Across its entire model range, Volkswagen is back to its best. And in many ways, the ‘best-of-the-best’ is the latest Polo GTI.
With a remarkable supercharged and turbocharged engine under the bonnet, standard seven-speed automatic transmission and both three-door and five-door models priced well under $30,000, Volkswagen has delivered a stunning hit in this complex market segment.
Volkswagen Polo GTI Overview
Compact European hot hatches priced around $30,000 are a superb breed. Car Showroom has just tested the latest Volkswagen Polo GTI (three-door) and in our mind direct comparisons with Renault’s superb Clio RS200 are inevitable.
Of course, at $36,490 (Renault) to $27,790 (Volkswagen) there’s a fair difference in coin, but dynamically, this duo represent the pointy end of the field in this league (pending the arrival of Ford’s all-new Focus).
Volkswagen ups the ante in the latest Polo GTI with its masterpiece 1.4-litre supercharged-turbocharged powerplant driving through the standard seven-speed DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) – incredible technology for a sub-$30K compact hatchback.
The German autobahns are a great barometer for performance cars and there are plenty of the latest Volkswagen Polo GTIs doing duty up and down the length of the country – a sure sign this hot hatch has hit the target market.
Volkswagen Polo GTI Engine
‘Superstar Status’ is deserved for Volkswagen’s 1.4-litre TSI (turbocharged and supercharged) four-cylinder engine which propels the Polo GTI from zero to 100km/h in only 7.0 seconds (three-door model tested). In fact we’re scratching our heads to grasp how the German giant can afford to deliver such a high-tech – and you-would-reckon high-cost - engine in a vehicle retailing from just $27,790.
Maximum power is 132kW at 6200rpm and peak torque of 250Nm is available in the range of 2,000rpm-4,000rpm. Previously, Volkswagen Polo GTI was powered by a turbocharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder delivering 118kW.
Volkswagen says it prefers the supercharged-turbocharged combination for both performance and fuel consumption. Whereas the previous Polo GTI delivered combined cycle fuel consumption of 8.0l/100kms, the brilliant newcomer is good for 6.1l/100kms – that’s a significant improvement for a four-cylinder powerplant.
The belt-driven Roots Principle supercharger is used for instantaneous throttle response and the turbocharger takes over at 3,500rpm. Of course co-coordinating all of this and feeding the various blowers with air and the rest is a work of art…typical Volkswagen engineering brilliance and, we repeat, all of this in a compact hatchback which retails for $27,790.
Volkswagen Polo GTI The Interior
Inside the Volkswagen Polo GTI shows-off its GTI specifications immediately with the characteristic ‘tartan-look’ trim (leather is an option). It also shows off its standard Volkswagen characteristics with its conservative but slick dashboard layout which is all class.
Polo GTI also scores a nice leather-trimmed steering wheel with the usual Volkswagen gear shift paddles, gloss black and alloy trim finishes, alloy pedals and a unique black roof liner.
Manual set height adjustment and rake/reach adjustment for the steering wheel provided the usual top-shelf Volkswagen driving position and even for a compact car, the Volkswagen Polo GTI (like the Renault Clio RS200) manages to deliver sporty, supportive seats (some rivals could do well to copy).
Audio is a six-disc, six-speaker system with iPod, USB and Bluetooth. Satellite navigation is on the options list.
Rear seat passengers face a slightly awkward entry, but once seated find themselves with hip and legroom which are amongst the best in this segment.
And, typically Volkswagen, the Polo GTI’s compact exterior dimensions disguise a massive luggage area – 204-litres with the rear seat upright or 882-litres when folded.
Volkswagen Polo GTI Exterior & Styling
There’s a certain allure to German brands. Much like Hugo Boss fashion, the latest Volkswagen Polo is a sweet design that’s contemporary but not garish and oozing hallmark German precision.
The GTI version adds the hallmark GTI red striping (as per the Volkswagen Golf GTI since 1976) plus a sporty front apron with honeycomb air intakes, flared guards, red-painted brake calipers, a rear-hatch spoiler, twin tailpipes and rear bumper with a lower section diffuser. Wheels are 17-inch, five-spoke ‘Denver’ model alloys.
Volkswagen Polo On The Road
It’s no wonder Volkswagen and Renault sales are growing rapidly in Australia. Just like our week in the Renault Clio RS 200, our seven days in the Volkswagen Polo GTI were punctuated by ‘tyre kickers’ asking about the hot hatch we were driving – the word about these latest generation road racers is spreading amongst enthusiast drivers
And just like the Renault rocket, our week in the Volkswagen Polo GTI passed far too quickly. The GTI brought a smile every time we climbed in to that superb quality Volkswagen interior and fired-up the 1.4-litre turbo/supercharged four-cylinder.
To put things in perspective, the Volkswagen Polo GTI’s zero to 100km/h time of 7.0 seconds leaves Alfa Romeo’s Mito QV languishing by half a second and Citroen’s DS3 Dsport is a relative laggard at seven-tenths of a second slower. The GTI erupts off the line with purpose and the slick shifts from the seven-speed DSG are measured in hundredths of a second.
Over our high-speed mountain roads test loop the Volkswagen Polo GTI was one of the drives of the year, exuding pin-sharp turn-in, wonderful mid-corner balance and excellent grip. Volkswagen equips the Polo GTI with its clever extended electronic differential lock (XDL) – as fitted to the Golf GTI. Active brake intervention prevents the inside wheel from spinning in corners – less understeer and improved acceleration.
City driving is very easy as the Volkswagen Polo GTI purrs along relatively fuss-free. Of course the flip-side to the high-speed excellence of Volkswagen’s seven-speed DSG automatic is the well-known minor ‘clunkiness’ in stop-start traffic as the dual clutches and twin shafts go back and forth – you’re soon acclimatized.
And, naturally with its compact dimensions, excellent all-round visibility and handy 10.6-metre turning circle, the Volkswagen Polo GTI engaged all of our testers (male and female) with its parking agility.
Volkswagen Polo Challenges
We’ve read reports criticizing the Volkswagen Polo GTI because its sports suspension delivers ride which is too firm. No, no, no – this thing is spot on, it’s sporty, precise and a joy to drive every day, city traffic or open road.
Some have lamented the lack of a manual transmission and, much as we love Volkswagen’s slick seven-speeder, we do endorse that point of view – a dedicated self-shifter would be nice.
Volkswagen Polo Verdict
Volkswagen Group Australia is shifting from its stylish/trendy corporate HQ in hip Botany (near Sydney airport) to Chullora, way out west - they’ll probably need a dedicated truck just to carry the awards captured by the latest generation Polo. You don’t scoop all those trophies for nothing and - good as the regular Polo lineup is - the GTI is the icing on the cake.
While the excellent Renault Clio RS200 exudes French flair and is a performance drivers delight, the Volkswagen Polo GTI attacks the same tasks with German precision. Ideally we’d have both in our garage…European hot hatch buyers are spoilt for choice.
Volkswagen Polo The Competition
As we write this review, Ford’s all-new Focus hasn’t been launched but the Sport model shapes as a Volkswagen Polo GTI rival – of sorts. A few more dollars and not quite the equal of the Polo for performance, but we hear the new Focus will be nicely equipped and certainly looks the part.
We’re massive fans of the Renault Clio RS200 – a bit pricier than the Volkswagen Polo GTI but its got more grunt.
Honda Civic Type R is a larger car and more expensive – but it sure is a hot hatch drivers will love.