VOLKSWAGEN POLO GTI REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Five-door Hatchback
Price: $28,990 plus on-road costs (three-door: $27,990)
Fuel consumption (claimed): 6.1 l/100km
Fuel consumption (tested): 6.4 l/100km
Volkswagen’s Polo GTI caps off Volkswagen’s multi-award winning fifth-generation Polo range launched in 2010.
- Quality: Attention to detail and build quality is in line with the current best from Volkswagen AG. The fit, trim and material choice matches that of the excellent Golf.
- Comfort: The standard cloth-trimmed front seats feature GTI-specific bolstering, and provide an excellent balance of comfort and support.
The rear seats accommodate two passengers amazingly well given the size of the vehicle. There is also reasonable ‘toe space’ despite storage drawers under the front seats.
- Equipment: Power windows and steering, air-conditioning, 6.5” touch screen multimedia interface, power and heated door mirrors, remote central locking, tyre pressure monitoring system, steering wheel controls for audio and trip computer, cruise control, MP3 compatible SD card slot, six-disc CD changer and AM/FM radio, compatible with iPod, USB and mini-USB.
- Storage: Five cupholders, ample glove, centre and door cavities, plus drawers under both front seats. The 204 litre rear cargo space is average for its class, but 60/40 rear split-fold seat increases storage space.
ON THE ROAD
- Driveability: The Polo GTI is a cracker of a drive.
Its twin-charged, direct-injected 1.4 litre petrol four-cylinder engine features a torque-filled rev band and near seamless transition between supercharger and turbocharger assistance.
In Polo GTI tune, the 1.4 litre engine produces 132kW and 250Nm. Thanks to a 200kg weight advantage, the Polo GTI matches the Golf GTI’s claimed 6.9 seconds from 0-100km/h.
The only real issue we found was some occasional confusion of the twin-clutch transmission; it could get ‘wrong-footed’ with shifts involving first gear (either selecting first inappropriately or reluctance to find first when creeping into an intersection).
- Refinement: The GTI shares Polo’s class-leading refinement. The standard Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres however do create some road noise, but this is a small compromise given the grip they provide.
- Suspension: Conventional MacPherson strut front/rear torsion beam suspension is used to good effect, with GTI-specific dampening, 17-inch alloys and 15mm lower ride height delivering a more sporting experience than the standard Polo.
Steering is direct, providing the right feel and just enough isolation from road shocks (despite low profile 40 series tyres fitted). Torque steer is evident from rest under heavy acceleration, but is quickly rectified by the electronic diff lock.
- Braking: GTI uses discs all-round; no trouble reining in the Polo’s low 1189kg kerb mass.
- ANCAP rating: 5 Star.
- Safety features: Six airbags, front seatbelt pre-tensioners/load limiters, active front headrests, ABS, brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution, traction control, electronic stability control.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
- Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
- Service costs: Service intervals are set at 12 months or 15,000km. Minor services are quoted at $380, with major services costing $980 at 60,000km intervals. Timing belt replacement is scheduled at 105,000km.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
- Renault Clio RS200 Cup ($36,490 ) - Clio’s naturally-aspirated 2.0 litre engine needs more revs than Polo GTI to give its best.
It’s a very potent drive with a very sharp chassis, but the Polo is the better everyday proposition. Clio also lacks five-door option. (see Clio reviews)
- Citroen DS3 DSport ($35,990 ) - Another recent release in the light hot hatch segment, the DS3 is more flamboyant both inside and out.
Offers more compliant ride comfort but cannot match outright performance of the Polo. Also lacks five-door option. (see DS3 reviews)
- Mini Cooper S ($40,500 ) - The very template for a light hot hatch. Also lacks five-door practicality, but more focussed chassis would show Polo GTI a clean set of heels. (see Cooper S reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Polo GTI combines many desirable elements in one small car.
Value compared to all of its direct rivals is outstanding - the Polo GTI leaves you with the better part of $10,000 in your pocket.
And, let’s face it, $28,000 puts the GTI in Corolla territory. For the Polo GTI to provide such performance, driver entertainment, efficiency, refinement and practicality at the price it does, it's a steal.
If Volkswagen is able to meet demand - that current 12 month waiting list is a worry - the dynamic Polo GTI could well become a modern classic.