First Drive: 2010 Volkswagen Polo Page 2

October 26, 2009

The Polo--and the Fiesta, too--take the handling tack that the Honda Fit puts aside in favor of interior room. There's none of the Fit's almost-minivan space in the Polo, which blends Golf, Audi A3 and some hints of Scirocco into a plainly handsome shape. You wouldn't mistake the nicely trimmed interior for anything but Volkswagen; it's under the hood where the unfinished engine bay and the clicking of the direct-injection system reminds you that cost doesn't just disappear on its own.

Our Polo came fitted with the gear you'd expect and some at the upper reaches of small-car credibility. A telescoping wheel and power windows are necessities--but will U.S. buyers want to pay up for a navigation system and automatic climate control in a sub-$15,000 subcompact? Volkswagen is asking, and trying to answer plenty of questions just like those as it works on the first U.S.-market Polo. By the time it arrives, a sedan version is more than likely, a sop to the marketing types who believe U.S. buyers won't grab as many hatchbacks.

Then there's the question of price: how much can be charged for the Polo when a new, less-expensive-to-build Jetta and a big, American-made full-size "NMS" sedan are in the pipeline, too? At $15,000, the Polo would beat the likes of the Nissan Versa and Hyundai Accent on fuel economy, but would be $5,000 more in base sticker price. And that's not a winning combination, by VW's reckoning. Could they do $12,500? Or even $14,000? All remains to be seen, but if the new Polo bore more than a passing resemblance to other VW icons, the premium appeal could give it an edge.

Say, how about a turbodiesel Polo with DSG and 50 mpg? A loss leader for sure, but maybe just the car Volkswagen needs to make this brewing battle a real three-way.

High Gear Media accepted airfare and hotel stay from the automaker to be among the first to test-drive this new vehicle.

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