New vs. Old: Volkswagen Polo
The German supermini gained a new generation after eight years, in order to remain interesting in its segment. The design was updated as well, but it clearly shows that Volkswagen once again opted for evolution, rather than change.
Such strategy is typical of German manufacturers in general. People who defend it claim it strengthens the car’s image and makes it more recognizable, whereas others would rather be surprised every now and then. This short series analyzes what was done to the Polo bit by bit, in order to make your observation easier.
Cars tend to become bigger and more refined and expensive after each complete update, and the superminis aren’t an exception. In fact, they’ve grown so much that companies had to create a new category below them so as to fill their old price range, the city cars. Fortunately, the design department has managed to keep up with such improvements brilliantly.
The very first feeling the Polo gives is of becoming more “mature”. In other words, it looks more formal and serious, even for the standards of a German maker. It’s still focused on young people, but it’s definitely not ideal for those who want flashy colors or bubbly appearance. The new Polo was inspired by a bigger model, like many superminis are, but Volkswagen went further than the Golf: the new car takes cues from its flagship brother Arteon.
The front end is the easiest to notice the execution of that intention. Volkswagen made the upper parts sleeker and placed them lower than before. The headlights are almost as tall as the grille, which makes it easier for the trio to be seen as a single visual component. Nevertheless, the result would look exaggerated if the three parts had the same height, so a body-color strip was added between the hood and the grille in order to lower the latter.
Volkswagen’s also used to make the lower air intakes and the auxiliary lights look as another single element. This is good to avoid the excess of visual information, but it can look too simple for some cars. Since the Polo had to look fancier, the maker decided to separate everything: there are body-color lines surrounding the lights and also dividing the air intake in two. The previous car used a chrome line with the same purpose, but it was more discreet.
Automakers are avoiding actual size increases as much as possible because they make the car less practical, especially if it’s intended for urban use, and because they can create a conflict with the model offered in the market category immediately above. Therefore, they resort to making the car look bigger. The front fascia, for instance, makes it look shorter and wider than it actually is. But there’s more.
The Polo has never intended to be the sportiest hatchback in the market, and it’s easier to notice that on the sides. It features horizontal roofline, three-window layout, and narrow pillars. As the pictures show, none of that was changed this time. However, it’s still easier to notice that the car is different from its previous iteration; all you need is to look at it as a whole, without paying attention to details. Why does that happen? Because Volkswagen worked with the dimensions of the components.
The windows became slightly longer and shorter, especially the rearmost. Their base line is mostly horizontal, almost opposing to the trend of moving upwards as it approaches the rear. The first and the last pillars became slightly more slanted. And the sheetmetal is defined by a thick, horizontal crease. Here, the size impression is conveyed by making the car look longer and smaller. Nevertheless, the Polo manages to remain clearly different from its hatchback siblings: the up! looks taller and shorter while the Golf is sportier and keeps its traditional two-window layout with a wide C-pillar.
Volkswagen has never been fond of big changes. Parallel to that, this is the section of the car which best defines its body style, so it’s impossible to expect any visual revolutions. Telling the new Polo apart from the previous one can be difficult if you see it from the rear. However, there’s one component which deserves attention the most: the lights. Once again because of Volkswagen’s intention of making this car look bigger and more refined.
This company used to give all its hatchbacks big, square tail lights. In nowadays, the Golf’s are horizontal in order to resemble those of larger models. The up!, on the other hand, features a vertical shape. The Polo stayed loyal to the tradition, but with one change: the new lights are pointy towards the trunk lid, while the old pair is slightly vertical. This helps the car look wider and sleeker without the need to place a part of each light on the trunk lid — that would make them more expensive to produce and more similar to the Golf’s.
Volkswagen’s goal was met simply by working on key points. The Polo is still far from the coupé flair of rivals such as the Opel Corsa and the Peugeot 208 and will always be. This car executes a rather rational interpretation of the hatchback concept, just like the Ford Fiesta: big internal space and small external dimensions become more important than breathtaking design. As a result, all updates are conceived by solving the problems of the outgoing car and maximizing its qualities.