My first Volkswagen experiences in life still make me smile, among them, road trips with my grandfather in his white 1975 2.0-litre Type 2 twin carburettor Kombi Campermobile, with my sister Lou and I sharing a front seat.
Together we saw a lot of the East Coast of Australia, the beat of the air-cooled flat four the only music. We had the time of our lives. Around the same time, in the early 1980s, an uncle purchased a VW Golf Mk1 1.9-litre diesel, for reasons only he could know!
It was silver. It looked the goods, but it truly was the slowest car I can remember being in. Years later, my wife and I would do up a 1969 Type 3 Fastback (with the mechanical injection and the round nose boot).
That was a weapon, and we should have kept it. I still smile about that one, too, as we had a lot of fun driving around in it in our early 20s. Thus, when I arrived home in the Reef Blue Polo 85TSI Style, I only just got in the gate when my wife snatched the key fob.
Not only had the boss been hanging to drive the new Polo, but it also happened to be near identical in colour to our old Fastback. Memories! For the rest of the week, the Polo Style created new VW memories, as we hit the road with our kids, for a few new adventures.
It might be a Gen Z car, but that doesn’t mean us Gen X oldies can’t have fun in one! The Polo 85TSI Style is a premium five door hatch, with a fantastic infotainment system, safety pack, neat interior, stylish exterior and a ripper little three-cylinder turbocharged engine.
This is the range topper (aside from the 147kW GTI) and it nabs plenty over the lower variants in the range, including an alarm, red brake calipers, adaptive cruise control, park assist, side assist and travel assist. That’s a lot of assist.
There’s also keyless access, LED lights, alloy wheels, dual zone air-con, sports front seats, chrome trim, illuminated grille strip, dynamic light assist, front and rear mats, a 7-speed DSG transmission, and in our case, the optional Sound & Tech package.
This adds a Beats 300W audio system and 8.0-inch colour touch screen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and rear disc brakes. There’s a cracker of a digital instrument cluster too, as well as a luxurious and sporty leather trim steering wheel.
The buttons are tactile and well positioned, with navigation of the driver menus intuitive and easy to learn. There are two small cup holders in the centre console, and a small storage compartment under the well-placed centre arm rest.
All doors have a bottle holder and small storage space, but there are no cup holders for the rear passengers. The glove box is decent but has no interior light. There are two USB outlets in the front and two in the rear, plus a 12V socket in the centre console.
Wireless charging can be found here, sitting below the dual zone ‘touch and slide’ digital climate control system, which we found tricky to use while driving. That aside, the front seats are comfortable, with sporty cloth trim and a decent bucket, plus lumbar support.
There is also plenty of leg room for this 187cm reviewer. We ran the seat at the lowest point, with the furthest reach, and visibility was decent, including through the wing mirrors, but the rear-view mirror just got in the way, no matter how we adjusted it.
Seat adjustment is manual, which is a little disappointing, but there were no complaints from the kids about the rear seats, although the middle seat is a squeeze even by hatch standards. Two adults will fit, with some knee clearance and surprising comfort.
The driver side door controls are well placed, with mirror adjustment plus door and window locking. Passengers don’t get lock control, only window buttons. The handbrake is light and solid, while the manual-look gear shifter is sporty and in easy reach.
The left and right stalks are standard VW fare and fall to the fingertips nicely. Even though it’s a hatch, the boot is a decent size and with the option of 60/40 split or fully folded rear seats, a huge amount of stuff can fit in there.
We were really impressed with the storage at the back, the four school bags and the sports gear all fit for the school run, and a week’s worth of groceries for a large family also make it (minus my beer, that requires a Transporter).
As a daily driver, the Polo Style is fun and engaging, with enough zip to give you some fun in the hills, using the paddle shifting to keep the engine in the fat part of the torque curve. Drop below three grand, though, and the engine becomes laggy, with a doughy pedal.
That’s regardless of drive mode too. The gearbox in our test car was sometimes confused as well, choosing a gear too tall and not dropping low enough for ideal execution of roundabouts or give way intersections.
Around town, the best bet was to self-shift to avoid high gear exits from slow turns, or getting cleaned up by others. The gearbox liked hard driving, but not city work. We put it down to a software issue, as the T-Cross we had with the same drivetrain was issue free.
The 85kW/200Nm 1.0-litre engine is, let’s face it, being pushed to the limit in this application. It needs revs, and is peaky, even with the small turbo. As a result, fuel consumption sat at 6.8-litres/100km.
We expected better but a lot of pedal is required to keep the Polo on the go. The drive mode of choice is Sport, paired with manual paddle shifting. It gives a responsive quick shift and a neat downshift, with a sporty exhaust note.
The chassis is the deal sweetener with the Polo. Suspension is firm and sporty yet offers a very comfortable ride, it’s a refined set-up, and we loved it. The steering has some weight to it, just enough for decent feel, but is light in town when you want it to be.
The brakes are sensational, only showing fade when really pushed hard, with good pedal feel and modulation. Road noise is minimal, even on corrugated concrete motorways, and the VW has an overall premium feel to it.
We often used park assist just for the hell of it, and it never failed to impress. Active cruise can be a little temperamental, particularly when trying to increase or decrease speed in small increments.
At one point a plastic bag blowing across the motorway caused the car to brake suddenly and the vehicle behind had to swerve to avoid hitting us. At a guess, it thought there was a pedestrian on the road. Lane assist tended to wreak havoc too.
That said, it’s a lot of car for the coin, at $34,915 in standard trim. In Reef Blue (you can also have Pure White, Reflex Silver, Smokey Grey, Vibrant Violet and Deep Black Pearl) and with the Sound & Tech package, you’ll need to pony up around $37,490.
Paired with a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty, the 2022 Volkswagen Polo 85TSI Style is packed with technology and safety features, is fun to drive, appealing, characterful and would suit anyone; from a young single person or couple, to a retiree, or a small family.
Our test vehicle was provided by Volkswagen Australia. To find out more about the 2022 Volkswagen Polo 85TSI Style, contact your local Volkswagen dealer. Images: Heather Ware, HMC Photography.