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For those who still think that small capacity engines are underpowered, Volkswagen's new small turbocharged engines are set to challenge your preconceptions.

10 Jul 2017


There's no replacement for displacement, so goes the saying. But does that statement really hold true today? While smaller engines may indeed be weedy and underpowered in the past, advances in technological and engineering developments mean that today's engines are more than capable of producing enough power to meet the needs of the majority of drivers today.

Today's modern turbocharged small engines offer more than enough grunt to meet most drivers' daily needs
Take Volkswagen's range of compact cars for instance. The Polo and the Golf best represent the kind of cars that suit the modern driver in Singapore. Their compact size and fuel efficiency make them easy to drive and practical to own in our urban city environment. And they are powered by engines that are small in size, but big in ability.

The Polo 1.2 TSI is proof positive of how such a small package is just the right size for the job. Its 1.2-litre turbocharged engine produces 90bhp and 160Nm of torque, and while it may be small in size, it offers plenty of zip to get you around in urban traffic. The Polo is perfect for a city environment like Singapore, where nippy acceleration matters more than outright grunt.

In fact, Volkswagen Singapore was the first to bring in the 1.2-litre TSI technology when it introduced the Polo 1.2 TSI in 2012, demonstrating that one can have great power in small sizes.

Similarly, the Golf 1.4 TSI packs in a decent punch, with 122bhp and 200Nm of torque from its 1.4-litre turbocharged engine. Like the Polo, the Golf's engine feels exactly just right for its application, and makes it the ideal urban warrior to meet every driver's needs. There's plenty of reserve in store, whether you're tackling the busy CBD rush hour or cruising on the expressway on the way home. If you opt for the top-of-the-range R-Line version, the power output goes up to a highly impressive 150bhp and 250Nm of torque, with no increase in engine capacity.

More than anything, though, the Polo and Golf go on to illustrate how far engine technology has come in such a short span of time. It wasn't all that long ago that engines of a similar size would struggle to be a real effective solution for daily driving, and drivers would have to go for a larger capacity engine in order to meet their needs, but incurring larger bills in the process.

A Volkswagen Polo from 1997 would have had a 1.4-litre engine with only 60bhp and 116Nm of torque
Take for example a Polo from 20 years ago, in 1997. Back then, such a car would have had a 1.4-litre naturally aspirated engine. Despite its bigger capacity, the 1997 Polo only produced 60bhp and 116Nm of torque, a significant amount less than what you get today from a smaller and more efficient engine.

The 1.2 and 1.4 TSI engines in today's Polo and Golf models are able to achieve class-leading fuel efficiency of 21.2km/L and 20km/L respectively, and yet they also offer the performance levels that can meet the needs and requirements of drivers today.

It only goes to show how much automotive technology has developed through the years, such that even a regular car with a small capacity engine is able to outperform its predecessors easily. But more than just the engine size, other developments, such as turbocharging and Volkswagen's dual-clutch DSG gearbox have also moved the game on to ensure that drivers today experience a user-friendlier driving experience.

It's not merely about the size of the engine that matters, but the fact that today's engines are just the right size for the driving environments and standards for today. They also help to reduce running costs for drivers, by offering excellent efficiency coupled with lower road tax rates. It turns out that there is definitely replacement for displacement after all.
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