Volkswagen is a pseudo-posh brand in New Zealand.
But it's also one that has aspirations towards a bit more middle-class sales action. Case in point: as the smallest model in the range, the Polo supermini, is the on sharp end of some 'summer-special' activity at the moment and you can buy an entry-level 1.4-litre version for just $20,990.
Another case in point: Polo still has that aura of being a bit special because of the bonnet badge, and while VW reckons it works as a budget hatchback, it also feels confident loading it up with accessories and offering a $33,500 version.
We're not talking a GTI or anything here. The Polo R-Line looks pretty cool but underneath it's a completely standard 66kW/160Nm 1.2-litre TSI (turbo) model, with the regulation Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) and standard (rather soft) suspension.
What R-Line brings for $3750 is a sharp-looking package of bumpers and sill extensions, 17-inch alloys, upgraded trim, a sports steering wheel and touch-screen audio/Bluetooth system.
As you can see, the intention is to make the Polo look a lot like one of VW's genuine high-performance R-models, and in that respect it succeeds. Even if none of your nearly-$4k contributes towards making the car go any better.
Does that matter? Not if your expectations are for a cool-looking, high-quality small car rather than a hot hatch. The TSI powerplant is full of verve and the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox snaps through the gears in fast and entertaining fashion. Blips on downchanges in Sport mode as well.
The Polo is a high-quality, extremely well-sorted car and it certainly wouldn't shy away from longer trips, either. It rides comfortably and tackles corners with confidence, albeit at supermini-appropriate speed.
Inside, the snazzy steering wheel and touch-screen are nice features and the cabin materials are of undeniably high quality (always a VW strength), but there's not a lot to wow you in there. It's just a bit sober in both style and colour (often a VW failing), which would be less of a problem if this supermini didn't cost so much.
But that's your choice, which is precisely the point of the R-Line package. It's a costly option that's all about show, but it does make your Polo stand out from the crowd; indeed, it could almost be mistaken for the GTI. Alternatively, stick with a standard TSI and you get all of the build quality and engineering advantages of the car, but at a price under $30k – which seems a lot more palatable for a car lie this.