Pretty Fly for a TSI! Polo R-Line hits its niche

We test the 1.0 R-Line Golf that could easily be mistaken for a GTI

The Polo R-Line 1.0 TSI petrol engine from VW really is quite a gem. And one that had me confused. Is it a diesel? It has the torque spread of a diesel with the 200Nm available all the way from 2000rpm until it starts dropping off at around 3500rpm.  The 3-cylinder sounds a tad diesel-esque when idling and I had fun letting the engine rev out, as my friends try to guess what’s under the bonnet. It looks like a GTI, so overall one would say the car has a bit of an identity crisis. But the first Polo to come with the R-Line body kit has in my mind hit the nail on the head, and the timing to launch this car in South Africa is just right. VW has joined the stance revolution.

For those that don’t know what the “Stance” scene is, here’s a crash course. It’s a tuning scene where (mostly) younger car enthusiasts value form over function. No big power engines, no high speed cornering, not even high speed drag racing. No. Their cars simply drive to the destination. And park.

Those cars are generally quite low, and attention and time is put into the aesthetic, whether it’s a period replica or simply the owner’s interpretation of what the car should have looked like from the factory. Think 90’s touring cars without the stickers or speed.

The new 1.0 “GTI” has got the aesthetic part spot on.  When parked alongside the real thing, the differences are hard to spot. It has similar wheels, similar bumpers and because it’s so fresh and new, it could easily pass for as a facelifted flagship.  Cruising around near the University of Cape Town, I noticed more than a few admiring glances from other, slightly less mature, Polo owners.

The 1.0 TSI is the same 81kW unit found in the updated Golf 7.5 and has a surprising 200Nm of torque, hence that diesel feel.  There’s a slight rumble lower down from the drivetrain as that turbo forces the 3-cylinder to comply and summons all the available Newton metres. When pulling off one has to make sure to time the Stop/Start just right in order not to have an embarrassing “I just stalled my car” incident. Polo R-Line takes a tad longer to engage the function than its larger-engined siblings.

The South African Polo R Line is only available as 7-speed DSG that swaps cogs absolutely effortlessly.


The interior is VW-flawless, but it does feels basic albeit sporty. No fancy leather, but you do get seat bolsters and multifunction steering wheel as standard. Our test car came with the optional VW Pilot assist (R3150) and Rear View Camera (R3200), something I wouldn’t want to do without.

On the road

According to VW the Polo R-line does 0-100 in 9.3 seconds, which feels about right. They also claim fuel consumption of 4.4 litres per hundred, which, no matter how hard I tried, I could not get close to.  My best was around 6.0, but usually the car averaged at around 7l/100.  I got the sense that that extra body weight and large wheels matter and although the car feels spritely, Polo R-Line still has to lug a little extra weight around.  My efforts may also have been hampered by mostly inner city driving and the odd robot to robot dash.

The chassis and sporty suspension feels solid and the car is fun to drive mostly because those tyres simply don’t let go. The 17 inch wheels and tyres provide lots of grip and the 81kW engine isn’t up to the task of overcoming the grip horizontally or vertically.  Expect the car to “handle on rails” no matter how hard you decide to push on.


Retailing at R290 000, the Polo R Line is some R80 000 less than the GTI.  This is the perfect antidote for those that value form over function. With R-Line you get all the looks, and some of the performance.

The Polo R-Line comes standard with a Volkswagen Service Plan valid for 3 yeas/45 000 km, a 3-year/120 000 km warranty and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty.​


Road Tests
One Comment
  • Neil
    17 May 2017 at 10:33 am
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    Can you compare other cars in the same price bracket as POLO TSI R-line.


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