Car of the Year: City CarCar Of The Year Motor News
- 6R MY13
- Badge Description
- 77TSI DSG
- Sports Automatic Dual Clutch
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- SOUTH AFRICA
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- Overall Green Star Rating
- Fuel Type Description
- Petrol - Premium ULP
- Drive Description
- Front Wheel Drive
Volkswagen Polo 77TSI (winner)
Ford Fiesta LX
Volkswagen's Polo has once again topped its class at this year's Drive Car of the Year awards, outdoing the value-packed Ford Fiesta in a unanimous points decision.
2012 Best City Car of the Year
Drive Best City Car of the Year is the Volkswagen Polo 77TSI.
The Polo has now won its class for three straight years – and in 2012 it didn't garner even one vote against it, with all nine Drive Car of the Year expert judges voting for the Polo over the Fiesta.
The Polo was described by one judge as being “the benchmark setter in this category – if not the one above”, while one judge found it “hard to fault anything about it”, pointing to the refined and confident nature of the car during cornering and highway cruising.
The Polo's dynamic prowess was one of its most obvious positive points, with judges labelling the car “delightfully competent” and “a great little car to drive”.
Its turbocharged 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine was also described as “benchmark-setting” for this type of car, but it wasn't all sweetness and light for the Polo.
While it is claimed to be more efficient, the Polo's preference for premium unleaded was noted as a potential negative for some coin-conscious buyers.
Despite VW having cut the asking price of the Polo by $1000 for the 77TSI variant, some judges felt it could be cheaper still. The model we tested, fitted with Volkswagen's high-tech DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission and coated in metallic paint, had a recommended price tag of $21,990 plus on-road costs.
One judge was “saddened by the price” and found the interior “bland” and “in need of a rethink in terms of storage”. Others agreed.
But they also agreed that the digital speedometer was a big plus, as was the full-size spare wheel and easy-to-use Bluetooth hands-free unit (though some found that system a tad too aftermarket-looking).
The dual-clutch DSG transmission also had its detractors, showing an inconsistent hesitation at low speeds which may become frustrating during stop-start city driving.
The Ford Fiesta had made the cut in 2010 but was beaten by the Polo that year. It was returned to the fray this year after the Blue Oval brand cut prices across the range.
The model we were testing, the LX automatic, was priced considerably lower than the Polo at $19,790 plus on-road costs (including the $2000 option cost for automatic).
While it is cheaper on paper, judges found the Fiesta felt “significantly cheaper overall”.
The interior fit and finish was described by one judge as “woeful”, with large, inconsistent gaps across the dash and several loud creaks and rattles. The contrasting plastics colours over the dash and doors were found to “look cheap”, while the seats were also criticised for not offering enough support.
“This is a car that doesn't feel like it will age well,” one judge said.
On the plus side for the Fiesta, all judges agreed it drove commendably despite a slightly coarser on-road experience. Others liked the dashboard layout with its mobile phone-like buttons, and all agreed the cabin felt airy and spacious, thanks in part to a big windscreen and excellent vision around the car. Back seat space was also commended.
The storage in the cabin was good, with big door pockets and lots of front-centre stowage and numerous stash spots for loose items.
The steering was city-friendly and direct, and judges found the overall packaging to be good.
The engine didn't light many fires, though.
The Fiesta's 1.6-litre four-cylinder felt lethargic compared with the Polo, and as one judge put it: “You've really got to blitz this thing to get anything out of it”. The dual-clutch automatic, however, was praised for being better in stop-start traffic than the Polo's.
In the end, though, all nine judges agreed the Polo was the top pick for Drive's Car of the Year awards as the best city car because of its supreme interior quality, above-average driving experience and punchy little turbocharged engine.
The Volkswagen Polo can’t be beaten.
No other car offers the class, refinement, quality and all-round ability for this sort of money, and there’s a good chance none will for quite some time.
That’s not to say the Fiesta – or any other car among its multiple peers – is rubbish.
It’s also a competent and fun little car to drive, and you’ll undoubtedly get a better deal on a Fiesta than you will a Polo.
So the question is – how much is too much?
In recent months we’ve seen Fiesta LX auto’s going for less than $20,000 on the road – while the Polo is more likely to push on to at least $23,000.
So is the price of the Polo too high?