Polo’s hot but not bothered

A good friend works at a front-line office of one of the country’s major insurance companies, and she told me that a recurring problem is parents calling in to secure a quote for their recently-qualified-to-drive children.

Normally, this is not problematic as most parents are sensible about the cars they buy for their children, but a small few are clueless and are free with their money.

In such cases, the children might have persuaded the parents to purchase, say, a Subaru WRX for them, and the parents are quite taken aback when told that the insurance company has no interest in covering an 18-year-old in such a car.

The parents do not comprehend that such performance-oriented cars might not be suitable for a young, learning driver.

For parents facing such a poser, there are solutions, if only they took the time to do a little research and also had more regard for their finances.

One such answer is the new Cross Polo, sent to me by Volkswagen to test and the first thing that came to my mind was those parents whose children have been badgering them, and plaguing them, to purchase some form of wild animal on wheels so that they can turn their computer game fantasies into a real, live thing.

The Cross Polo has been designed in the style of a mini-SUV and it has genuine ‘what-the-hell-is-that’ qualities. Admittedly, the test car came in a vivid ‘magma-orange’ body colour, so it packed an eye-catching punch anyway; but with a ride height 15mm above standard, muscular wheel arches, 17” alloys, unique (magma orange again, so make sure you have your shades on at all times) upholstery, anodised roof rails and colour-coded body parts, it does stand out from the pack.

But the secret here — particularly for worried parents — is that the Cross Polo is a sheep dressed in wolf’s clothing. It might look as sharp as a tack — and, therefore, represents the sort of ‘cool vibe’ so essential to any young driver — but it only comes with small output engines, in both petrol and diesel, which are not only economic and tax-friendly, but extremely practical in getting a young driver insured.

The test car was fitted with the diminutive, three-cylinder, 1.2-litre engine, which outputs some 51 kW (70 bhp), has a top speed of 165 kph and a 0-100 kph time of 14.1 seconds. These figures might sound unimpressive — and they are — but for junior drivers these characteristics make it ideal as a learner machine.

That, of course, is not to detract from its potential appeal to many other drivers, who will see this as a funky alternative to the normal super-mini choices — and they’d be dead right: it is very different, particularly if you get it in magma orange.

For those who know how, getting the most out of this engine is enjoyable. The singular exhaust note of the three-cylinder engine writes its own soundtrack, particularly as you get to the higher end of the rev. range, and I really enjoyed my time with it.

That it will return 5.5 l/100 km is very positive — 50 miles to the gallon is not to be sneezed at, whatever age you are.

Also worth noting are the interior details — sports seats, six-speaker stereo, multi-media aux-in, electric windows, manual air conditioning, a flat-tyre indicator, all as part of the package, because, for the money, this car gives you plenty of bang for your bucks.

On the road, the added height doesn’t affect ride and handling unduly, and I found the Cross Polo to be quite a wieldy tool. It had bags of grip, changed direction enthusiastically and was good to ‘live with’.

The second I saw this car, I immediately thought of my friend and what she had told me about those unfortunate parents who had been brow-beaten by their children into buying extravagant — and uninsurable — cars.

This, it struck me, was an immediate solution to those unfortunate parents whose kids were more road-wise than them.

But they will not be the only potential clients for this car as the Cross Polo will strike a chord with many people other than those in the sub-20 bracket.

It is a Polo with attitude and that will stand it in good stead.

But when I am asked by people what they should buy for their kids, this will be close to the top of the list.


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