VW Polo + DSG – worth it?

My car’s getting to that stage now where it’s going to start crippling me with garage bills every now and then. The Passat went when the wiring loom was going to cost £3k to replace, just to turn off an annoying warning light. Today, my Golf cost me well over £500, and it got a good thrashing with the branch of a tree when I got it home.

As I did once before, I got a Polo as a courtesy car. This is much the best way of test driving, because you can thrash it around the lanes without a salesperson sitting next to you, and it’s a shame they don’t make it more of a formality by allowing you to specify what it is you want to drive for 24 hours. I was unimpressed by the Polo the last time. This time, I’m guessing it was the same model, the outgoing Mk 5, which doesn’t look too different from the incoming Mk 6, except for the range of engines.

This one had a 1.4 petrol with a 7 speed auto DSG gearbox. I love the DSG on both our family (diesel) cars. I was almost looking forward to it, guessing that the lack of foot room wouldn’t be as much of an issue as it would be with a manual gearbox. The 7 speed is a dry clutch, using less oil than the wet clutch in my 6-speed version (it says here). It may be my imagination, but it felt less responsive and ‘instant’ than what I’m used to, but that may be down to the pathetic engine.

What a disappointment. The asthmatic 84 bhp engine was barely alive, due to the way in which the DSG changes gear so early in order to save fuel. Even in so-called Sport mode, it was a bit rubbish. You would have to override it and drive in semi-manual mode to get the rev counter up to where it wants to be.

My first Polo, years ago, was a 1.3 and it was tremendous fun to drive. Later, I had a 1.6 which was superb. The 1.6 only had 75 bhp but you could really get it working for you. This 84 bhp 1.4 sputters along like a Marlboro Man after have a lung removed. Up in 7th gear, there is literally NOTHING for you in terms of acceleration, so you end up stuck behind buses and tractors and vans, unable to floor it properly to overtake unless you can see about seven miles of clear road ahead.

It’s a little less uncomfortable than the previous version, but it’s not the fun drive that it should be.

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