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a friend,
a good friend.

It's not hard to lose your bearings in a big city like Barcelona. That’s why it’s good to know that the new Polo has more driver assistance systems than any other vehicle in its class.

Text Marta Cazada
Photos Uwe Kristandt/Staud Studios

Although Christopher Columbus was a visionary, he could hardly have dreamt of the chaotic traffic conditions that plague half of Barcelona on an ordinary spring morning in 2014.

The Italian explorer set out for the New World from southern Spain in 1492 and returned to Barcelona in 1493, whereupon he was received by the Spanish King. Today a 60-metre statue of him, the “Monument a Colom”, offers the best view out over the capital of Catalonia – and of the traffic jam at his feet with its endless lines of cars along the magnificent avenidas and the narrow streets of the Old City. Whilst the explorer points to the west, the cars beneath him start and stop in all directions.

Barcelona is my home, I love nearly everything about this city. Its very own dialect, its Catalonian pride, its mixture of classical and modern architecture, the bars in its nightlife district, the sea front in Poblenou on a balmy evening – of which we happily have quite a few in Barcelona. But when I drive to work on a normal weekday, I can easily feel like a tourist bumbling her way through an enormous, unfamiliar labyrinth. So how might actual tourists feel when attempting to drive through Barcelona? And even more so when driving at rush hour through the inner cities of Beijing or Tokyo, New York or Cairo, Berlin or Buenos Aires?

Northern Spaniards are known for their lively driving style, especially in traffic jams. That means you've got to react very quickly, remain alert at all times and keep a constant eye on every detail of the traffic. In conditions like these, you can count yourself fortunate to be sitting in the new Polo. When traffic gets sticky, the latest driver assistance systems such as Adaptive Cruise Control with Front Assist are all the more helpful. And not only in Barcelona. Here are five examples of how you can always rely on the Polo.

The ‘Parc del Mirador del Poble Sec’ offers a great view of Barcelona and the Columbus statue.

» Barcelona is my home, I love almost everything about this city – except the traffic. «

There'll be stop-and-go traffic nearly everywhere on weekdays in a metropolis like Barcelona.

1  You've got to brake suddenly.

Front Assist

Look out, danger! The driver in front of you suddenly slams on the brakes to avoid hitting a delivery van or a pedestrian. This is where optional Front Assist, the traffic monitoring system from Volkswagen, comes in. It constantly measures the distance of other vehicles ahead, detects critically reduced gaps, and warns you of possible collisions.

If you don't react, it will automatically initiate a partial braking action. If you don't brake hard enough, it will increase the braking pressure. That's how Front Assist helps to prevent accidents. At low speeds (under 19 mph) the integrated City Emergency Braking function helps you respond effectively to sudden situations, especially in urban traffic. A built-in sensor system can detect critical distances and automatically apply the brakes.

2 You're driving in heavy traffic on expressway main road.

ACCA daptive Cruise Control

Particularly during rush hour on motorways or main roads it's important to maintain and constantly adjust the right distance from the vehicle ahead. ACC does this for you. It uses a radar sensor to measure the distance to the vehicle in front of you, adjusts your speed and maintains the distance that you set. It does not exceed the speed you enter in the cruise control system.


If the car in front of you slows down, the system adjusts the distance and speed without you having to take action – even bringing your car to a standstill if it has a dual-clutch gearbox. You of course remain in control at all times – if necessary you can immediately override ACC by shifting gear, braking or accelerating.

Parallel parking with holiday flair: at the beach in the Barceloneta neighbourhood.

3 You're parallel parking.

Parking sensors/Rear Assist rear-view

The narrower the street, the more nerve-wracking it is to parallel park. But spacious parking places can also pose challenges – especially with heavy traffic whizzing by or passers-by eyeing you critically. So it’s good to have parking sensors, which makes parallel parking easier and safer. The system beeps to let you know how much space there is at the front and rear of the car. The beeps increase in frequency as you move closer to the object, becoming a continuous tone when you're less than 30 centimetres away. You can also view the object and the distance from it as a graphic on the display.

The Rear Assist rear-view camera superimposes guidelines over the camera image, with different colours depending on the distance. This lets you drive safely up to any obstacle – regardless of whether it’s a bumper or the kerb.

The side mirrors swing in at the touch of a button. That's very helpful especially when parking on narrow streets.
Outside the city, the Polo makes sure you remain alert at the wheel.

4 You're starting to get tired.

Driver Alert System

Your eyelids are drooping, and things might soon become dangerous – but not with the Polo. If necessary, its Driver Alert System will recommend that you take a break. It can recognise fatigue and the resulting decline in attentiveness by continuously evaluating driving characteristics above a speed of 40 mph, and drawing conclusions about the driver’s state of alertness.

This is based on various signals such as steering behaviour. Under normal conditions drivers constantly make slight adjustments to the steering wheel. Right before dozing off they hold the wheel stiffly and then jerk it when they realise what's happening. When the system recognises this behaviour it uses visual and acoustic signals to recommend taking a break.

5 You're turning on slick cobblestones.

Electronic Stability Control

Streets can quickly become slippery – when it rains, on cobblestones or when driving past construction sites or recently watered parks. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) prepares you for this by detecting critical driving situations and preventing the car from fishtailing.

ESC gets the information it needs from steering angle and wheel speed sensors that allow it to calculate your Volkswagen’s target steering direction and handling behaviour. If the actual and target data deviate too much, ESC intervenes – in the case of sudden instability on a bend, for example, or unexpected road surfaces or the sudden need to swerve. ESC controls the corrective response through effective interventions in the braking and engine management systems.

The Polo in numbers.

Engine power: 1.2 TSI 90 PS
Gearbox:
7-speed dual-clutch gearbox DSG
Fuel consumption: 60.1 mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions in g/km: 109 (combined)
Acceleration (from 0 to 62 mph):
10.8 sec
Top
speed: 114 mph
Unladen weight:
1,107 kg
Dimensions:
length: 3,972 mm, width with mirrors: 1,901 mm, height without GPS antenna: 1,462 mm
Luggage compartment:
280 l; 952 l with rear seats folded down
“Fresh” special model: “Portago”
lightweight metal wheels; outside mirrors and radiator grille painted black; front sport seats
Selection of standard highlights:

Hill Start Assist; Multifunction Display; Multicollision Brake (automatic braking after an initial impact can help drivers reduce the risk of additional collisions and losing control)

Additional engine power: 60 PS – 110 PS

Behind the technology.

Volkswagen has more information and video guides on its assistance systems for you.