Reader tees off about lack of three-door Polos

By David Thomson on Sat, 20 Oct 2012

Each month I usually get phone calls, emails or letters from Drivesouth readers commenting on various stories I have run or making specific inquiries or suggestions of their own.

This past month, close on a dozen of you have contacted me. Much of that upsurge came in positive response to a September editorial expressing frustration at the unwillingness of some motorists to make use of slow-vehicle lanes.

I've also conversed about car seats and enjoyed a lengthy chat with a reader about the inequities of the current diesel road user charges, especially as they apply to smaller passenger cars.

Then there was the handwritten letter (a novelty these days) from a reader, John, a few weeks back, asking whatever happened to the three-door Polo in Volkswagen's local line-up.

Since John did not supply a contact address, this is the place to answer his question.

Trawl the used-car listings and you'll find the odd three-door version of the Polo for sale. But, as best I can figure, it's been more than a decade since a three-door Polo featured in VW's Kiwi new-car range, so all the newer three-door versions available here second-hand will have entered the country as used imports.

The reason there is no three-door model in the current range relates largely to demand: these days a company such as VW will typically expect the local distributor to take 100 to 200 units of a model variant such as the three-door Polo each year to justify exporting it. Based on past experience, demand for three-door Polos would be nowhere near that strong.

A related additional consideration for the local distributor (and dealers) is to keep the model range manageable in terms of size.

Within the Volkswagen line-up in New Zealand there are already five Polo variants, comprising manual and DSG transmission versions of the 1.4-petrol, the DSG-equipped 1.2-litre turbo TSI and its CrossPolo stablemate, and the supercharged and turbocharged Polo GTI.

Looking a bit more widely, and excluding the Amarok ute (six variants on offer here) and VW commercial vehicles, the current VW range consists of eight models (Polo, Golf, Scirocco, Tiguan, Eos, Passat, CC and Touareg), adding up to 27 different variants.

Just for comparison, I checked the availability of three-door models among the best-selling models in the Polo's class: there is no three-door version of the Swift, New Zealand's top-selling supermini, either here or overseas. The same is true of the Honda Jazz. The Ford Fiesta, Mazda 2 and Hyundai i20 are all available in three-door form overseas, but only as a five-door here.

Toyota's Yaris, though, is offered in three-door form at entry level, both here and abroad. Mind you, the Yaris sells in much larger numbers than the Polo, and I suspect the fleet and/or rental markets account for a fair proportion of the three-door sales.

Interestingly though, Peugeot has included a three-door in its new 208 range, which is the French company's direct rival to the Polo. Mind you, that range comprises just four variants (with no equivalent to the CrossPolo or GTI), so really it's just a case of Peugeot mixing and matching a little differently than Volkswagen.

David Thomson