Home Articles LIFESTYLE: Motoring: VW Polo 1.2 TSi & Opel Meriva

LIFESTYLE: Motoring: VW Polo 1.2 TSi & Opel Meriva

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VW  Polo 1.2 TSi

Manufacturer specifications:

Engine

1,2L / Four-cylinder Turbo

Power

66 KW

Torque

160 Nm

0–100 km/h

10,8 s (claimed)

Fuel consumption

Average 4,9L /100 km

CO2

117 g/km

Price

From R191 600

New is a rather relative term and many have asked what’s new with the latest Volkswagen Polo. The recently launched latest incarnation of Polo has been given more than just a minor nip and tuck, although from the outside there is not a lot that is easily visible at first glance.

To start with, the front end is redesigned, with the headlights getting a cleaner, square look that is kept apart by a perfectly moulded black grill. All the chrome has been collected and moved to the bumper section, which now has horizontal slats as opposed to the mesh design on the previous model. In keeping with the new VW look, the Polo also has optional LED headlights that look similar to its bigger sibling, the VW Golf’s, headlights. The silhouette of the vehicle has remained unchanged while the rear end has a new tail light cluster and redesigned bumper. The bumper now also incorporates rear reflectors. All these changes give the vehicle a sophisticated, corporate look.

Inside, the differences are even harder to spot but you can definitely feel the improvement in the quality of the finishes. The one big difference for me was the new steering wheel, which now has a squared-off centre hub and bottom end. This has been leather bound making it not only look good but feel like a premium vehicle. The new touchscreen infotainment system works well and is easy to use.

The biggest change from the old Polo is the new engine. The Polo currently comes with two engine variants, namely the 1.2 TSI producing 66 kilowatts and one producing 81 kilowatts. Yes, all this power from a meagre 1,2-litre engine. Yes, it’s turbo charged, but that’s not the most impressive part: the most impressive is the frugality of this engine. During my test, which included urban and extra-urban, I averaged a mind-blowing 5,8 litres per 100 kilometres and that included some hard driving.

This vehicle has become a lot easier to drive. Unlike when I was growing up, where depressing a VW clutch was like going to gym, this car’s clutch is light and easy to operate. The steering is also feather light and, impressively, it still has good feedback. On the road this is a typical VW hatch, in that it sticks to the road and manages to give a fairly composed drive even when pushed hard. The turbo does suffer some turbo lag especially if you change gears too early. Once you get use to keeping the revs above 2 000 rpm this problem disappears.

The space in the car is excellent, with ample leg room front and rear. The boot is surprisingly carnivorous considering that it comes with a full-size spare wheel. So, no Marie biscuit tyres for this car.

Overall the new Polo has definitely grown up, so much so that it has become one of the best all-round vehicles on the road. This being said, it will be interesting to see if the cult following of this vehicle continues now that it has become so sophisticated. Personally I think it will and once again VW will be seen topping the sales charts with this new Polo.

Opel Meriva

Manufacturer specifications:

Engine

1,4 l / Four-cylinder

Turbo

Power

103 KW

Torque

200 Nm

0–100 km/h

10,1s (claimed)

Fuel

consumption

Average 6,7 l /100 km

CO2

156 g/km

Price

From R261 500

We all have heard of practical cars, but this car takes it to another level. To begin, the Opel Meriva has flexi-doors at the back. These are doors that open the opposite way to normal doors (usually referred to by car enthusiasts as “suicide doors”). The reason that Opel has gone for such an unusual approach is simple practicality. Try imagining, or for those who have kids, just recall trying to put your child into the car seat and the door keeps getting in the way … Well now the door is totally out of the way as you strap up your little bundle of joy. It also allows you to just close the rear door and immediately get into the front seats as the front and rear door handles are mere centimetres apart. This flexi-door system goes further. When the front and rear doors are opened there is a zone between the two doors that allows you to have a space that is safe from onlookers and you can have a conversation while admiring the view from the side of the road.

The shape of the Meriva is rather boxy, with its squared-off rear and rectangular body. This does allow the cabin to be super spacious and thanks to the large windows, you also have a great view from inside. The seating positions are elevated, adding to the already great visibility. This makes driving and parking the car a synch, but to make it even easier Opel have equipped the vehicle with park distance as standard.

Inside the seats are bland but comfy; the gear shift is perfectly positioned and is easy to operate. The steering wheel is light and precise making driving an absolute ease.

The dashboard has a wraparound feel. The central drop down section houses the radio/CD and climate control settings. Just above it is the display screen. Although it is fairly helpful when it informs the driver of changes to radio and climate settings, the monochrome orange colour was not pleasing. This especially got to me when I realised that the lights in the instrumentation cluster were white. That means that the dash had two different light colours, which is not aesthetically appealing. To me, this made the car feel dated, especially since most of the newer cars come with a full-colour display.

There are rails between the two front seats. This space can be used as a deep storage section, or you can put in the lower tray allowing for split level storage. There is more, you can also clip on a central armrest that can be moved to the perfect position for any driver while adding to the storage area.

The rear seats can be moved forward and back and can be folded in a 40:20:40 split. That means that the centre seats folds separate to the two side seats. As this is a multipurpose vehicle – or, as Opel calls, it a flexible multipurpose vehicle – you guessed it, there’s more. The rear centre seat when folded has a clip on arm rest with storage. Opel has thought of almost every possibility of creating flexible space in this vehicle. They have even gone to the length of making space in the side of the luggage compartment for the rear armrest in case you need a flat loading area.

The 1,4-litre turbo-charged motor fitted to the vehicle has ample power to scoot around the kids and transport things the average household requires. Owing to the high ride height, the road holding is not the best; then again most buyers of this vehicle will not think of driving like they are on a race track. Even though this was designed as an urban vehicle, it can be used to venture out of town.

So the Opel Meriva may not be the hottest looking vehicle around, but it’s got some really nifty tricks on the inside, making it a very flexible mum’s taxi. ❐

Author: Torque Talk is a member of SAGMJ