Russia is hard on cars. The cold weather, the large amount of salt used as a result of cold weather, and variety of street conditions wage a constant assualt on passenger vehicles.
Volkswagen has fired back a salvo with the launch of the 2011 Volkswagen Polo Sedan, a car designed specifically for (and built in) Russia. Reading down the spec sheet, the new Polo looks like any other Volkswagen--propulsion is provided by a 105 horsepower 1.6-liter gasoline four-cylinder, with a choice of five-speed manual or six-speed automatic (not a DSG, but a traditional torque converter automatic). Like all Volkswagens, safety is a priority, and the car comes with a plethera of safety equipment, including ABS brakes, front and side airbags, and electronic stability control.
But the numbers on the spec sheet do not tell the entire story. The car was specifically engineered for the Russian market, and factors such as the climate, road quality, and even the quality of available gasoline was taken into account during development. As a result, the car boasts features such as a modern engine, tuned to safely run without failure both in the cold weather and on the available fuel, and a galvanized and corrosion resistent body. The suspension is tuned to handle the large variation of road quality. The paint and any chrome trim pieces are specifically designed to handle aggresive de-icing compounds without pitting or corroding.
It may not seem like much, but it's this attention to detail is what marks Volkswagen as one of the most knowledgable and observant automakers around. At an entry price around 10,000 euros, Volkswagen is betting that people will react favorably to these tweaks, as one can place themselves into a similar sized new car from other manufacturers for 1,500-2,000 euros less. Time will tell if this strategy pays off.