Volkswagen’s Polo Beats has pop culture branding, but it’s the substance beneath that gives the compact hatch real value in Singapore
No there isn’t a spurious extra ‘s’ in the name, neither is it a grammar error. The new Volkswagen Polo, in its higher spec form, is called the Volkswagen Beats (lowercase ‘b’ actually, but we’re CarBuyer so we choose our capitals when we want to damnit).
While collaborations are nothing new, one way of gaining attention is to play that aspect up – in music it’s that much abused ‘feat.’, and in fashion or technology it’s ‘x’ (eg as in ‘CarBuyer x Goosedown Vests’).
There isn’t either tag here, but there may as well should be, since it’s obvious Volkswagen is working with audio company Beats.
We’ll answer the obvious question now: No, the tie-up isn’t a way of covering up the faults of a less-than-impressive product or an extra-long life-cycle of the previous fifth-gen model. The new VW Polo is probably the best Polo ever.
Like the span between the Golf VI and Golf VII, the migration to the MQB platform has allowed for a total ground shift and the chance for the Polo to overcome all its previous shortcomings, while maximising its pluses.
You’ll catch on to that just from the way it looks, as the Polo has taken an acrobatic leap ahead in design terms.
Compared to the previous model, whose most interesting part was probably the square taillights, there is much more for the eye, and subsequently the heart, to dwell upon.
Like the Golf it has full LED headlamps with a hexagonal pattern encased beneath the lens, but there are also plenty of figure lines on the body (bonnet, shoulders, intersecting the door handles).
As mentioned, these aren’t just for show, as they cost extra money to engineer into a car, and if well executed (like they are on the Polo) the provide a subliminal value add.
So it’s certainly not the kind of car one looks at and wonders where the money went, and consequently VW spent more time and effort in the places your eyes are most often at.
In the cabin, that’s the sharp, touchscreen 8.0-inch TFT infotainment system and the 10.25-inch Active Info Display, a slightly smaller version of the one found in cars like the Golf and Passat, though no less sharp nor useful, and is even more customisable.
A full-leather steering wheel with remote controls, the contrasting red dashboard, Beats logos on the A-pillar speakers, and a sunroof make life generally pleasant.
As you look downward though you do see the compact hatch cost cutting more visibly, ironically in the white lower plats of the cabin, such as the plastic cupholder section and doorhandles. In the base model’s dark grey, the hard plastics and one or two panel gaps would be less apparent.
But that’s the off-beat in the Polo Beats’ otherwise high production quality.
As the chart shows, this new Polo is much larger than before. As a compact hatch the legroom isn’t huge but you can still fit four adults, five with some good-natured squeezing, and you couldn’t say that about the previous Polo, no matter how well acquainted the second-row occupants.
That also means it’s edging nearer to the Golf in size terms, and the boot space at 351-litres is now much more in line with what you’d expect from a class leader like the all-conquering Honda Jazz, which as 360-litres.
Speaking of Golf, the Polo actually replaces the Golf 1.0 in the local VW line-up – it has the same engine, and even more power, with 5hp more at 115hp total.
|Engine||Performance||Dimensions(mm) and turning circle||Wheelbase (mm)||Boot space||Weight (with driver)||Efficiency|
|VW Polo (5th gen)||1,197cc, 90hp, 160Nm||0-100km/h 10.9 seconds, 182km/h||3,970mm x 1682 x 1462, 10.6m||2,470mm||280-952 litre||1,088kg||5.2L/100km|
|VW Golf 1.0 (current)||999cc, 110hp, 200Nm||0-100km/h 9.9 seconds, 196km/h||4258 x 1799 x 1492, 10.9m||2,620||380 to 1270 litre||1,236kg||5.0L/100km|
|VW Polo (new 6th gen)||999cc, inline 3, 115hp and 200Nm||0-100km/h 9.5s, 200km/h||4053 x 1751 x 1461, 10.6m||2,551||351 – 1125 litre||1,190kg||4.9L/100km|
Yet in contrast to the old Polo 1.2, the compact hatch nature of the car hardly ever shines through in the driving experience. There is less sophistication in the way the suspension deals with the worst kind of bumps, but the other 90 percent of the time, the Polo is in fact very refined, smooth and quiet, even in non-compact car terms.
What’s better is that it even manages to preserve the fun side of things: Small hatches are fun to throw around, and the rorty 1.0-litre triple with quick-fire DSG is an enjoyable counterpart to the Polo’s sprightly handling. While there are no driving modes nor an eco coasting feature, back off the throttle and driving gently massages fuel consumption below 7.0L/100km easily.
The Polo Beats is the second cheapest VW now ($99,400), after the Polo Comfortline ($90,900 with COE), and the $8,500 price difference between them is covered mainly by the Beats-only interior red trim, ‘Tracks’ fabric seats, the panoramic sunroof, Park Assist (auto self-parking) and a reverse camera, Active Info Display, and 300W six speaker sound system that also packs a subwoofer.
Who is Beats, and why?
Aka Beats by Dre, the maker of audio peripherals was once partnered with Monster Cable, then bought over by HTC, and is now owned by Apple.
Perhaps because of its roots and association with Monster, a ‘company built on hype’, Beats is still sneered at by audiophiles. But that means little in this age because it’s plugged into cool hip-hop culture, immensely popular with young ‘uns, and now worth billions as a result.
In effect, that can be seen as the perfect antidote for the demographic of young people who have less and less interest in cars, they may not recognise a car brand, but they will recognise Apple, Samsung, or of course Beats.
It’s difficult not to be cynical of collaborations like this, though. It’s of course not the first time this has been done: For bleh examples, see the Fiat 500 Gucci edition and Bugatti Veyron Hermes for instance, for good see the VW Beetle, which had a Fender themed sound-system to go with its retro vibe. But at least the Beats part of things lives up to its name in the Polo.
For those who really like the Beats bits of the Polo, the swollen bass response of the sound system does call to mind the bass-heavy nature of Beats’ headphones, and the system can be cranked tremendously loud. As far as car audio goes it’s decent but isn’t super accomplished, but it is authentic to its origins, if that’s important to you.
For everybody else, the new Volkswagen Polo is tremendously improved, gaining new ability while not losing any of its strengths, and that might just allow it to beat off the rest of the compact hatch competition.
Volkswagen Polo Beats 1.0
|Engine||999cc, inline 3, turbocharged|
|Power||150bhp at 5000-6000rpm|
|Torque||280Nm at 1500-3500rpm|
|VES / CO2||B / 112g/km CO2|
|Price||$99,400 with COE|