By on September 7, 2007

polo2006_abertura.jpgAt the tail end of the last century, the European built, Eurozone-only Volkswagen Polo was the "Mercedes of small cars.” While the Golf/Rabbits MKIII and MKIV suffered from iffy quality, the smaller, staid Polo was known for being reliably unbreakable. Then, something happened. Just as Mercedes' quality nosedived, the VW Polo lost its rep for bullet-proof build. Since 2005 quality has (reportedly) markedly improved, which has put the car back on the list of frugal consumers looking to buy something “classically VW." But is it ready for a U.S. debut?

If stunning or cheeky or chic looks are a prerequisite to purchase, then no. VW gave the Polo a face lift in 2005. Unfortunately, the car didn't need plastic facial surgery; it needed a tummy tuck, a six-month subscription to a gym, two years at a charm school and some self-help books on self-esteem. While its competitors all aspire to be tautly-drawn mini fashion icons, the Polo is the last of the slab-sided econo-boxes. At best you could say it has a khaki slacks-like classicism. The worst: been there, done that, bought the Golf, already.

6536_9.jpgOn the upside, the Polo’s paint and the quality of detailing are Japanese-excellent. Venture inside and you’d swear you’d stepped into a Mercedes; albeit a Mercedes taxi. The VeeDub’s cabin is perfectly fashioned in the old-fashioned way, built from the kind of solid (not to say stolid) materials that embody and personify the German national stereotype of a generally humorless nation– but in a good way. The Polo feels like it could last forever.  

So, my girlfriend asked, is this all they could think of? Excellent point. The Polo is clearly a car that believes in S&O (simple and obvious) instead of S&D (surprise and delight). Or, if you prefer, it arrives woefully under-equipped. At night, the mood lightens, with a weird and dysfunctional display of red and blue lights. The Polo’s iPod aversive death-by-treble CD-radio has 24 separate illuminations. Verrrrry interesting– but shtuppid!

6536_10.jpgOtherwise, the seats are supportive and comfortable, visibility is ideal (none of that blind spot Sciontology here), the glasshouse is Guido-compatible (left elbow out of window), the ergonomics are good to go, and there’s ample legroom and headroom for four. In fact, the Polo provides more usable space than a 1990’s Golf.

So: the exterior is frumpy and the interior dull but boring. If the driving experience is so-so, we can call this car a high-quality joke and get a beer. But it isn't: the Polo is a mighty fine drive. In a nutshell (literally), it offers unparalleled small car dynamic refinement. Rough-road roar-‘n-rumble is well-suppressed, there’s little wind noise up to 80mph, and the drive is stable at 100mph. More impressively, VW provides this refinement without deadening the driving experience.

6536_4.jpgThe Polo’s steering is wonderfully linear, with more road feel than a crawling baby (closed course, professional baby). The suspension is comfortable yet well-damped in that Mercedes kinda way, enabling a fluid progression through a series of bumpy curves. The shifter and clutch are both precise and shmoove. Unlike some of its more highly strung or loosely suspended competitors, the Polo is an ideal everyday, every way steed. It's easy to drive fast, pleasant to drive slow. The Polo is as at home in tear-assing through narrow city streets as it is watching luxobarges blast past on the Autobahn.

European Polo playas can buy their ride with some damn interesting, class-leading engines. The 180hp GTI sprints from zero to 60 in a not entirely slothlike 7.5 seconds. There’s a ball-busting 130hp TDI Diesel, and a new "Bluemotion" Diesel that does 110mph, yet clocks in at 62mpg and belches-out low enough emissions to single-handedly save a Siamese rainforest (102g CO2/km). So what did I have the "pleasure" of driving? A 1.2-liter three-cylinder counterbalanced low-friction poke-mill. But the mini mill brought to mind that old description of Richard Wagner's music: it's better than it sounds.

6536_3.jpgMy Polo only holstered 64 measly horses, but it revved in the advertised quiet, low-vibration fashion to 7000 rpm, allowing full access to whatever acceleration it could muster. It was also in its happy place at 100mph; the most refined three-pot I’ve ever driven. Albeit not the most economical. Although this Polo is officially rated at 41mpg, I averaged just 38. That’s pretty lame for a car that requires the better part of half a minute (16 seconds) to “accelerate” from rest to 60mph. Still, even this slowest and cheapest of Polos is fun to drive.

Did I say cheapest? My bare-bones tester (which didn't even have remote entry) lists at over €11K (but discounts much lower). That’s around $8k large before the dollar got bushwhacked; now it’s closer to $13k. So much for California-compliant dreamin’. When the new next gen Polo makes the scene in late 2008, let's hope it drives as well, looks better and comes from China.

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54 Comments on “Volkswagen Polo Review...”


  • avatar

    dysfunctional? I miss the standard VW blue/red interior of my 01 GTI. it’s simple, undistracting, and looks great — almost everyone who stepped into the car at night (especially girls!) commented on the lighting’s awesomeness.

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    64 horses? They should rename it “Polio.” Seriously, they could put out a special “Timmy” edition Pol(i)o…like those cheesey “Genesis,” “Rolling Stones” and “Bon Jovi” Golf III’s they did in the 90′s.

  • avatar
    mastermik

    “64 horses? They should rename it “Polio.” Seriously, they could put out a special “Timmy” edition Pol(i)o…like those cheesey “Genesis,” “Rolling Stones” and “Bon Jovi” Golf III’s they did in the 90’s.” haha

    does 64 horses really get you to 60 … ever? When is this thing coming to america anyways?

  • avatar
    Joe ShpoilShport

    Very nice article. Made me chuckle twice. As for the car it sounds every bit a modern interpretation of the Volkswagen original mission.

  • avatar
    Qusus

    Oh kids these days. 64 horses isn’t a lot of power… but for a car of that weight it’s at the very least do-able.

    Imagine… a car that actually needs to shift out of overdrive to accelerate?! Why… I’ve never heard of such a thing!

  • avatar
    factotum

    Great review, Martin. It’s refreshing to get perspectives from the EU-zone and vicariously delightful to read about a car that regularly (if barely in this case) sees triple digit speeds.

    Tschüß

  • avatar

    How quickly our perspectives change, not to mention our expectations.

    My first VW, a 1983 Quantum Couple had 68 horsepower and yes, I had to go down from fifth to third gear to pass or maintain freeway speeds on steep grades. On the other hand, I averaged 38 MPG on the road and at two-lane speeds without heavy AC use saw as high as 45 MPG.

    A baseline Passat today has three times as much horsepower, but gets significantly poorer mileage. It’s wonderful that my Jetta TDI climbs the Rockies in sixth gear without breaking a sweat – but when you consider the years of additional development it doesn’t get mileage THAT much better than my old Quantum.

    If our US gas taxes and surchages matched the European levels, I expect the 64 HP engine which gets 38 mpg would look a lot more attractive.

  • avatar

    “The Polo’s iPod aversive death-by-treble CD-radio has 24 separate illuminations.”

    Well-done.. made me chuckle out loud.. death by treble… ;-)

  • avatar
    Andras Libal

    I really liked this line: with more road feel than a crawling baby (closed course, professional baby)
    But let me argue that 64 horses is more than enough to have fun, and most of the drivers really do not know how to push even 64 horses to the limit. Maybe one of these days even car reviewers will understand that part of their responsibility is to stop getting the public crazy about horsepower and displacement. And one more thing: quality has a price, and I do hope that will always be the case with VW, that it will always be made in a place where quality and the environmental impact of the manufacturing is taken seriously. The price tag is not the bottom line of the story.

  • avatar

    I agree, Andras. I try never to factor in rated HP in my reviews, but I’ll throw it in for people that are interested.

    In any event, HP is more useful for F1 cars. For the stop-go duty most of our cars do, we should be more worried about torque.

  • avatar

    I don’t necessarily agree that torque is more important. But I do agree that horsepower is over-rated. The obsession with it is partly a by-product of the triumph of the automatic transmission. When you’re not rowing your own gears, you need sheer thrust to get your jollies.

    Back in the mid-1980s I had a delivery job where the car was a 1982 Honda Civic. Horsepower: 62. Torque: an almost as paltry 69. Gears: four. And the hood started bouncing up and down above 60.

    But I had more fun driving that car than I do just about any modern subcompact, including the much-praised Fit.

    Then again, the Fit I test drove was fitted with a slushbox.

    There’s certainly room for a VW that’s smaller and lighter than the Rabbit. But if the Polo taken 7.5 to get to 60 even with the 1.8T, it’s also quite porky.

    Curb weight of that old Civic: 1,835 pounds. You have to spend $50,000 to get a car that light these days, when even a Fit is over 2,400.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Recently, the Russian auto magazine AvtoRevu subjected the best-selling (in Russia) Chinese-made Chery Amulet to a crash test; the little sedan’s front end crumpled like an accordian. A photo of one, after the crash, appeared on the front page of the Marketplace section of the Wall Street Journal for August 8, 2007 (if you’re interested in details).

    So as interesting and generally well done as this review was, when the thought is posed that we might wish for the next generation Polo to be built in China, I say let us hope not.

  • avatar
    Nemphre

    “Curb weight of that old Civic: 1,835 pounds.”

    What’s most interesting to me is the fuel economy of that old Civic/CRX. The 1.3 liter pulled highway numbers that would make a hybrid mess itself. Perhaps lightweight truly is the key to automotive nirvana. I could have my cake and eat it too, at least until a Hummer runs me over.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Thanks everybody, for the kind and helpful comments!

    About the inevitable horsepower topic. The other day I drove a not-large car that had 136 HP, and it was one lousy experience. Its four shuddered at under 1200 rpm, wheezed at anything over 4200, and couldn’t get out of its own way at any speed. And it sounded unhappy, no matter what I asked it to do. In contrast, the Polo three-pot is a sweet little donkey.

    Three cylinder engines, as a general principle, have nice harmonics, similar to in-line sixes, and are not so prone to buzziness as fours. DKW (a German car maker long since defunct) had a model they called the “3=6″ (three equals six, which of course is mathematically questionable), but their point was that for low noise, vibration and harshness, you have to go for a three, six or for a twelve.

    One more thing. TTAC likes to call FWD wrong-wheel drive. I agree — when you are talking about FWD cars that weigh more than about 1500 KG, or have more than 150HP. When however you have a really light-weight engine, FWD can be a joy. Good weight distribution, no corruption of steering: you have to experience it to believe me, I guess.

  • avatar

    Terry comparing the problems of the Chinese designed and built Chery Amulet to a German engineered and Chinese built Polo is not a fair comparison. The Chinese don’t know how to design a modern safe car yet but they will soon.

  • avatar
    fahrvergnugen11

    But is it ready for a U.S. debut?

    If stunning or cheeky or chic looks are a prerequisite to purchase, then no.

    If the ever-expanding U.S. waistlines are a prerequisite to purchase, then no.

    Cargo-loading utility and passenger capacity aside, the reason why big trucks and SUVs are still on the road here is because these represent the only vehicles that an ever-growing majority of super-sized Americans can actually FIT in…

  • avatar
    seldomawake

    For $8k, it would’ve been a home-run.

    For $13k, it may still be an option…

  • avatar
    NN

    Martin,

    excellent review. Rather than have it come from China and be styled better–you can currently buy the same vehicle, albeit made in the Czech Republic, cheaper, and looks better. It’s called the Skoda Fabia. I had one for 10 days in May in the Balkans with the same 1.2 L 3-cyl. I got 37mpg in very spirited driving…when you can ring out a motor like that and haul around hairpin turns and not really get in trouble for speeding, man….it’s fun. I was blown away by the refinement of the 3-cyl. I loved the car and thought it would be a great commuter car in the states. And the interior was plenty comfortable and roomy for me to drive–I’m 6’3″.

    VW is marketed in the states somewhat as an upscale economy car. Rather than offer the Polo–they should introduce Skoda in the same manner Toyota did Scion, but just sell Skoda’s smaller, cheaper, and more eccentric vehicles (Fabia and that Roomster thing). I bet they would find a market.

  • avatar
    phil

    My first new car was a 79 VW Skirrrocko with about 75 hp. i don’t know what it weighed but i can echo peoples’ comments about fun to drive albeit hp-challenged. i got more than my share of speeding tickets, and a twisty road was just as much fun then as now in my E46 M3 (and probably safer!). Light weight is the key but had i collided with any of the large cars/trucks of the day i wouldn’t be writing this now.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Nice article… but on this side of the pond 0-60 in anything over 10 sec is like bringing a knife to a gunfight — I need a small car to at least be able to keep up with the behemouths on these roads (and the big vehicles they drive, too).

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @Sherman Lin
    The Amulet is a copy of the first-generation Seat Toledo – google some pictures if you don’t believe me.
    A copy with crappy materials and assembly apparently, but it’s german-engineered – Jetta MK2 platform.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Three cylinder engines, as a general principle, have nice harmonics

    Really? Huh, I wouldn’t have expected that. I’d like to read more about threes. (A university friend had a 3 banger Chev/Suzuki. Astonishing mileage and ran forever.)

    But I have to agree, 0-60 in 10 seconds or more is a death warrant on the highways around Toronto.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @NickR
    If you ever have the chance, drive a Smart Roadster – 0.7L three-pot with up to 101 hp, and one of the nicest sounds ever made by a car.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    NickR Go down to a Triumph motorcycle dealer. They have some really nice 3 cylinder bikes from 600cc all the way up to about 2 liters, and the refinement on them has become excellent over the last few years. Good examples of sound and performance, plus it’s a smaller easier package.

    I remember having a lot of fun in my brothers Geo Metro several years back. Fun 3-cyl with great milage, although loud. It was great around town but no fun at all on Atlanta highways. You feel like your standing still and regular sedans at 70 mph would blow you off course, trucks were scary. I remember it being a profitable car though, he bought it for $500 got rear ended 3 months later and collected $1500 from the insurance company.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    One more thing. TTAC likes to call FWD wrong-wheel drive. I agree — when you are talking about FWD cars that weigh more than about 1500 KG, or have more than 150HP. When however you have a really light-weight engine, FWD can be a joy.

    Agreed, Martin. But the USA hasn’t had a well-executed small car for years, maybe decades. The Polo and other EU treats would change our tune in a hurry.

  • avatar
    TaxedAndConfused


    68hp?

    75hp?

    First car ?

    See
    You were looky. Alls we ‘ad were 46 hersepower and we were luckier than most ahh ken tells yeh. Sum ‘ad unly 40, and sum ‘ad awnly 29.

    The 1.2 chain-cam polo engine is quite superb, makes a real 911 style howl at top revs but lacks real torque. Overtaking is an aspiration really.

    As NN points out the same car is available from VW owned makes Skoda and SEAT. Somewhat annoyingly for VW these makes also always score better customer satisfaction than VW do themselves, Skoda coming 1st in the UK in 2007. These are magazine surveys and not manufacturers own or JD Powers.

    The Fabia is Skoda’s version which you can also have in Estate (station wagon) version and with pretty much the same engines and gearboxes as the VW Polo, except for the TDi 130 VRS version. Thats 130hp and 250lb/ft from the VW/Audi 1.9 TDI Diesel, or with a dealer fitted ECU upgrade 160hp and 300 lb/ft – all with 50 MPG potential

    This has just been replaced though and the VRS is missing from the new version.

    The chipped VRS on my drive always raises a smile when the go pedal is pressed. The look on the faces of Beemer, Merc, Audi or even VW drivers is worth the extra outlay. The traction control is not.

    Of course if that isn’t bonkers enough SEAT make their Ibiza available with the 160hp TDI engine as standard, or the 180hp 20v Turbo from the old Golf GTI/ Audi TT. 0-60 in 7.6 and 50mpg ok for the freeways ?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Enjoyed the review, Martin.

    Three cylinder (four-stroke) engines intrinsically have poor harmonics/balance issues, but these have been substantially overcome by balance shafts and other tricks. What they do have is good torque characteristics, compared to a similar sized four-pot engine, because of their large cylinder size/longer stroke. Little four cylinders tend to be weak-chested in the torque dept.

    Martin: “3=6″ the reason DKW/Auto Union rightfully used that is because these were 2 stroke engines. They fire twice as often, so in essence the same number of times per given revs as a 6 cylinder. That’s why they were so smooth. It’s the 3 cylinder’s (4 stroke) infrequent firings that create their intrinsic challenging harmonics.

  • avatar
    tentacles

    The Amulet is a copy of the first-generation Seat Toledo – google some pictures if you don’t believe me.
    A copy with crappy materials and assembly apparently, but it’s german-engineered – Jetta MK2 platform.

    Which begs the question: How safe by modern standards was the orginal VW A2 platform GOlf/Jetta? Were talking about circa 1983 here.

    I’m going to guess that compared to the 1983 MK2 Golf that it’s based on, the Chery’s crash tests probably aren’t too bad.

  • avatar

    HP is like mega pixel in digital cameras, most people will choose high number of whatever the industry made us think is better.
    Most of us will benefit from torque more than HP in every day driving, look at the RPM in city driving on a V8 American car and it will never go over 2500 RPM, on the same drive in a Civic you will go over 4000 every now and then, and you are not going any faster, the driving experience is much more reflexed with more torque, I know it’s not possible in a small inline 4, bust still.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    NN,
    TaxedAndConfused,

    I agree with you about Skoda – better reliability, lower price, clearer brand profile. Pretty good and successful cars! But if you are saying that VW should introduce Skoda to the U.S. then I beg to differ, because VW is bad enough at focusing on its own brand image, without exporting yet another one. Instead of the Scion analogy, Saturn comes to my mind.

    tentacles: I remember reading about a comparative crash test where the lightweight Golf MK2 performed worse than a 1970s VW Beetle. In this kind of company, Chery looks pretty good.

  • avatar
    tms1999

    My mums drives one. That exact 3 pot 45KW engine. I drive it when I visit Belgium. It’s a world of change from my 3L V6 auto:)

    Fortunately the gears are short and city driving is a blast. It gets significantly slower over 50MPH, you have to take 3rd and 4th really high in the RPM range.

    The engine is so smooth, I found myself underreving in 3rd in the city, where I floor it at 1200 rpm and nothing happens. No torque there:)

    Overall it’s a very accurate review. My mum paid around 10k EUR, and is not badly equipped. It has power everything, defrosting mirror, all around power locks… not bad.

    Maybe VW will bring the polo in like 2012, after the Fit/Yaris/Swift fad fades away…

  • avatar
    davey49

    The Polo is sold in Mexico and Brazil as a neat little sedan with a 1.6L 100HP 4.

  • avatar
    SLLTTAC

    On a recent trip to Brazil, we rented what Hertz described as an “exec limo” sedan, a five-speed manual Toyota Corolla fitted with an air conditioner with manual controls and an aftermarket, removable am-fm radio. (Removing the radio from the dashboard before leaving the vehicle is standard practice in Brazil.) After two days my wife, a Brazilian worried that the Corolla was ostentatious; so we switched to a Palio, Fiat’s world car. Its frantic, anemic engine and flimsy construction made us appreciate the VW Polo, our next Hertzmobile. (The Fiat’s transmission-clutch failed. Good riddance to that rubbish!) We were astonished and delighted by the Polo’s luxury in contrast to the Palio’s crudeness. Both the VW and Fiat had good steering, but the Fiat was slow and noisy. The VW was quicker and more refined. In Brazil a Polo is an upscale, middle-class car. Upon returning to the USA, I was awestruck by the luxury, performance, and comfort of my 2007 Subaru Legacy spec.B.

  • avatar
    TaxedAndConfused

    Martin :

    I don’t think Skoda would sell in the US, no brand reputation and history to build on, so like Kia they would have to sell cheaper than they can manage. A basic Octavia is £10K, or around $20K and thats probably as small as they could go in the US.

  • avatar

    Sounds like a terrific car to me. Aesthetics are definitely secondary to quality, fun-to-drive and practicality. But frankly, most cars are pretty ugly (Murano, Altima, GM, Focus, Subaru) or bland, and there is a lot to be said for honest functionality, which is how I ‘d classify the Polo (and the old Volvos). Bring it here.

  • avatar

    tms1999 “Maybe VW will bring the polo in like 2012, after the Fit/Yaris/Swift fad fades away…”

    The only thing that would cause the Fit Yaris “fad” to fade away, is an extremely prolonged period of lower fuel prices. VW is more likely to fade away in the US than the Fit or Yaris. VW’s bottom dwelling reliability and durability is achieving the same results that Detroit achieved, which is establishing hordes of people that will avoid VW for the rest of their lives.

  • avatar

    First of all: This car has been on the european marked for quite som while now and isn’t modern as moderne can be, but secondly: I don’t really get all the fuss about horsepower. Off course HP’s fun, but in times of global heating and what have you, maybe it’s time to reconsider what makes a good car? We do not need vehicles of mass emission any longer, we need fuel efficient and much cleaner means of transportation.

    And: Great review!

  • avatar
    TaxedAndConfused

    There is a new Polo coming soon, the new Fabia is already out. Looks like the engines will be similar or the same…

  • avatar
    ash78

    I’m surprised at Martin’s comments about the looks. Maybe I’m Teutonically-biased (genetically and as a consumer), but there are few cars on the road as hideous as the Honda Fit…yet it sells like mad.

    Why might people be able to accept “quirky” Japanese creations, while reluctant with cars like this? I’d say at worst, it could be called a baby Golf…which isn’t a bad thing, save for succumbing to the “Eine Wuerst, Drei Groesse” mistake (I believe that was a BMW-coined term on how to keep different lines from looking like “One sausage, three sizes”)

    My parents had one of these (tdi version) in Croatia (Hvar) for a few days last summer. My dad is a hardcore VW man–it’s all he’s ever owned–and he insisted that the spirit of his R32 was clearly evident even in a much smaller and weaker car like this. It suited their purposes perfectly.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I hope they actually make the Polo available in North America. I've wanted one for a few years, but since VW has no clue about the NA market, no such luck. When I bought my Jetta in 2003, I didn't need a car the size of a Jetta, but I wanted a TDI and it was either that or a loaded Golf GLS that cost about $2000 more than the Jetta I ended up with. People that are obsessed with HP make me a sad panda. I had an '85 Jetta diesel that did 52 hp. It sucked on a 2 lane highway, but in the city and on a 4 lane highway, it really wasn't bad! The current horsepower wars among the manufacturers is ridiculous. You don't need a 300 hp V6 to get up to 75 or 80 mph in most family vehicles. What you really need an abundance of is low end torque. Something like a low horsepower Polo might make people re-learn how to drive. When I drove my 52 hp Jetta, I learned not to take stupid risks like passing without thinking ahead, etc. People take the power of their vehicles for granted now, because there's so much power available. Economy needs to become a forethought again, not insane horsepower numbers. My Jetta TDI does 90 hp, but I get 50 MPG. I like numbers like that. :) And for anyone interested, tdiclub.com is reporting Spring 2008 availability for the new "clean" Jetta TDI. 140 HP engine, 235 ft-lbs of torque, and 6.8 L/100 kms city and 5.1 L/100 kms highway. But since VW is so smrt, they'll probably end up importing something like 10 of them for all of North America.

  • avatar
    TaxedAndConfused

    brettc:

    Mrs T&C has the 140 16v donk in her Shhhkoda (yes we have His and Hers ;-) – goes really fast, still does 50 mpg. A bloke I used to work with has an Audi A4 with the 170 donk, same engine bigger turbo. Lovely.

  • avatar
    mlbrown

    I love the horsepower discussion, and I remember a couple of well-worn cliches (where’s my accent mark?) about horsepower: “People buy horsepower, but drive torque,” and “It’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than it is to drive a fast car slow.”

    I’m sure driving a 300+ horsepower car is great fun during the 1 percent of the time you can actually get the most out of it. The rest of the time, I don’t think I would feel like I was getting my money’s worth.

    You might be behind the wheel of your 375 hp luxo-sport, but really, you’re just a passenger unless you’re going 150mph. My car makes 138hp and 145lb./ft. torque. When I’m doing 90 and the motor is at 4200rpm, I’m driving that little sucker.

    But it’s gotten to the point now where if a car makes anything less than 265 hp, many reviewers and potential buyers dismiss it as “underpowered,” based simply on what its competition makes, and not on how it drives.

    Lame.

    -Matt

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    I think todays “horsepower wars” are somewhat comical, even though I bought into them somewhat by getting the 6 cylinder version of the Mazda6 instead of the 4 cylinder. But, 64 hp does seem more than a bit on the low side for typical freeway merging where I live; however, 110 hp is probably sufficient, depending on gearing and car mass. Of course, this is all just guess work; the real measure of whether or not a car has enough power is driving it. If you can safely merge onto the freeway, it has enough power.

    However, some of us like to have a little fun and also like to be able to pass the semi in front of us without fear. For this you need more than just enough power, and you pay for it.

    I’m not going to begrudge or belittle people who want this power-the group includes me to some extent. But, I do think that car manufacturer’s can make engines that produce “enough” power and would be fuel efficient enough to put a Prius to shame. The problem is nobody would want these small, light, fuel efficient cars-lets call them Omnis, Fiestas, Rabbits, etc-and that includes the government.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Lumbergh21: why wouldn’t the goverment want Fiestas etc? You mean because of crash safety?

    Please keep in mind that these new mini cars get excellent results in crash tests — at least according to Euro NCAP.

    One car I want to drive soon is the Mazda2. Heroically, they have concentrated on reducing its weight. I have heard that sadly, its driving dynamics are unnecessarily rubbery, but its power-weight ratio sounds like fun.

  • avatar
    TaxedAndConfused

    Drive a Fester, you drive a Mazda2. Drive a Euro-Focus, you drive a Mazda3.

    One other item about Polos is that they have a trend towards being owned by more senior members of the community compared with say a Peugeot 207, Mazda2, Fiesta or a Renault Clio.

  • avatar
    mlbrown

    A V6 Mazda6 isn’t one of those wild horsepower wars type vehicles, Lumbergh. I’m considering one myself, and I don’t think you necessarily bought into any hype at all.

    The 6 weighs what? Almost 3300 lbs? That’s about 400 lbs more than an old Volvo 240.

    To me, the 175-225 hp range is perfect for most cars depending on how much the car weighs. It’s enough power to cruise on the highway without running at 4000 rpm, and you can still wind out the gears and work the engine a little bit when you’re off the highway.

    If I were into putting my car on the track every weekend, I’d be looking for more power and lighter weight, but probably by making engine modifications and ripping out the heavy stuff, not by buying a much more powerful car.

    I have to laugh. My car is not what you would call “fast,” but it’s no slouch, and it loves to be pushed. I put nice struts and sway bars in it, and it feels pretty sporty.

    But it never fails…just when I’m cruising down the Interstate on my way home from work, feeling pretty fast, I’ve got to move to the right to make way for some dude doing 115 mph in some 1988 Olds with four different tires, a blown rear strut, a sagging headliner and one headlight.

    Happens all the time, could happen to anyone. It’s all about the driver.

    -Matt

  • avatar
    fahrvergnugen11

    Sherman Lin:

    VW’s bottom dwelling reliability and durability is achieving the same results that Detroit achieved, which is establishing hordes of people that will avoid VW for the rest of their lives.

    Really? And how many VW’s have you owned? I’ve owned four of them over a 25-year span and drove each of them well over 250,000 miles – including a 1987 Golf which I’ve owned for 16 years and 624,000 miles until I hit a deer head on at 60 mph – and walked away from the accident without a scratch. The only rust on that car was a couple of spots forming on the hatch. I’ve seen Japanese cars of the same year afflicted with severe rust over that same time period.

    Four cars over 25 years – imagine that? Most people have changed their cars at least twice as much as I have…

    Amazing how long VW’s last with competant ownership which works this way – if a car is well maintained, it tends to last a long time – a concept that fewer and fewer people seem to grasp these days – especially an ever increasing amount of drivers who lease their cars nowadays..

  • avatar
    Nemphre

    “Amazing how long VW’s last with competant ownership – a concept that fewer and fewer people seem to grasp these days…”

    I don’t buy into the whole proper maintenance thing that some people are still touting. Modern vehicles barely need any maintenance, and there isn’t anything that can prevent electronic doodads from going wrong. The electronics are a disease that seem to affect all German cars though, not just VW. I know my dad’s new model Passat has had a few such problems. It wouldn’t start when parked outside in the cold, and the airbag light came on (dealer said it was some kind of wiring problem.) As someone who doesn’t want to have to do anything at all to my car if I don’t have to, I wouldn’t even consider a VW.

    It’s true though that Japanese cars from the 80s and early 90s like to rust.

  • avatar

    I’ve owned one back in the early 80s. Never again. The interesting thing is that back then many of my friends also owned volkswagens and now none of us will touch them. Strange how the CR ratings on them mirrored our experiences. Is it a coincidence that VW which was once a major import player in the US has become an also ran? If it came down to a choice between GM car versus a VW, I’d pick a VW, but fortunately I have other choices.

  • avatar
    skor

    The talk about horsepower and torque is interesting. Back in the day, I had a first Gen Mazda MX-6 with a 2.2 four cylinder mill — 3 valves per pot — 5 speed. The engine was rated at 110hp and 130 pounds of torque. While it was not a fast car, it certainly could keep up with traffic and cruised effortlessly on the highway. Handling was excellent, and highway MPG was in the low 30′s. A turbo version of the same engine was available that was very fast — 145hp and 190 pounds of torque.

    Overall it was fun to drive and was fairly reliable.

    It seems that new cars haven’t progressed much from what the Japanese were offering in the early 1990′s.

  • avatar
    mlbrown

    Skor, A lot of it has to do with weight. People now want all the airbags they can get, power everything, lots of electronic sensors and stuff, navigation and a quiet, leather interior with lots of legroom.

    That crap gets heavy.

    Think about the Volvo 240. No airbags, no active this or active that. No traction control, EBD, ABS, blah, blah, blah. But in its day it was considered to be just about the safest car you could drive. A sedan weighs less than 3000 lbs., I think.

    Is the 240 now considered unsafe? I don’t think so. But consumers want all that other stuff, and it’s a struggle for carmakers to get all that other stuff into their cars without making even modestly sized cars weigh two tons.

    The old 240 made a whopping 114 hp. Imagine trying to sell a car that weighs what a modern sedan weighs, but makes only 114 hp.

    I had a 240 wagon that was not fast. A friend of mine had a 240 turbo sedan that made something like 165 hp and just wads of torque. It smoked. An old 240 turbo tuned to make 200 hp is hard for a lot of modern cars to keep up with.

    Something else that you and others have pointed out that many fun, low-horsepower cars make more torque than horsepower. That’s important, just check the stats on an older BMW. Most car companies don’t make engines like that anymore, though, in order to get better gas mileage.

    -Matt

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    Amazing how long VW’s last with competant ownership which works this way – if a car is well maintained, it tends to last a long time – a concept that fewer and fewer people seem to grasp these days – especially an ever increasing amount of drivers who lease their cars nowadays..

    This statement may have been true for VWs from the 1980s, but come on the last two previous generations of every VW model has been absolute junk! NO AMOUNT OF OWNER MAINTAINENCE COULD OVERCOME THE COIL/ DIST PACK PROBLEMS!!!!!!

    VW must have been recycling electrical curcuits from old Chinese dime store toys. The problem is VW and the rest of the German makers are too arrogant to outsource the electrical stuff to Asia.

    VWs used to be simple like the Volvo 240 someone mentioned earlier. They were very easy to work on and were built with that in mind. I guess they understood that their dealer network was crap back than, to bad they forgot! Today a great deal of auto mechanics hate to work on VWs because the design and engineering just plain sucks! “Why the f&%k did they locate this part here?” “Why do I need a special tool to remove this part?” “Why the hell is the ECU located under the back seat?”
    “Why is the wiring harness exposed to the elements?”
    The best of all; “Why is it broken again when I just installed a new part less than 2 months ago, and this is the 3rd time this year?”

    These are all questions I have heard mechanics express when working on a post 1990s VW.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    DKW (a German car maker long since defunct) had a model they called the “3=6″ (three equals six, which of course is mathematically questionable)

    The Das Klein Wonder DKM uses a 3 cyl 2 stroke engine, 2 str fires on every revolution so it fires = to a 6.
    There’re draw backs to 2 cyl, they cannot use engine braking, as no oil is running thru the crank case. No oil sump either, no oil change. But u need to add oil 50:1 mix or certain formula.
    Saab 92 not sure the 92 or not uses the same engine, it has a switch for free wheel too. Just like a bicycle, one can back pedal and not slow down the bike. This free wheel is there to protect the engine from burning out as people forgot and uses engine braking with a 4 stroke engine. The down side should the brake fail, then you’re as good as the tranny popped into neutral!

    Sadly to say Chinese manufacturer think one step ahead, You can fool all the people all the time.
    A very expensive lesson to be learned, from tainted Pet food, to leaded Barbie to accordeon folding type of body in cars.
    How about ship us some leaded Gas we haven’t got any for such a long time.

  • avatar
    vento97

    whatdoiknow1:
    This statement may have been true for VWs from the 1980s, but come on the last two previous generations of every VW model has been absolute junk! NO AMOUNT OF OWNER MAINTAINENCE COULD OVERCOME THE COIL/ DIST PACK PROBLEMS!!!!!!

    Recall items are just part of the equation. The reason my cars are relatively trouble free is due to the fact that I buy my cars at or near the end of their production cycle – after the bugs have been worked out.

    For many drivers – their EGO dictates that they have to be the first on the block to have the latest and greatest version of whatever new automobile comes out on the market – which is fine – but these drivers are just volunteering to be beta testers for the automobile industry as the highest incidence of automotive bugs are present during the first 1-3 years of the production cycle…


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