior is ultra-modern, but you can't help feeling they could have been a little more adventurous with colour and furnishings. Though for me, a minimalist look, even to the point of drabness, is OK.

Introduction of the 1.4-litre, 85 PS FSI engine to the Polo range marks the first use of new direct-injection petrol technology by Volkswagen in the UK market. Compared with other engines, the direct petrol injection unit can provide an improvement of around 15 per cent on fuel consumption and helps provide the healthy, official combined figure of 48mpg. Urban runs will return about 36.2mpg, while 59mpg is quoted in "economy" mode.

The engine is athletic and smooth and a carbon dioxide emission rate of just 142g/km puts the FSI model in the lowest company tax bracket.

The light power steering makes driving a relaxed affair, even in the urban jungle - though there are times when it is a little woolly. However, the German supermini handles very well, the suspension absorbs most road irregularities within reason and the ride is wonderfully supportive, without being too firm.

The Polo isn't a dream design, but it has a lot of road presence.

A very refined car and with a reputation for excellent resale values, the Polo still takes a lot of beating. In addition to a three-year mechanical warranty, the Polo also comes with a class-leading 12-year body protection guarantee.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 16, 2003
Words:470
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