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Volkswagen Polo Dune 1.2 FSi Car Review | August 4, 2004

Driven August 2004

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The Ford Fusion makes me physically sick for some reason. As well as having the street-hipness of a single orthopaedic shoe, it looks like a child's box-design of a car; generic, dull, boring, stupid. It speaks to me of beige and ear-hair, that point at which you buy a car for the bi-focal windscreen and standard colostomy drain.

Which, to be honest, didn't bode that well for the VW Polo Dune, which on paper is a similar idea. Both are superminis with jacked-up ride heights and butched-up bumpers and both share their underpinnings with the standard car.

That said, the Polo looks pretty cool. And no, I haven't lost all sense or been drinking absinthe again. The Dune has this kind of cheeky, chunky-bumpered charm that the Ford just doesn't get as part of the option pack. Maybe it's because it rides on shiny 17-inch alloys with that 20mm lift. Maybe it's because it has a bright paintjob. Maybe not.

It certainly seems to punt around in town with the weeny 1.2-litre FSi triple huffing away happily, that bizarre FSi fluffy throttle response making me rev a couple of times before pulling away. It's not quick, but is keen to rev and feels pretty indestructible, the typical light-but-notchy five-cog VW gearbox helping it along, so long as you're positive.

The only thing substantially different is the weird handling. It rides really well, but leans over. That's not actually as bad as it sounds, because it tweaks over in that bizarre 2CV-type fashion that makes for precarious fun. It doesn't lurch, just has more bodyroll than you'd expect from a supermini.

Inside there's just Polo, so no surprises; well-made if a bit utilitarian. It's horrible to admit, but the raised seat height makes a notable difference to the mechanics of ingress and egress as well - jumping in and out is noticably easier. At Top Gear we also have a gravel parking area accessed by climbing a large kerb. We generally only use it for our four-wheel drives - but on some strange hind-brain insistence I had to park on it. The Dune took it all with confidence, meaning it could cope with an urban tour of duty or light off-road warfare. Pity they don't make it with smashable steel wheels and a hose-out interior - it'd make a great suburban assault vehicle.

Tom Ford

  • Model: Volkswagen Polo Dune 1.2
  • Rating: 10 out of 20
  • We say: Like a Tonka toy. But less depressing. The kind of useful weird that sort of makes sense...
  • Price: £12,495
  • On your drive for: £320pcm (est)
  • Performance: 0-62mph in 16.5 secs, max speed 97mph, 50.1mpg
  • Tech: 1198cc triple, FWD, 64bhp, 83lb ft, 1143kg, 151g/km CO2
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