Volkswagen Polo GTI Review

In Car Reviews, Volkswagen by Tom Scanlan

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Add the GTI bit to a the Volkswagen name and many minds will straight onto the original Mark 1 Golf GTI.

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Back in 1976 (a memorable year for me: a long, hot summer and I got married), VW introduced its iconic hot hatch to an eager market that couldn’t wait to experience its super performance. It could get to 62 mph in less than ten seconds. Wow!


Fast forward thirty nine years and today VW still sells plenty of GTIs, some with diesel engines. How times have changed…not only is the current Golf GTI a bloated development of the original, but that later usurper, the Polo, is also bigger than the first Golf GTI.
The latest Polo GTI is not far short of a foot longer as well a being wider and taller.

However, get behind the wheel of this new Polo, shut your eyes (not literally) and go for it and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in a time warp.

It’s great fun! And that’s the name of the GTI game, surely.

This Polo has a 1.8-litre petrol engine that develops 192 PS. (The Mark 2 Golf GTI also had a 1.8-litre.) It can sprint to 62 mph in a mere 6.7 seconds; just like the 3-litre 1982 Porsche SC I once owned. Its top speed is, apparently, 146 mph…just like my Porsche.
Handling is fun, too, and it’s tempting to drive the Polo GTI fast all the time, just to explore exactly what it could be capable of.

The GTI is the top-of-the-range Polo, only getting into showrooms last month; my 3-door test car was free of frills, in that it didn’t have any of the available options on board, like the DSG automatic, or the ADC (automatic distance control), Adaptive Cruise Control or the Driver Alert System or the City Braking feature. However, for £18,850 you do get a lot of technological aids. From the safety angle, there’s Electronic Stability Control, as indeed there should be; and there’s Post-collision Braking that helps to minimise or even prevent secondary damage from another vehicle after the initial collision: Volkswagen had learnt that it’s not at all uncommon for an accident to take place and then for another car to shunt into the same accident.

For entertainment, the current car has the latest of VW’s offerings which include Bluetooth connectivity and what they call USB media-in. The world is therefore your oyster. For convenience, the touchscreen reacts to wiping movements.

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For further driving fun, it seems that VW expect some Polo GTI owners to take their car to track days. Apart from just being a really good idea, they’ve installed ESC Sport: you switch off the traction control and the less intrusive (for track work) ESC Sport allows drives to make more of their own input.

Some of these features have made their way into this Polo from the Golf. Another of these is the XDS+. Basically, this mitigates a front-wheel-drive car’s natural tendency to understeer when pressed and makes the car more agile. This is a standard feature and certainly, as I’ve said, the Polo GTI does seem to want to be chucked around.

Another Golf influence is apparent inside: the seat material, which is what VW calls ‘check design ‘Clark’ cloth’. I call it tartan, which someone in a clothes shop I was in recently told me was very fashionable at the moment. However, it just seems in this case that VW wanted to remind us that the original Golf GTI had check-patterned seats and it’s been emblematic of that car ever since.

There’s no question of the high quality of the fit and finish of the interior, with it subtly eye-catching red stitching in the leather bits.

The 2015 Polo may be bigger than the first Golf, but it’s really not much more than a two-plus-two when it comes to seating four adults. The test drive was in a three-door version and some agility was required to get into and out of the rear.

One or two embellishments to the exterior mean that a keen eye will spot the difference between this Polo and its lesser brethren, like the front and rear bumpers, the lowered suspension, red brake calipers and of course the ‘GTI’ badges and more…not forgetting the 17-inch ‘Parabolica’ alloy wheels.

Continuous improvement in engine technology means that the official combined fuel consumption for this car is 47.1 mpg. On my run, the end-figure displayed on the car’s trip computer was 36.5 mpg, but the car had been driven in, shall we say, quite a sporting manner.

The CO2 emissions of 139 g/km mean an annual road tax outlay of £115 and the insurance rating of 29E reflects that this is a pretty quick and not all that cheap machine.

So this Polo-fun costs, but it’s still pretty good value.

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Volkswagen Polo GTI 1.8-litre TSI 192 PS 6spd manual 3dr

On the road prices: £18,850.  Price as tested £19355.00 with Sport Performance Pack, Pure White and Jacara Cloth Upholstery. Seven Speed DSG Transmission available for £1245.

Engine: 1798cc turbocharged 4-cyl, petrol
Power: 192PS/4200-6200rpm
Torque: 320Nm/1450-4200rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel-drive
0-62mph: 6.7 seconds
Top speed: 146 mph
Fuel economy: urban 37.2/extra urban 55.4/combined 47.1 mpg
CO2 emissions: 139 g/km
Insurance Group: 29E

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About the Author

Tom Scanlan

'Tom Scanlan has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, particularly the Reading Evening Post for ten years, having got into motoring journalism in 1973 via the somewhat unlikely back door of the British Forces Broadcasting Service. BFBS produced a weekly radio motoring show for the services overseas and Tom produced it, as well as interviewing experts and eventually reporting on cars. He is into classic cars and has owned Porsche, Ferrari, pre-war Alvis and Rileys and currently owns his fifth old Alfa Romeo, a 1984 GTV 2.0. In his spare time, Tom is a professional cricket coach.'

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