Picking holes in a Polo
Volkswagen's Cross Polo, in a brash shade of orange, as Declan O'Byrne discovered, has more style than SUV-stance.
As the old saying goes, looks aren't everything. However, in the case of the Volkswagen Cross Polo, they come pretty close to being the whole deal.
The real stand-out feature of the test car apart from it's sporty, SUV-type lines, was it's outrageous colour, officially known as 'Magma Orange'.
Don't get too perplexed over the label. For simplicity, think of it more as an orange with a raging temperature and you'll get some idea of why you almost need sunglasses to approach it in daylight and hardly need to put on the lights at night!
At first, I thought it incredibly gaudy. As time went by, though, I mellowed, swayed mostly by familiarity and the fact that the vast majority of those who took the time to comment on the car in my presence - and there were many - family, friends and passers-by who simply loved it.
As I didn't fancy being left to flounder in a pitiful, begrudging minority I joined in the chorus of approval. Because of its jaunty shade, there was a tendency for those aforementioned admirers not to take the car too seriously. So, on that evidence, don't expect to see fleets of Cross Polos on the streets any time soon, unless, of course, they're bedecked in the only other available shade, an unremarkable, if more modest, beige.
Clearly, if you don't want to be noticed, then Magma Orange is not the colour for you.
Despite those initial misgivings about the paintwork, I have to admit that when the time came to hand back the car I was really kind of fond of it, too. That was just as well because its chunky appearance apart, I found little else to enthuse over.
That's not to decry it without reservation. With a pedigree born of the Volkswagen's popular 'regular' Polo, and built on the same trusty platform, it was bound to impress in some respects. And it did.
Like its big-selling sibling, it's sturdy and solidly-built, roomy, comfortable to a degree and once you get it all warmed up, it moves with reasonable alacrity, smoothness and competence except over the most unforgiving of surfaces where its ability to absorb the inevitable knocks was somewhat compromised.
On the outside the silver roof rails softened the orange glare, while it stood strikingly proud and tall - for a 'little' car - on 17-inch alloys and thanks to the fact that it has been given 15 millimetres extra ground clearance to enhance its SUV-like looks.
The orange theme was continued in the well-finished cabin, a bright thread woven into the fabric of the seats underpinning the car's overall stylish looks that doubtless would cause many a boy-racer type to salivate profusely.
The dash is plain but functional and controls easily accessible while the boot, as you might expect, is far from vast but with split rear seats, when folded the available space for the carriage of goods and chattels increases significantly.
Those who admired the car's fetching looks may not, however, experience the same level of enthusiasm when they actually sit behind the wheel.
The test car with its 1.2-litre, three-cylinder engine, tended to rattle and hum and required a fair degree of encouragement in terms of pressure on the pedal to make reasonable, initial progress in any kind of acceptable timeframe.
The warming-up process is a tad laborious and at low speeds the 1.2 -litre engine tends to rattle and hum at times in the raw manner of a poorly-maintained lawnmower, suggesting that the car is underpowered.
Once into its stride, though, it performed with as much aplomb as any of its rivals in a pretty rarefied segment.
The Cross Polo comes in two engine variants, a 75bhp, band 'A' diesel, costing €19,585 on the road or the petrol version test car with 70bhp.
There's a five-speed manual gearbox and given its obvious pretensions to be regarded as an SUV, there is no four-wheel drive version at the moment. In that respect, it's a bit like a gun with no bullets.
Prices for the Polo start at €14,455 with the Cross Polo (tax band B) almost €3,000 dearer at €17,380 (ex works).
The test car was equipped with several extras in a 'ride comfort pack' which included rear parking sensors, cruise control, flat tyre alert, tinted rear glass and an iPod socket.
These accoutrements, handy and all as they are, shoved up the price to €18,592, which really flings the Cross Polo into an extremely competitive sector of the market, even if it was the greatest thing since, well, the Polo. And it ain't.
Apart from a growling engine, I found it difficult - and indeed never quite managed - to achieve the most comfortable driving position despite the fact that the seat can be adjusted for height affording excellent visibility. Neither did I find it overly comfortable on a couple of long journeys. In addition, an armrest that comes down on top of the handbrake was not one of the designers of the Cross Polo's finest moments.
For a car of modest size I found it a mite too thirsty during a couple of long journeys mostly traversed at maximum legal motorway speed. All things considered with those perceived shortcomings, the car has to regarded as being an example of one harbouring more style than substance.
But then, it wouldn't be a Polo if you couldn't pick a few holes in it, now would it?