Adding to the wide range of Polo models on sale, Volkswagen has introduced the Dune. With styling influenced by SUVs and a number of detail changes inside and out, the Dune is designed to appeal to buyers looking for some off-road styling cues in a car that is no more difficult to drive than a supermini.
The Dune looks notably different to a regular Polo, even though the changes are relatively minor. The most obvious difference is the ride height, a combination of the large, attractive 17-inch alloy wheels but also a 20mm increase in the suspension height. Another difference is the body cladding and chunky front and rear bumpers, both of which add to the Dune's looks and give it the tough appearance likely to be popular with buyers.
There are a number of interior changes too, most importantly the standard fitment of sports seats. As well as continuing the rugged theme inside the car, they offer useful extra support and come with storage drawers underneath and net pockets on the sides. The cabin also gets chrome detailing, leather on the steering wheel, gearlever and handbrake plus aluminium effect pedals, all of which add a classy feel to the cabin.
Mechanically the Dune is almost identical to a conventional Polo. That means front-wheel drive only, so the raised ride height is the only factor that gives it any off-road capability. Instead the Dune will appeal to buyers who want the looks, and on this score it does well. It looks much sharper and more attractive than the regular Polo, particularly in metallic colours, and so may steal sales from conventional rivals.
The Dune's specification is also improved, with standard semi-automatic air conditioning, a radio/CD player with MP3 compatibility and electric windows all round. Many of these items are in addition to the similarly priced SE version, although it is still at the expensive end of the supermini price list.
The buyers at which the Dune is targeted are likely to love it, thanks to its attractive looks and good specification. It will also be just as easy to live with as a regular Polo. Counting against it is the odd gearing, although choosing the diesel version would improve things, while pricing is quite high. For some it will be a first choice, but those who are undecided should look at all the options.
Running costs for the Dune should be good, with a relatively frugal engine and variable service intervals. On the negative side is the initial purchase price, and the tyres may also be relatively expensive to replace.
For a car of this size, the Polo Dune offers impressive space. All passengers have reasonable head and legroom, although it is best suited to carrying four rather than five people. There are useful storage areas throughout the cabin, while the Dune's sports seats also have useful nets on the sides for added storage space.
Like most Volkswagens, the Dune has a simple and clear interior design that is easy to use. The instruments are attractively lit and easy to read, while the rest of the switchgear operates in a satisfying and robust fashion.
The level of comfort in the Dune is notably improved by the sports seats fitted as standard, offering good support. Noise levels are also respectable, although the bigger wheels and tyres do result in more road noise. The ride quality is also mostly good, with only larger bumps causing a disturbance in the cabin.
The Dune is well protected thanks to remote central locking which includes an alarm and anti-hijack button, as well as en electronic immobiliser and locking wheel nuts on the desirable alloy wheels.
The Polo comes with a high level of safety equipment, including ABS with brake assist and six airbags all as standard. A strong passenger safety cell also provides a reassuring standard of safety.
In some respects the Dune is a relaxing car to drive, with the higher ride height giving better visibility and a smooth ride. Noise levels are also low, with little background disturbance from the engine. Where the Dune is less successful is that the engine sometimes struggles to make decent progress, which is most likely due to the larger wheels. The Dune feels too highly geared, often requiring a large dose of accelerator to get going. The mix of wide tyres and soft suspension is also an odd mix, as the Dune rolls just as much, or possibly more than a regular Polo, but the bigger tyres offer high levels of grip.
For its size, the Dune would make a good family car. With five doors as standard, getting children in and out of the rear seats is easy, and the boot is a reasonable size. The seat fabrics are also quite tough, and the MP3-enabled CD player should help to entertain its occupants.
The Dune would make a good first car for many, given its ease of driving and low running costs. The purchase price is at the high end for a car of this size however, which may put it out of range for some buyers.
The Polo shares a good quality feel like the rest of the Volkswagen range, with quality materials and understated design. The Dune looks even more expensive from the outside thanks to the bigger alloy wheels, chunky bumpers and metallic paint, all fitted as standard to this model.
With a 20mm higher ride height, the Dune is slightly easier to enter than a regular Polo. It also comes in five-door form only, which means easy access to both front and rear seats. The boot has a wide and high opening hatch, with only a small boot lip.
The Dune has a radio/CD unit fitted as standard, with eight speakers and MP3 compatibility. The unit is well positioned, high on the dashboard, and has simple controls. The sound quality is also impressive, reaching high volumes with little distortion.
The Dune differs from the standard Polo variants with the use of lighter grey fabrics on the sports seats, as well as netted storage areas. The rest of the cabin is in the standard dark grey colour, and despite the use of chrome effect details and smart blue and red illumination the cabin is relatively dark. The materials themselves are of good quality throughout, with leather on the steering wheel and gearlever.
Squeezing into small spaces is easy in the Dune, mostly due to the compact dimensions and good visibility. The electric power steering also makes for low steering effort when going from full lock to full lock.
No spare – tyre repair kit mounted in the boot
Seven engine options: 1.2-litre petrol (54bhp), 1.4-litre petrol (63bhp), 1.6-litre petrol (79bhp), 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol (148bhp), 1.4-litre diesel (69 and 79bhp) and 1.9-litre diesel (99bhp). Five speed manual gearboxes are fitted to all models, with the option of a four-speed automatic on the 1.4-litre petrol. Trim levels are E, SE, Sport, Dune and GTI. Dune has unique interior and exterior detailing and comes with the 1.4-litre petrol or diesel engine only.