21 December 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Our cars: 2013 Polo R-Line – report four

John Redfern, one of our resident fifth-generation Polo owners, calls time on his period with his 2013 R-Line after two-and-a-half years and 19,000 happy miles

2013 Volkswagen Polo R-Line: John Redfern

In my last update on my Polo R-Line, I alluded to the idea of replacing it with something sprightlier when my current finance deal concluded in 2016. Things moved on a little quicker than anticipated, with the R-Line going off to pastures new in May this year. Being patient has never been my strongpoint!

But after 2.5 years and 19,000 miles it was time to say goodbye to NG62 EWC, as the Deep Black Pearlescent three-door went off to find a new owner. Hopefully it’ll prove just as loyal to them as it was to me. Perhaps one of the biggest compliments I can pay to the R-Line was that made writing about it so difficult at times, due do doing exactly what was asked of it without fail.

Reliable and well-built
In fact, it was everything the Volkswagen clichés of old would tell you to believe. Reliable and well built, the R-Line never let me down during our 29 months together. Aside from two annual services, it had no reason to venture near a dealership other than the fateful day when it became a part-exchange against its replacement. With a virtually flawless record it really was a lesson in dependability.

While it never went wrong, there was one main bugbear with the R-Line in the shape of the standard Bluetooth phone system. Aside from looking resolutely aftermarket by being plonked on the dashboard, it also refused to stream music and had an annoying habit of dropping connectivity. Thankfully the mid-life facelift update for the Polo model last year included an all-new multimedia setup, replacing the loathsome TPK system.

Apart from phone connectivity, the only other issue with the R Line was black paintwork that looked great when clean, but seemed so susceptible to minor marks and scratches no matter how careful I was when washing it. At the time of buying the R Line I had the choice to either wait and get a car in a colour of my choosing, or take the black one there and then. Like I said, I’m not one for patience!

Notable improvement
Fuel economy improved throughout my time with the R-Line, averaging around 45mpg by the time it departed. Being properly run in – there was a notable improvement after 10,000 miles – and using Shell V Power Nitro+ certainly seemed to make a difference. That 45mpg could probably have been bettered, but I spent far too much time enjoying the 1.2-litre TSI engine’s performance.

Although officially only having 104bhp, the TSI engine always felt stronger than the figures suggested, and would happily embarrass unsuspecting drivers of more powerful machinery. A light and precise six-speed manual gearbox helped, along with sharp brakes and accurate steering.

While fun on the daily commute, the R-Line wasn’t a car that begged to be driven specifically for enjoyment. Pushed hard, the limits of the standard suspension became apparent, although the Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres would gamely hang on. A Guild of Motoring Writers’ track day at Rockingham demonstrated just how much body roll the R-Line could generate, but it didn’t feel completely out of its depth among quicker cars.

Handsome, reliable, relatively rare, frugal, and amusing in everyday driving, the R Line proved to be a worthy companion during my ownership. It’ll always hold a small place in my motoring heart, no matter how much quicker the car its strong residual values helped fund.

For more on John’s time with the R-Line, read his previous reports on PoloDriver.com. Also head over to John’s website engagesportmode.com to read his thoughts on a wide range of performance cars and motorsport subjects.


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10 December 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Our cars: 2013 Polo R-Line – report three

Polo R-Line owner and 2014 Guild of Motoring Writers Breakthrough Blogger winner John Redfern reflects on 15,000 miles and almost two years of ownership with the small black car from Wolfsburg and finds a friendly, fun and stress-free companion

2013 Volkswagen Polo R-Line: John Redfern

After 15,000 miles, the Polo R-Line is proving to be a reliable and dependable car to drive. As someone who foots the bill; this is great. But, as someone who also has to write about it, the R-Line makes this particular task a lot more difficult.

It’s quite scary to realise that come January, I’ll have had the R-Line for two years already, with just another 12 months before the end of its Solutions PCP deal. In fact, the latest statement from Volkswagen Financial Services has just dropped through the door today.

As it stands, based on current market trends and values, it looks like I’ll have a nice chunk of equity to use for the R-Line’s replacement come 2016. More of that later though.

Since my last update, Volkswagen has released the revised 6R (F) (6C? – RG) version of the Polo, as covered extensively on PoloDriver.com. Fortunately, the changes to the exterior were relatively minor for a Polo facelift, meaning I don’t feel too much like I’m driving the out-dated model.

Warm hatch ability
It has brought in a new version of the 1.2 TSI engine – as found in the R-Line – packing an extra four horsepower under the bonnet of the updated car. Hardly a huge increase in power, but then the R-Line has always felt punchier than what the official numbers suggest.

In fact, the recent colder weather has made the R-Line’s TSI unit feel rather spritely, to the point of almost bordering of warm hatch ability. Joining motorways and pulling away from roundabouts have resulted in a fairly sizeable smile across my face, with the R-Line nipping through traffic and opening up gaps with ease. Commuting isn’t meant to be this much fun!

More impressive is the upsurge in fuel economy the R-Line appears to be experiencing, despite the more ‘enthusiastic’ driving style. MPG has been nudging over 50 regularly; based on the DIS display at least.

I’ve also been managing a good 350 miles before the fuel warning light appears. That’s an improvement of some 50 miles since my last update for PoloDriver.com, and an extra 30 miles than what it had been achieving more recently.

Minimalist attitude
What could be the cause of this new minimalist attitude to fuel consumption? The TSI engine being fully run in could well be one answer. With 15,000 miles on the clock, it’s reasonable to expect that the engine is now fully bedded in and on peak form.

In addition, with the recent drop in petrol prices, the R-Line has been benefiting from regular tanks of Shell V-Power Nitro+ petrol. This combination has seemingly been enough to endow the R-Line with more power and better fuel economy. Who needs a hybrid, eh?

More importantly, who needs to replace a car that still seems to be doing everything they can ask of it? Well, me, really. As much as the R-Line may do all I need, there are areas where I’d want it to do more – such as being quicker. Or having a sport mode, so it at least fits with the name of my own website (www.engagesportmode.com), for a start.

Thankfully, Volkswagen may have the answer with the latest Polo GTI. You can find the full details here on PoloDriver.com, but the idea of a 1.8 TSI engine, six-speed manual gearbox and the optional ‘Sport Performance Kit’ is very appealing.

The latter includes the all-important ‘sport button’ which changes the steering weight, accelerator response and suspension settings. I’m literally hanging on the edge of my seat waiting for the announcement on pricing, so I can begin harassing my local Volkswagen dealership.

Until then, I’ll be perfectly happy behind the wheel of the R-Line. It has its second annual service to look forward to in January, and there’s also the need for some new front tyres soon. That spirited driving style had to come at a cost somewhere I suppose.

But, with 15,000 dependable miles down, the R-Line probably does deserve some new shoes for doing everything just so very, very, well.

Want to know more? Follow John on Twitter at @EngageSportMode or visit www.engagesportmode.com

2013 Volkswagen Polo R-Line: John Redfern

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12 February 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Our cars: 2013 Polo R-Line – report two

A year into ownership, John Redfern looks back over 8000 miles and 12 months with his Polo R-Line TSI. Is it everything he hoped for?

2013 Volkswagen Polo R-line: John Redfern

The past 12 months have seemed somewhat of a blur, and it’s hard to believe that I’m already a full year into ownership of my Polo R-Line. With 2013 proving to be quite tumultuous and challenging in many ways, the R-Line was at least an icon of dependability throughout.

Travelling to Devon for a weekend break chucked the R-Line in at the deep end, having to contend with an 800-mile motorway round trip. Despite its relatively, small stature the Polo coped extremely well and was happy mixing it with the big boys in the outside lane. Comfort from the sport seats meant no aching backs at the end, and the DAB radio kept us entertained.

A trip to Rockingham race circuit in August for the Guild of Motoring Writers’ ‘Big Day Out’ gave the chance for the R-Line to meet up with Rich Gooding’s 6N2 GTI and Alex Grant’s rather special G40. It was also an opportunity to investigate just how deserving of the ‘R’ badge the Polo actually is.

Despite being one of the lowest powered cars there, the R-Line didn’t feel completely out of its depth on track despite a fair degree of body roll! In fact, the morning session with its damp, slippery track even allowed the R-Line to hustle BMW M3s, although this all changed once the tarmac dried out!

Performance from the 105PS (104bhp) 1.2-litre TSI unit continues to prove just about sufficient to satisfy my inner petrolhead, but there are times where I really do wish for an extra 25-20bhp and accompanying torque boost.

While generally fine with just me on board, extra passengers or luggage do make a dent in acceleration that is slightly too noticeable. This is the trade off for low emissions and fuel consumption I suppose. Fuel economy has improved in my time with the R-Line; possibly due to a combination of the engine being more run in, and a commute with less stop-start traffic.

Regardless of the cause, I’m very happy to be averaging 45mpg on a daily basis, with the potential for this to creep even higher on longer runs. A full tank offers a range of around 300 miles before the DIS screen starts to panic and suggests refuelling is needed.

Over the year I’ve tended to stick to regular 95-octane unleaded, as this is all the R-Line claims to need. Experiments with Tesco Momentum99 proved fairly fruitless, making the throttle response seem jerky as if the engine knock sensor was kicking in. Shell V-Power delivered better results, but without a large enough benefit that justified the ridiculous price.

The only trip needed to Pulman Volkswagen in Durham was for the R-Line’s first 12-month service. With the car having the 3-year service package included from new, the oil change and inspection cost me nothing and took less than 90 minutes. The inspection report notes that front and rear brake wear is only around 10% – clearly I need to try braking harder!

As I write, nothing noticeable has gone wrong or fallen off the R-Line yet. A couple of small rattles from the dashboard kick in when the outside temperature drops, and the Bluetooth phone connection continues to frustrate when it comes to streaming music.

The Deep Black Pearlescent paintwork is, predictably, a nightmare to keep clean and has shown up a couple of small annoying scratches that would be undetectable on a different coloured car.

Modifications have been limited to nothing more than the addition of a TSI badge to the Polo’s rump. With Volkswagen now offering ‘R-Line Style’ models on even the 60PS 1.2 model, I felt it was needed to add a subtle reminder that mine was the real deal underneath.

Carbon fibre wrap for the wing mirrors is still being considered, mainly to cover the damage to the nearside one caused by my other half!

Overall, the R-Line has been a nigh-on faultless performer throughout the past year. It’s been dependable, practical and just the right amount of fun to be enjoyable without breaking the bank. Volkswagen’s success in the World Rally Championship has also given it a pleasing, if rather tenuous, degree of motorsport pedigree too!

In short, the R-Line easily keeps fulfilling the brief I asked of it, and I’m looking forward to another year behind the wheel of EngageSportMode.com’s flagship.

Want to know more? Follow John on Twitter at @EngageSportMode or visit www.engagesportmode.com

2013 Volkswagen Polo R-Line: John Redfern

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03 October 2013 ~ 1 Comment

Guild of Motoring Writers’ Big Day Out

2013 Guild of Motoring Writers' Big Day Out: Renault Clio

The Guild of Motoring Writers (GoMW) is the largest organisation of automotive editorial professionals in the world. Founded on 9 October 1944 at an informal meeting of seven influential journalists at London’s Press Club, the GoMW now has a membership of over 400, in both the UK and overseas. Its members are not just motoring writers either, but a wide range of automotive editorial professionals in many different roles and media.

On Thursday 22 August, the GoMW held its first Big Day Out (BDO) at Rockingham Motor Speedway. A chance for members and non-members to drive their own cars on the British Touring Car Championship circuit, the idea behind it was to bring together like-minded auto industry professionals to enjoy their road cars in a controlled environment. And also to show the changing face of GoMW itself, and promote its younger membership.

As well as driving their own cars around the circuit, attendees could also take models from Ford, Nissan, Kia and Mitsubishi out on road routes outside of the track itself. Ford brought along the Fiesta and Focus STs among others, while the new Kia Pro-Cee’d GT was in attendance, as was the ’90s rally hero, the Mitsubishi Evo Tommi Mäkinen Edition. The Japanese manufacturer also had a diminutively cute 1974 Lancer at the event, along with a Lancer Turbo from 1981. Both were crowd-pullers.

2013 Guild of Motoring Writers' Big Day Out: 1981 Mitsubishi Lancer Turbo

Before that date, I hadn’t taken my 2001 Polo GTI on the track before. I’d taken part in around five track days before with previous cars, yes, but both the car and the Rockingham circuit were new to me in terms of on-track experience. The day started damp, the heavy rain on the way to Northamptonshire from Essex gradually easing. Following a briefing in which we learned that the circuit was the slipperiest in Europe (made even worse by the morning’s rainfall), we were off. It was time to drive.

Sighting laps over, I was very cautious. Not wanting to damage the car, or anyone else’s, I was very wary. The car had given me a fright early on in the day, when the rear end sailed out on a greasy roundabout. I wasn’t driving fast, but the unnerving feeling made me doubt the car’s and my capabilities. The same thing happened on the circuit – the first corner saw the Polo spin, and luckily another track-goer managed to skillfully avoid the silver obstruction slowly pirouetting in front of his car.

As the day wore on, though, the circuit surface dried, and I could trust the car more. Grip was certainly not an issue, and although it felt like it was leaning lots in the corners, our Polo R-Line correspondent John, who runs EngageSportMode.com, stated that in in fact, the GTI was quite flat in the bends. The last corner offered many opportunities for some fun tyre squeal, and all in all, the GTI acquitted itself quite well. No, it wasn’t and isn’t the sharpest tool in the driving box, but I had fun.

One bonus to the day was meeting up with colleagues in the industry, and catching up with fellow Tweeters. You may have been in contact with these like-minded enthusiasts online, but never actually met them, but you could at GoMW BDO. Contacts and introductions were made. Another attraction was the attendance of the manufacturer vehicles, and it was genuinely pleasing to see some old metal among the newer products. I had drives in both the Ford Fiesta ST and Zetec S EcoBoost, something I probably would have gone to a dealership to try otherwise. Both were satisfying for different reasons.

There was a mixture of cars ready for track action, too. A hardcore Vauxhall VX220 mixed it with Renault Clios of varying vintages, a Honda Hybrid and numerous BMWs. There were Polos, too; mine was joined by John Redfern’s 2013 Polo R-Line TSI, and Alex Grant’s Polo G40, which also won the award for the best car representing the spirit of the day. With both an open pit lane format and pit garages for the early risers, BDO really was excellent value for money.

‘The idea behind the Big Day Out was to show the industry that The Guild of Motoring Writers isn’t a stuffy organisation or closed club, but something that is open to the entire industry,’ said organiser and GoMW committee member James Baggott. ‘We wanted to give current members the chance to enjoy their own road cars at a heavily subsidised track day, plus show potential members and the rest of the industry what we’re about.’

2013 Guild of Motoring Writers' Big Day Out: Dave Tillyer's Punto Abarth

Despite the not-ideal weather, the day was hailed a big success. Guild Chairman Richard Aucock said: ‘I am absolutely delighted with how the event went. We had a great turn-out, some interesting cars, top-drawer standards of driving and many happy reports from all attendees.’ (Read more here.) Plans are already underway to make the BDO an annual event. GoMW – you can count me in. Check out the official gallery of the day and search for #GuildBDO on Twitter for related tweets.

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13 June 2013 ~ 0 Comments

Our cars: 2013 Polo R-Line – report one

New contributor John Redfern introduces himself and his car, and tells of the reasons why he bought his 2013 Polo R-Line. Is he happy with it? Read on to find out…

2013 Volkswagen Polo R-Line (John Redfern)

Hello, I’m new! I’m John and I run engagesportmode.com, a website dedicated to the exciting side of motoring life. I’m also a perennial Polo purchaser having owned three of them previously, along with other assorted VAG machinery and – don’t say it too loudly – a Fiat Panda 100HP. But moving swiftly on, my heart has always been with VW’s supermini. I can’t quite explain what draws me to the Polo. For my lifestyle it has always been big enough but not excessive, affordable without feeling cheap and, perhaps most importantly, not a Golf.

So how did I come to find myself owning the R-Line model pictured here? The long answer can be found on EngageSportMode which involved a lengthy saga whilst I convinced myself of the merits of buying new, and then finally managed to pick a car to buy. The condensed answer is that my previous car, a 2006 Polo 1.4 SE, was doing little to excite the enthusiast side of my brain. It was also hardly proving cheap to run; the legacy of an inattentive previous owner and the lacklustre fuel economy of the 1.4 litre petrol engine. In short, it was ticking very few boxes to justify the coveted spot on my driveway!

2013 Volkswagen Polo R-Line (John Redfern)

Following a brief period spent flirting with first the idea of a MINI Cooper Coupé, and then an Audi A1, I found myself at the doors of Pulman Volkswagen in Durham. Test driving a white R-Line in January’s treacherous snowy conditions was a far from ideal introduction to the car, but its torquey engine and refined drive won quickly won me over. It’s fair to say I also loved the looks of the R-Line and the cocooning nature of the interior with its black headlining and tinted rear windows. The decision was made; I wanted one.

I’m not usually a fan of car dealers, but I have to admit Chris Taylor at Pulman changed my opinion massively. There was no hard sell, no attempt to push unnecessary options or accessories, just friendly negotiation to achieve a good deal. Black wouldn’t have been my first choice of colour due to its propensity to show every last mark or bit of dirt. But, if I wanted one sooner rather than later, Deep Black Pearlescent was my solitary option as that was the colour of the only one left in UK stock at the time.


As a result the R-Line also came with no additional extras, just the standard spec it left the factory with. So this means manual air-conditioning, a RDS310 DAB radio with single CD player, iPod integration and Bluetooth phone system. Other R-Line goodies include the GTI-esque bodykit and 16” Mallory alloys on the outside, with sports seats and a flat-bottomed leather steering wheel inside.

Under the bonnet the 1.2-litre turbocharged engine drives the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox (no DSG here), offering up 104bhp and 129lbs ft of torque. Performance is in warm-hatch territory, with 0-60mph in around 9.5 seconds, though on the road it feels much quicker. The benefits of the downsized motor pay off at the petrol station, with economy consistently averaging 40+mpg despite my lead foot and short commute distance.


In the four months I’ve owned the R-Line, it has proven to be a hugely capable and entertaining vehicle, delivering virtually everything I could have asked for. I’m probably still too deep into the honeymoon phase to start thinking of gripes and complaints, although the black paintwork is already causing consternation with every wash and wax!

I’m looking forward to making more regular updates to PoloDriver.com as my time with the R-Line continues. The itch to start playing and tinkering is strong, so keep visiting the site for further news and updates.

2013 Volkswagen Polo R-Line (John Redfern)

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