VW's Development Chief Ulrich Hackenburg announced to Automotive News at last week's Detroit Auto Show that the Polo minicar is bound for the U.S. in its next-generation form. "The small-car segment is the fastest growing segment in the U.S.," he said, noting that there is an "increasing enthusiasm for smaller, fuel-efficient cars" in America.
Just a couple of years ago, the tiny, miserly hatches that dominate the streets of Europe would have been a tough sell in the U.S. "Too small! They'd be crushed in a crash with an Excursion." Quite true, though such dinosaurs are quickly going away. "Cramped, slow, and ugly." Tidier, for sure (larger than the Toyota Yaris three-door but smaller than the Honda Fit) but not so slow anymore thanks to tech like direct injection and turbocharging. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder, but Amerians' collective belt-tightening due to unstable fuel prices, the need for lower MSRPs to combat reduced access to credit, and general adoption of the European less-is-more philosophy suddenly makes these cars suddenly quite appealing.
VW said that the vehicle could possibly be produced at its Pueblo, Mexico plant. The company did not say when it would be for sale in the U.S., but it plans to unveil the next-generation vehicle at the Geneva Auto Show in March. In its current guise, the Polo BlueMotion (the ultimate economy model) features a 1.4-liter 3-cylinder diesel with a variable-vane turbo that generates 80 hp at 4,000 rpm and 143 lb-ft torque at a low 1,800 rpm. At a curb weight of approximately 2,400 lbs., these power levels (especially the low-end torque) should provide more than enough scoot. And most importantly, how does a hybrid-trouncing 62 mpg strike you?
With the current national average for diesel fuel at $2.32/gallon, the Polo BlueMotion costs owners 3.7 cents per mile to operate. Surely those kind of outstanding numbers will convince a tide of U.S. drivers to give smaller cars a try - tidy dimensions and funky styling be damned.
VW Polo GTI, BlueMotion, Polo, CrossPoloEnlarge Photo