VIENNA - With at least two years to go before the introduction of an all-new model, Volkswagen has upgraded the Polo supermini to refresh its showroom appeal.
Unlike the new Skoda Fabia, which is being built off Volkswagen Group's latest small-car platform, the revised Polo retains its old floorpan. Nonetheless, VW claims 60 percent of the facelifted Polo's parts are new. The car has a host of interior and exterior improvements.
'In the case of the new platform, we thought it better to try it first on a model that is manufactured on a smaller scale,' said Martin Winterkorn, VW's vice president of research and development.
VW expects the Polo to sell about 320,000 units next year, 60 percent to female buyers. VW's plant in Pamplona, Spain, will build up to 1,550 Polos a day. Bratislava, Slovakia, will build up to 550 a day.
The Polo always has lagged behind rivals such as the Renault Clio, Fiat Punto and Opel Corsa in the supermini segment. But that does not worry Robert Buchelhofer, VW's vice president of sales and marketing.
'Competition is extremely fierce in this segment,' he said. 'A stronger engagement would mean an enormous amount of capital input with very low margins. We have to make money, not lose it by buying market share in this class.'
The new Polo has redesigned front and rear bumpers, larger headlights with clear glass lenses, and new side sills.
The Polo's interior has been revamped and now looks less conservative. The reshaped instrument panel has a new textured surface, and the seat fabric and door trim colors are more vibrant.
VW also has reinforced the Polo's body shell and improved driving stability with a one-inch-wider track.
The Polo will be available with a choice of five gasoline engines and three diesel units. The gasoline options range from a 1.0-liter, 50-hp engine in the entry-level model up to a 1.6-liter, 125-hp unit in the GTI version.
VW's 1.4-liter, three-cylinder TDI engine is included among the diesel options. The engine delivers 75 hp and is said to achieve high levels of both economy and performance.
The Polo went on sale in Germany on Oct. 15. The base price for the 1.0-liter version remains unchanged at $11,079. The GTI costs $18,621, and the 1.4-liter TDI is $14,756.