Road Test: Volkswagen Polo Beats 1.2 TSI
The ultra-sensible Polo gets a kicking bassline with an audio upgrade from Beats. By Alex Grant.
Segment: Supermini Price: £15,990 Fuel: 60.1mpg CO2: 107g/km
The Apple Car might only be a rumour at the moment, but that hasn’t stopped California’s fashionable IT giant moving in on the automotive world. Not only the likely and useful stuff, in Apple CarPlay, but in its widening offering of the Beats sub-brand in Volkswagen Group products.
A brief history lesson here, for those unfamiliar with the brand. Beats was started by Californian rapper Dr Dre in 2006, developing headphones capable of thumping out the basslines of the angriest hip hop and being accessorised – via a choice of bold colours – with their user. Bought out by Apple in 2014, it’s finding its way into cars too.
In this case, it’s adding a powerful seven-speaker audio system with a digital signal processor and subwoofer for thumping low notes to the ultra-conservative Polo hatch. Priced at £950 over the Match, on which it’s based, it’s sort of thing that would once get frowned upon for causing a noise nuisance in the corner of a McDonald’s car park. And it gets styling to match; red mirrors and two-tone stripes along the bottom of the doors like a Golf GTI Clubsport S, some natty alloy wheels and a two-tone interior with embossed Beats logos on the seats.
The drive is otherwise unchanged; you’ve a choice of a 75bhp diesel, or 60bhp, 75bhp and 90bhp petrols, as tested here. It’s enough to give a respectable shove of in-gear acceleration when needed, and fits a hatch which otherwise feels as grown up as cars in the class above, though six gears would be useful for those regularly taking it on the motorway.
Not that the way it drives is really the selling point. There’s no change to the main 6.5-inch infotainment screen, and that’s no bad thing, it gets the usual Android and Apple smartphone connectivity as standard and it’s as lag-free as you’d hope for from a Volkswagen Group product. Connect your digital media device, though, and it stops feeling quite so sensible.
It’s easy to feel spoilt as a motoring journalist, trying audio systems priced at multiples of the Beats one, but it suffers from some of the same issues as the headphones of the same brand. The Polo feels geared towards music with a bassline; it’ll pick out the low notes with plenty of clarity, but it’s no audiophile set up. What you get out of it depends on your taste in music.
Better, then, to view this as an affordable way to get a Polo with a respectable audio upgrade that doesn’t mean dipping into an options list. And that’s something other brands are out to offer as well. If you like your music to get your pulse racing, this will certainly satisfy.
A lot of extra bass for not a lot of extra cash, the Polo Beats is a great antidote for a dull commute.