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VW Polo TDi vs Toyota RunX RSi

Broadcast dates : 26th June 2005
2nd July 2005

Clint competes successfully in the Sahara Production Car championship when he’s not logging free practice laps for Car Torque.

Last year he was up against the RunX RSi in Class B, and this year he has to contend with the Polo TDi in Class C.

The three-door Polo employs a highly-developed 96 kilowatt turbodiesel four-cylinder engine.

It has a wide power-band by diesel standards, pulling from 1500 to 4500 rpm.

The Run X engine is, by contrast, a screamer. Thanks to its VVT or Variable Valve Timing system, it operates a secondary camshaft that comes into play at 6000 revs, howling through to 141 kiloWatt power-peak at nearly 8000 rpm.

The track-day exercise provided Clint with a rare opportunity to experience his opposition’s cars – albeit in street-going trim.
These two cars aren’t direct competitors on the street or the race track. The diesel Polo costs R165 000, while the more powerful RSi weighs in at over R200 000.

The power hike for the latest diesel version of the Polo has elevated this three-door hatch smack into the middle of the boy-racer league.

Clint immediately felt at home behind the wheel of the Polo 1,9 TDi.

Once on the boil, the high-revving RunX is every inch a boy-racer’s delight. But its suspension could do with some firming up.

The two cars are very different in character. Both need to be worked hard in terms of keeping their engines in the optimum rev range, and for this reason both are fitted with six-speed gearboxes.

But where the RunX comes on song, the low-revving diesel has long since run out revs.

The heavier construction of the typical diesel-engine internals effectively limits the rev ceiling to around 5000 rpm.

Thanks to a tight package of firm suspension, prodigious torque and electronic traction aids, the Polo was just one-second off the RunX at Wesbank’s short circuit.

However, the RunX suffered from fuel surge through tighter corners, the engine dying momentarily despite the tank being more than a quarter full.
Both cars have no-nonsense interiors, with slight sporty overtones.

The Polo’s is the crisper package, more modern than the RunX, with sharper lines to the steering wheel spokes and instrument pod.

Both the Polo and RunX enjoy good lateral support from the seats, with the Polo shading the RunX for snugness.

The RunX, however, offers full leather upholstery as standard, and as a five-door it’s more versatile than the three-door Polo.

Out on the track, Clint had to work some to keep the Run X in the power-band.

The Run X is demanding, engine-wise, but rewarding when you get it right. Thanks to its low-speed torque, the Polo is easier to hustle, but power dies away too soon.

Steering feedback on the Polo is particularly good when accelerating out of a corner.

The RunX gearing is less communicative, and the narrow gate on the gearshift takes some getting used to.
In essence, these two cars represent the struggle for supremacy between petrol and diesel engines in the performance game at the moment.

The Toyota is the classic high-performance petrol machine – high peak-power realized through even higher revs.

The diesel is all about a quick whoosh of thrust – all the way through the six-speed gearbox. And that Polo’s gear-change is hard to beat. The car has a competent chassis and the torque exiting corners is extremely gratifying.

The RunX is a good handler that does the job. But somehow it doesn’t impart the feeling of solidity, and solidarity with the driver, that the Polo does.

So which is the better car in essence? The RunX has a lot going for it as a sporty package, but it falls down on appearance – too ordinary – and its gear-change is too notchy, requiring too much attention.

The Polo may lack two rear doors, but image-wise that’s part of its appeal.

It comes with traction control too, which the RunX lacks. With three-hundred-and ten Newton Metres of torque, it certainly needs it.

It’s the more complete car in terms of handling, driving position and that wonderful gear change.

So, even though they aren’t directly comparable, our vote goes to the Polo.

Toyota RunX RSi

  • Engine: Four-cylinder petrol, 1 796cc
  • Power: 141 kW @ 7 800 rpm
  • Torque: 180 Nm @ 6 800 rpm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel-drive
  • 0-100 km/h: 7,8 seconds
  • Top speed: 222 km/h
  • Fuel consumption: 8,7 litres/100 km (Car Magazine figures)
  • Price: R202 750

Volkswagen Polo 1,9 TDi Sportline

  • Engine: Four-cylinder turbodiesel, 1 896 cc
  • Power: 96 kW @ 4 000 rpm
  • Torque: 310 Nm @ 1 800 rpm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel-drive
  • 0-100 km/h: 9,2 seconds
  • Top speed: 206 km/h (manufacturer’s claim)
  • Fuel consumption: 6,5 litres/100 km (tested) 
  • Price: R168 600

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