2010 VW Polo 77TSI Comfortline.
2010 VW Polo 77TSI Comfortline.

Hatch at the top of its game: Used car VW Polo 2010-17

CITY cars are often bought by the budget minded, so typically you'll find cheaper cabin materials, miserly inclusions and a sketchy drive experience.

But Volkswagen's Polo hatch has been something of an antidote in the compact class, pleasing and talented to drive with mature styling and decent fit and finish.

Little wonder they're an appealing used buy, not least fifth-generation Polos sold between 2010 and 2017. From its debut, the model secured World Car of the Year, European Car of the Year and a host of Australian awards.

The model has aged well in the style department but it's not been completely plain sailing for the little VW after its early glory.

Its seven-speed double-clutch automatic (called DSG by VW) has failed in some instances, resulting in mighty repair bills. The diesel version of this Polo was caught up in VW's "Dieselgate" cheat software scandal.

2010 VW Polo 77TSI: Five-star safety, alloys and decent features
2010 VW Polo 77TSI: Five-star safety, alloys and decent features

Find a good one and it will reward with a superb driving experience, decent fuel economy and cut-above cockpit for its class, though with a quite cramped rear seat.

Three-door and five-door Polos were launched May, 2010. Very few of the former sold due to their less practical nature. You'll find more DSG auto-equipped cars in the classifieds too, but don't discount manuals as they're slick little things and less costly to repair should things go wrong.

There were three engine options. The three-door Trendline had a sluggish 63kW naturally aspirated 1.4-litre, which laboured to 100km/h in 12 seconds.

A zestier 1.2-litre turbo in the 77TSI Comfortline produced 77kW and cracked the 0-100km/h split in under 10 seconds. The 66TDI Comfortline, the cheeky 66kW 1.6-litre turbo diesel produced decent torque of 230Nm for zipping around town.

A five-speed manual was standard (six-speed in the 77TSI), while the seven-speed auto was a popular cost option.

(The potent Polo GTI hot hatch attracted a different type of buyer so we'll exclude it from this review, though the Red Book figures above make for interesting comparison.)

All Polos gained five-star crash rating thanks to front, side and curtain airbags and standard stability control. They came with aircon, power front windows, cooled glovebox and split-folding rear seat.

The Trendline was a bit basic with 14-inch steel wheels - and winder handles for the rear windows. The Comfortline five-doors had 15-inch alloys, cruise control, multi-function steering wheel and display, brushed chrome interior flashes and better seat fabric.

Polo Comfortline: Look for factory option packs on pre-2015 examples
Polo Comfortline: Look for factory option packs on pre-2015 examples

On some pre-2015 cars there were factory option packs. Look for auto climate control and rain sensing wipers (Comfort pack), media device interface and touchscreen (Audio pack) or 17-inch wheels, lowered sport suspension and front fog lights (Sport pack). If the first owner really went to town, $2300 bought an Alcantara/leatherette upholstery pack.

An August 2014 update dropped the three-door version and the diesel and added minor style revisions. The remaining grades, 66TSI Trendline and 81TSI Comfortline, used a new 1.2-litre turbo in different levels of tune and nearly matching the diesel's sub-5L/100km economy. Even so, all VW's petrol engines need premium fuel.

Standard features included cruise control (adaptive cruise was an option) and five-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth and audio streaming (satnav and rear camera came with the Comfort pack on the 81TSI), while the base model was still lumbered with steel wheels.

It wasn't until model year 2016 that Polo buyers got a reverse camera, 6.5-inch screen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity.

 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Pre-2012 turbo engines (77TSI Comfortline) had instances of stretched timing chains, so listen carefully for rattles or anything but a smooth engine hum in these early cars. An engine warning light on the dashboard that stays lit is good reason to walk away.

If you're buying a DSG-equipped car, expect a bit of jerkiness when pulling away but nothing more. The twin-clutch gearbox takes some getting used to but this won't be the one for you if the transmission light won't go out or if there are a long delay in gear selection or any grinding or nasty mechanical sounds.

Polo: 1.2-litre is punchy enough but dual-clutch autos can be sluggish off the mark
Polo: 1.2-litre is punchy enough but dual-clutch autos can be sluggish off the mark

Some owners have also reported turbo failures, airconditioning gremlins and Bluetooth issues.

Favour cars with impeccable service history via Volkswagen as this should help with any future problems - most models will be out of VW's three-year warranty.

There have been numerous Polo recalls, mainly specific to model years, including a rear door child lock, seat backrest, airbag, DSG, camshaft adjuster pulley and the diesel engine cheat software.

View productsafety.gov.au to log the VIN of any potential purchase to see whether it was subject to any recall, then check the car's service record to ensure it's been done.

 

IAIN SAYS

3.5 stars

Polo cabin: Euro style and quality, if sombre
Polo cabin: Euro style and quality, if sombre

Great little cars that are a joy to drive and with above-average cabin quality. Polos with superb service records are your priority - avoid any with DSG transmissions behaving anything but perfectly. For me, cheap manual Polos make the most sense on the used market. Once you look at paying over $10K for a used one you should probably stretch to the bigger and better $18K drive-away new Polos.

 

OWNERS SAY

RICHARD WOOD: I bought a 77TSI new in 2013. It's great to drive, fun and comfy with a great turn of speed. It doesn't feel like a small car and easily fits four adults. My main gripe is about the Bluetooth, which is very unreliable. Servicing isn't cheap either. It's a solid little car.

NATALIE WATTS: I bought a 2011 77TSI last year as a runabout second car. It's only used by me so it's the ideal size. I have the rear seats down all of the time for sports gear and it's surprisingly big. I love my little Polo, it's really reliable and fun to drive, and I get it serviced at my local mechanic and it's not expensive. I'll keep until it dies!

 

THE EXPERTS SAY

Between 2010 and 2017, Polo sales exceeded 48,000 here, the peak year of 2015 tallying nearly 10,000.

The most common variant among used listings is the GTI, representing more than a quarter. The mid-spec 77TSI accounts for about one in five and the rarest is the 81TSI Urban. By far the majority are petrol but fewer than three out of 10 are manuals.

The base Trendline manual three-door of 2010 ($16,690 new) is $6800 used and the flagship Polo GTI five-door with DSG transmission ($28,990 new) is $12,450.

For 2017, the entry-level five-door 66TSI Urban manual ($17,490 new) still fetches $15,000 and the GTI ($30,190 new) is $26,250.

Among competitors, only the TK series Holden Barina from 2010 retains a lower percentage of its new-car purchase price. The Mazda2, Toyota Yaris and the Suzuki Swift from the same year depreciate slower than the Polo.

The tables are turned somewhat for 2017, however - the Polo holds value better than the Yaris, Swift and TM Barina but not the Mazda2. - Red Book

 

VW POLO 2010-17

PRICE NEW $16,690-$24,850

SAFETY 5 stars

ENGINES 1.4-litre 4-cyl, 63kW/132Nm; 1.2-litre 4-cyl turbo, 66kW/160Nm, 77kW/175Nm or 81kW/175Nm; 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 66kW/230Nm

TRANSMISSION 5 or 6-speed man, 7-speed auto; FWD

THIRST 4.6L-6.1L/100km


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