Volkswagen Polo GTi


   Not so long ago Volkswagen ran an ad campaign that asked “Why buy something like a Golf, when you could buy a Golf”, and to a certain extent you could see their point. Like it or not since its inception Volkswagen’s Golf has become the hatchback benchmark; the one by which all others are judged. It may not be the cheapest, the fastest or even some might argue the best looking but as an overall package, especially when residual values come in to the equation it makes sense. Nobody, regardless of age or gender looks out of place in a Golf. Volkswagen knows this, that’s why they sell so many, and that’s why their marketing campaign was so confident.

  So where then does that leave Volkswagen’s other longstanding hatch, the Polo? Their second best-selling car in fact. Despite having nearly all of its bigger sibling’s qualities, in over 35 years of production, the smaller Polo, somehow, never captured the public’s hearts in the same way the Golf did. Its sober styling and average performance meant it only really appealed to middle class mothers, or well-heeled first time drivers. It’s always been beautifully made though and like all VW’s it’s always held its money too.

    If anything Volkswagen’s new Polo GTi blurs the line between where the Polo stops and where the Golf starts ever further, and from distance it’s all too easy, even for me, to mistake the one for the other. In my defence the new Polo is about as big as a MKII Golf use to be, and I’m of an age when a MKII Golf GTi, especially a big-bumpered 16V one, really was the Mutt’s nuts. It’s no wonder then that I’m pretty enamoured with the way the latest Polo GTi looks as well.

   All of what makes a GTi, a GTi, is present.  There’s new deeper (bigger) bumpers, the wheel arches are filled with multi-spoke 17-inch 'Parabolica' alloy wheels, they’ve even put red strips around a honeycomb grille. And they’ve fitted sports suspension; The GTi sits lower (10mm front, 15mm rear). LED headlamps are now standard -a first for the Polo - whilst further aft dark red taillight clusters, twin chrome exhausts, and both an unashamedly (and some might say obligatory) roof spoiler and rear diffuser complete the Polo’s altogether more athletic looking makeover.

   Similar retro styling cues are to be found upon pulling open the Polo’s very solid feeling doors. A button-festooned, flat-bottomed alloy and leather steering-wheel sports red stitching - as does the gear-lever (our car was manual, a DSG auto is also available), the proper -by which I mean mechanical rather than electric - handbrake lever and the floor mats do too.  The pedals are aluminium and the air vents have matt chrome surrounds. But, the best interior feature by far has to be the checked seats. First seen in 1976 on the Golf GTi no true performance VW has been complete without them since. Volkswagen’s designers did stop short when it came to fitting a dimpled golf-ball-like gear-knob though – for obvious reasons, this is a Polo after all, remember?

      So, the Polo GTi’s styling harks back to what someone once referred to as “better vanished times” but make no mistake, when it comes to both performance and handling things are very much 21st century.

    No longer will you find a 1.4 litre engine complete with both turbo and super-charger under a Polo GTi’s stubby bonnet, instead there’s an evolution of VW’s 1.8-litre ‘EA888’ turbocharged petrol engine which features new a combination of direct and indirect fuel injection, variable valve timing, plus an electric actuator for the turbocharger’s wastegate.  It produces 190bhp and, when coupled to the very precise crisp shifting manual gearbox, a very generous spread of torque: 236lbft between 1450 and 4500rpm to be exact.  0-62mph is covered in 6.7 seconds and, where allowed,  the GTI is said to be capable of 146mph. Fuel economy and CO2 are a claimed 47.1mpg combined (I managed an average of 40.1 over a week) and 139g/km respectively. In a Polo, a car more commonly associated with the district nurse, that’s impressive stuff

    What’s even more impressive perhaps is just how altogether refined the Polo GTi feels. It’s quiet at motorway speeds and seems to offer impressive performance regardless of your preferred gear – overtaking is never a problem. The ride is a little firm, especially so if you deploy the Sport button (optional with the perhaps unnecessary Sport Performance Kit) and on occasion the Polo GTi can bound around like an over eager puppy chasing a tennis ball, nevertheless for the most part things remain incredibly comfy. So much so that you could be mistaken for thinking that you’re riding in car from the class above.

    Ah yes, the car from the class above. That’ll be the Golf.

    In answer to VW’s question of “Why buy something like a Golf, when you could buy a Golf” the answer seems to be: “Because you could have a Polo GTi for less money (than a Golf GTi, if you don’t need quite as much interior/boot space of course) instead”



Volkswagen Polo GTi 1.8 litre TSi 6spd manual

Engine: 1,798cc, 4Cyl, 16V Petrol turbo

Transmission: 5 speed Manual, Front wheel drive.

Power:  189 bhp @ 4,200 – 6,200 rpm

Torque: 236 lbft @ 4,150 -6,200 rpm

0-62MPH: 6.7 Sec

Max Speed: 146 mph

CO2: 139g/km

MPG: 47.1 (combined)

Price: from £19,530 (car driven £21,875)


Many thanks to Volkswagen’s UK press office for the loan of their POLO



Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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