The VW Polo GTI
A top speed of 146 mph
The VW Polo is nearon a smaller version of the Golf. Yet it sells, and sells well in fact, for those who want VW virtues wrapped in a smaller, more compact performance package. Take it to GTI level, as we do here, and along with that goes an arguably more engaging driving experience. Less weight, less size, plus high performance tuning equals ‘a little rocket’!
This fourth generation Polo GTI made its debut at the Paris Motor Show in October 2014, whilst the original Polo G40 first appeared some 29 years ago. The new Polo GTI has a 1.8-litre turbocharged 192 PS engine, available with a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG gearbox.
Compared with the standard Polo, new bumpers, GTI insignia, distinctive 17-inch wheels and red radiator grille strips, and honeycomb grille distinguish it from the rest of the range. It has sports suspension (lowered by 10 mm at the front and 15 mm at the back) and LED lights are standard for the first time. At the rear a GTI roof spoiler, tail-light clusters in dark red, the black grained diffuser and chrome dual exhaust pipes retain the sporty design theme.
Check design ‘Clark’ cloth seats with black bolsters have been a GTI emblem since the first GTI in 1976, and hence are continued in this latest GTI reiteration of the Polo. There’s also a leather sports steering wheel with logo and red stitching again treading memories of the Golf GTI, as do the gear and handbrake levers and floor mats with red beading.
A safe performer
Performance is spritely but ‘real world’, achieving the standstill to 62 mph benchmark in 6.7 seconds and a top speed of 146 mph. That’s good enough for most sporting drivers, and when combined with an average fuel consumption figure of 50.4 mpg and corresponding carbon dioxide emissions of 129 g/km for the DSG (47.1 mpg and 139 g/km for the manual), the Polo pathway to high performance driving is all the more enticing.
The Polo GTI has ESC Sport (electronic stability control) as standard, allowing it to be adapted for use on a track, by raising the slip threshold when you want to have fun. XDS+ is also standard, a system that compensates for the understeer which is typical of front-wheel drive cars, particularly at speed, resulting in a more precise and neutral drive, especially at speed, and when the vehicle is under handling pressure.
New safety features include Hill Hold and – a first in class – an Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, which brakes the vehicle after a collision to reduce kinetic energy significantly, thereby minimising the chance or consequences of a second impact. The new Driver Alert System warns the driver of the effects of fatigue and optional Adaptive Cruise Control with Front Assist and City Emergency Braking work together to reduce the likelihood of accidents.
On the road this amounts to a highly pleasurable and engaging drive. The manual is the driver’s choice, but so good are VW group dual clutch semi-automatics these days that equal pleasure can be derived bar the pressing of a clutch. The lesser weight and size of the car over a Golf, to our mind, adds just that little bit more excitement to the drive, yet as the Polo has gained girth, so too do its passengers gain comfort. Ironically, this ‘little’ Polo reminds you of the old days of the smaller and more chuckable Mark 1 and Mark II Golfs, and that’s good news actually. You could say it espouses the original spirit of this legendary car, whilst the Golf itself has emerged into a slightly different and slightly compromised product. We suspect that is why the VW Polo GTI is so popular.
Price: £19,480 | Engine: 4 cyls, 1798cc, turbocharged, petrol | Power: 189bhp at 4200-6200rpm | Torque: 236lb ft at 1450-4200rpm | Gearbox: 6-spd manual | Kerb weight: 1272kg | Top speed: 146mph | 0-62mph: 6.7sec | Economy: 47.1mpg | CO2 rating & BIK tax band: 139g/km /22