The Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan could also be in search of to tax SUVs, however his crew of civil servants are going to have a headache attempting to outline them. We’ve come a great distance from the times when SUVs and off-roaders had been simply recognisable as roadgoing upmarket items of farm equipment.
There are some automobiles billing themselves as crossover SUVs but barely taller and boasting the identical footprint on the highway as a metropolis runabout.
In the meantime, most of the supposedly small household hatchbacks have grow to be behemoths. I’m sufficiently old to recollect my aunt’s inexperienced Polo, a boxy biscuit tin on wheels that served her properly for years travelling all through the west of Ireland and on common runs to Tyrone. I had the prospect to drive one just a few years in the past on the German autobahn and it felt tiddly in as we speak’s phrases.
This facelifted mid-life Polo is bigger than many early generations of the Golf. Yet it’s nonetheless categorised as a so-called “B segment” automotive, the second smallest format of European passenger automobiles. Given that it shares the identical underpinnings because the newly launched VW Taigo, the T-Cross, Seat Arona and Skoda Kamiq, how will you actually outline these as SUVs? It’s like defining the 50-year-old obese gamer sporting combats as particular forces.
It’s laborious to establish a single function that defines an SUV over different automobiles. Plastic moulding on the wheel arches? Four-wheel drive? Both of those function on so-called “regular cars” as properly and automotive corporations can simply take away these options from massive SUVs to reclassify them.
Perhaps we’ll find yourself in the identical state of affairs as US legislators when defining obscenity. Justice Potter Stewart delivered the road “I know it when I see it”. Or maybe they’ll flip to the sooner US ruling that outlined it as one thing “utterly without redeeming social importance”. There are many who would concur with that view of SUVs.
In actuality, the one viable approach to instigate an SUV tax would appear to be to base it on weight. Such a regime already exists in France, the place drivers need to pay an extra levy for each kilogram over 1,400kg that their automotive weighs. It’s primarily based on the precept that weight can grow to be a vicious circle for a automotive. Heavier autos want larger, extra highly effective engines (or electrical motor). More energy requires extra cooling (for the engine, or for a giant battery) and the cooling system itself provides weight. Then you want larger brakes to sluggish all of that further weight down, and guess what? Bigger brakes are heavier too . . . And so it goes on.
Light weight, in contrast, is the start of a virtuous circle. A lighter automotive can use a smaller, extra environment friendly engine, which wants much less cooling, which requires smaller brakes, which additionally brings aerodynamic advantages, which makes it extra environment friendly.
Not to say the truth that lighter automobiles are extra enjoyable to drive, a message the Motors crew has been banging on about for years now, with nobody caring to pay attention.
Take this VW Polo for instance. The new Taigo is listed by Volkswagen as an SUV. It begins at €28,735 for the 95bhp model of the 1-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and five-speed handbook transmission. VW claims CO2 emissions of 124g/km. For the Polo with the identical powertrain set-up the emissions are 118g/km.
Not an entire mountain of carbon between the 2, you would possibly argue, however over 50,000kms that’s nonetheless 300kg of CO2.
Then there’s the value distinction: the equal Polo is listed at €23,620 – a saving of €5,115.
We can consider dozens of higher methods to spend that cash within the present local weather than choosing a forgettable crossover as a substitute of a sensible, purposeful family-friendly Polo. And forgive us for repeating it, however the Polo is a greater automotive to drive.
Yes, you’re sitting decrease to the bottom than a Range Rover, however that’s a profit in relation to corners. And in case you haven’t observed, our common roads function fairly just a few of these.
The five-speed handbook transmission is easy and this 1-litre 95bhp three-cylinder petrol engine is a confirmed winner. It would possibly provide up a loud chorus should you hit the excessive notes, however settle in mid-range revs in third or fourth gear and you may wind your method alongside any again highway in Ireland with out ever resorting to the clutch. And that’s the measure of this automotive. It’s not likely about tearing up the tarmac, however comfortably weaving your method by means of visitors – and life.
The steering is properly partaking, nevertheless it’s not as keen or sprightly because the Ford Fiesta, for instance. Instead it’s tuned for secure, comfy motoring. It’s nimble, if not agile.
Of the opposite gadgetry fitted to our R-Line specification check automotive, the reversing digital camera might show helpful for tight automotive park areas, whereas the adaptive cruise management makes motorway driving much more easy.
Inside and the tech that faces you is arguably higher than that within the present Golf, courtesy of a giant quantity management knob as a substitute of the foolish sliding quantity strip fitted beneath the touchscreen of its bigger siblings. And in comparison with the sometimes-clunky software program on the high-tech electrical automobiles from Volkswagen, the Polos touchscreen controls are reactive. There was even an old-school handbook air-con system in our check automotive.
You can go for the bigger “digital cockpit” set-up that’s within the newest Golf for an additional €381, however why trouble. There are different gadgets on the choices listing which can be a greater use of your cash.
Ultimately, this newest Polo is a strong all-round five-door household hatch, boasting excessive ranges of useable tech and security gear. It’s arguably a Golf in every thing however title, and definitely follows the template that made that VW mannequin such successful for a number of a long time.
There was a time as a baby, when an order from an grownup to journey throughout Ireland in a VW Polo would have been worthy of a name to Childline. These days you possibly can simply take into account a continental trek on this automotive. To check with it as a supermini is maybe a misnomer. Just just like the plethora of SUVs and crossovers that crowd our roads, these definitions have grow to be so fluid as to be irrelevant.
The easiest approach to take into account it’s this: if you would like a five-door household automotive with the traits and traits that made Golf the go-to selection for hundreds of thousands since 1974, then this Polo is the good selection.
Lowdown: Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI R-Line
Power: 999cc three-cylinder petrol engine placing out 95hp with a six-speed handbook transmission
0-100km/h: 11.3 seconds
L/100km: 5.7 l/100km (49.6 mpg)
Our score: 4/5
Verdict: For a supposed small runaround, this presents all of the practicality of a full-sized household hatchback