polo petrol or diesel which is best

The choice of whether to opt for petrol or diesel depends on the commute you will be doing in your car. If your commute is more than 50 kilometers per day it is better to opt for the diesel polo otherwise it will be better to turn to the petrol variant.

The Volkswagen Polo nameplate first arrived on local shores halfway through the 1990s, and proved to be an immediate hit. Of course, those first Polos were essentially re-badged SEATs with locally-made engines, but that didn’t discourage the buying public from embracing the compact “Volkswagen” anyway. This success story continues to this day, with two generations of Polo swapping places at the top of our passenger car sales charts, miles ahead of everything else.

A substantial portion of Polo sales over the years used to come from the various TDI versions, but, seeing as the Volkswagen Group has stated their aim of moving away from diesel propulsion in the wake of the massive “Dieselgate” palaver, the number of TDI derivatives have steadily been culled from many of their mainstream models. Nothing drove this point home more eloquently than the 2018 release of the latest- (sixth) generation Polo, with the new range relying only on petrol power. 

All hope isn’t lost for diesel lovers, though, because they can still get a Polo with a diesel engine – they’ll just have to accept that it will be fitted to the previous-generation Polo sedan. That’s not terrible news, though, because the fifth-generation Polo is still a very capable car, in spite of its age. It forms the basis of the current Polo Vivo entry-level model, and the Indian-built sedan is just as well-made as our local Vivo, and, with its extended wheelbase, offers a useful increase in cabin- and luggage space. It’s offered with a selection of two well-regarded petrol engines as well as a turbodiesel, with various trim levels and in either manual- or automatic forms. Is it worth going for the diesel, though? 

Let’s take a look at the three available engines, before discussing which one would be the better buy.

 VW Polo sedan 1.4 ComfortlineVW Polo sedan 1.6 ComfortlineVW Polo sedan 1.5 TDI Comfortline
Engine Type1.4-litre, 4-cyl, petrol1.6-litre, 4-cyl, petrol1.5-litre, 4-cyl, turbodiesel
Power/Torque 63 kW/132 Nm77 kW/155 Nm81 kW/ 250 Nm
Performance Data *0-100 km/h in 12.8s, 178 km/h0-100 km/h in 11.1s, 190 km/h0-100 km/h in 11.2s, 186 km/h
Fuel Consumption *5.9 ℓ/100 km6.0 ℓ/100 km4.9 ℓ/100 km
Base PriceR 249 700 R 270 900R 299 600

* Manufacturer’s claimed figures for performance and average fuel consumption.

Which engine is right for you?

For the purpose of this exercise, we selected manual-gearbox Polo sedan variants in the same trim level. The 1.6-litre petrol is available with a 6-speed automatic as alternative to the 5-speed manual transmission, and both petrol variants can be ordered in lower-trim specifications. The 1.5 TDI is only available with a manual, and can only be had in high-trim “Comfortline” specification, so that’s where we focused on the petrol versions as well.

At the bottom of the range is a 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder engine with rather modest power outputs in the modern era. It offers all of 63 kW and 132 Nm from its port-injected, naturally-aspirated, with predictably pedestrian performance: it strolls from a standstill to 100 km/h in 12.8 seconds and a top speed of 178 km/h. Fuel consumption is not terrible, though, with a claimed average figure of 5.9 ℓ/100 km. But bear in mind that it won’t take too kindly to heavy loads, which will have the largest negative effect on both performance and fuel efficiency between these three otherwise identical cars.

The middle ground is covered by a 1.6-litre petrol mill of similar configuration to the 1.4-litre. Its output figures are somewhat more encouraging, with 77 kW and 155 Nm on tap giving it a 0 – 100 km/h sprint in a claimed 11.1 seconds and a top speed of 190 km/h. Not exactly blistering, but markedly nippier than the 1.4-litre sedan. The added performance doesn’t come with a massive fuel consumption penalty, because its claimed average consumption of 6.0 ℓ/100 km is near enough to the 1.4’s figure to be considered negligible. The power boost will also make it more efficient at carrying heavy loads, too.

Topping-off the Polo sedan range sits the 1.5 TDI, which has 81 kW and 250 Nm at its disposal. The power jump from the 1.6-litre petrol is a marginal 4 kW, but torque gets a useful bump of almost 100 Nm. And, being a TDI, it’s bound to be very light on fuel as well, with a claimed average consumption of only 4.9 ℓ/100 km. The added torque doesn’t translate to improved straight-line performance, though, which is marginally down on that of the 1.6-litre (0.1s slower to 100 km/h and 4 km/h down on top speed). It will perform much better with full loads or when towing, though, where the extra torque will see the TDI pulling gaps on the 1.6 petrol.

The Verdict

The first one to fall by the wayside has to be the 1.4-litre, unless budgetary constraints are front of mind: in Comfortline trim, it’s R 21 200 less expensive than the otherwise identical 1.6, but only R 10 400 cheaper than the (low-trim) 1.6 Trendline. For buyers who need more power than the 1.4 can deliver, it might be worth forgoing some creature comforts and rather opt for the 1.6 Trendline (priced at R 250 100) instead.

Of the two petrol engines, the 1.6-litre is definitely the better option. It brings a healthy extra shot of performance without exacting a commensurate penalty at the service station. In fact, the 1.6’s claimed fuel range is only 15 km less than that of the 1.4-litre, which is really too close to notice in normal driving.

In terms of value for money, the Polo sedan 1.6 Trendline probably offers the best package in the entire range, while the 1.6 Comfortline is almost R 30 000 less expensive than the similarly-trimmed 1.5 TDI. Buyers will need to carefully consider whether they really need the TDI’s extra torque, given that price difference. For owners who plan to undertake many long-distance journeys or often tow or carry heavy loads, the TDI will be the best buy in the range. But for everyone else, the 1.6-litre petrol engine will be perfectly adequate – just like the Polo sedan itself.

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