November 13, 2012

Volkswagen Polo, 53 MPG: Look ma, no batteries!

There was a time that my parents, those inveterate travelers, owned two Volkswagen vans, one on each side of the Atlantic, for their extended camping trips. In the years after my mom retired, they travelled in one van or the other for a total of 2-3 months a year. One officially had my name on it but the moment my parents touched down stateside my claim on it was null and void. They would load it with their camping gear and drive it all over the US and Canada, leaving me with a choice of my trusty bike or a rental car for 4-6 weeks.

But when they were at home they preferred a city car: it's hard to park a VW camper in most Dutch cities. For years they did all their local driving in a 2001 Volkswagen Polo, a city car the size of a Toyota Prius c, or a Honda Fit.

At just under 4 meters, the Polo looks small, but is actually quite brave. My dad would meet us at the airport in this car, and would manage to stuff in all four of us as well as all our luggage, two large suitcases plus assorted carry-ons and laptop cases, before easing himself behind the wheel.

There's no way you can fit a cello across the cargo area in the back. But one would fit across the back seat. So when it's just CelloDad and me, some years ahead, a car this size would be perfect for us.

My dad's 2001 Polo was a rare automatic-transmission model, so its fuel efficiency wasn't that great. But the story is quite different for the current crop of Polos. As for the VW Golf, there is a GTI version built to appeal to the younger, impatient crowd.

Regular Polos are available with 1.2L, 1.4L and 1.6L engines, gasoline or diesel. All come in a Bluemotion version, Volkswagen's package of fuel efficiency enhancing technology, including start-stop systems, higher gear ratios at high speeds, and tires with low rolling resistance.

The Polo 1.2L TDI Bluemotion packs a surprising 180 Nm (133 lbs-ft) torque for lively driving while still getting 53 mpg in real-life driving as reported by Polo owners (the quoted 69mpg overstates the actual fuel efficiency). The Polo's fuel efficiency beats that of the Toyota Prius c, without the large batteries that can be problematic in the wrong climate.

The comparable gasoline version with 1.2L engine puts out much less torque (112 Nm), at worse fuel efficiency: just 38 mpg. This is anemic for a car this size, so it only has a "D" rating on the European emissions label, whereas the 1.2L TDI Bluemotion earns an "A+", which comes with wonderful perks such as reduced sales and road taxes in many European countries. Small wonder then that the diesel version is overwhelmingly favoured in Europe. The € 2500 higher price tag (see table, below) includes such things as alloy wheels and other upgrades compared to the gasoline version with Comfortline trim.

Expensive? Not really. Remember, we in the US tend to faint at car prices abroad; this is because cars are cheap in the US. For perspective, the 2013 VW Golf with 2.0L TDI diesel engine and Comfortline trim costs € 25,275 in Germany ($ 32,135) but just $24,235 in the US. So I estimate that when the Polo Bluemotion 1.2L TDI comes to the United States its price tag will be less than $17,000, well below the $18,950 starting price for the Prius c, which is rated at 50mpg average.

Worldwide sales of the Polo have accelerated in the past two years, exceeding 800,000 cars in 2011. Judging by the popularity of the Honda Fit here, my guess is that if VW started selling the Polo in the US, it would sell like hotcakes.


VW Polo, gasoline and TDI Bluemotion

Polo Comfortline Polo Bluemotion
Type 1.2L 70PS 1.2L TDI
Year 2013 2013
Emissions rating EURO 5 "D" EURO 5 "A+"
MSRP € 14,525
($ 18,500)
€ 16,900
($ 21,500)
CelloMom Rating
Fuel Economy:
City/Hwy quoted 7.3 / 4.5 km/100L 4.1 / 3.0 km/100L
Avg. quoted 5.5 km/100L
(43 mpg)
3.4 km/100L
(69 mpg)
Avg. actual 38 mpg (US) 53 mpg (US)

1.2L 3-Cyl. Otto

1.2L 3-Cyl. Diesel
Power 51 kW (69HP) 55kW (74HP)
Torque 112 Nm @3000rpm
(83 lb-ft)
180 Nm @ 2000rpm
(133 lb-ft)
Transmission 5-spd manual 5-spd manual
Fuel Unleaded ULSD Diesel
Length, mm(in) 3970 mm (156 in)  
Width, mm(in) 1682 mm (66.2 in)  
Height, mm(in) 1462 mm (57.6 in)  
Weight, kg(lbs) 1067 kg (2352 lbs) 1150 kg (2535 lbs)
Trunk volume, liters(cuft) 280 / 952 L
(10 / 33.6 cuft)
Turning radius, m(ft) 10.6m (24.8 ft)  
Top speed, kph(mph) 165 kph (103 mph) 173 kph (107 mph)




  1. The best car maker which guarantees excellent performance of car and a good resale value is Volkswagen.Its volkswagen Polo is a fine example of its expertise.

  2. Your review about volkswagen polo is informative. It is really great work. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. We like volkswagen polo. I have bought volkswagen polo. It has high quality driving, good mileage, interior and exterior looks good. We really enjoyed driving this car .


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