What’s Hot: A manual option at last, big power increase, infotainment upgrade.
What’s Not: Neutered torque output for the auto, uninvolving steering, road noise.
X-FACTOR: The Polo GTI, while still available in DSG auto, has finally returned to the world of manual transmissions, and is all the better for it.
Vehicle Style: 5-door lightl hot hatch
Price: $27,490 (Polo GTI manual) to $29,990 (Polo GTI auto)
Engine/trans: 141kW/320Nm 1.8 turbo petrol 4cyl (250Nm for auto) | 6sp manual, 7sp auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.1 l/100km (manual), 5.7 (auto) | tested: 7.1 l/100km (manual)
Rejoice, for the Polo GTI is available with a manual transmission once more!
After four years of being available purely as an automatic-only model, Volkswagen has come to its senses and equipped its smallest hot hatch with a proper three-pedal manual.
That’s not all.
The engine is completely new too, with the previous GTI’s 1.4 litre twin-charged engine binned in favour of a more powerful, much torquier 1.8 litre turbo that shares its bones with the Golf GTI’s powerplant.
Fuel economy is up, the 0-100km/h sprint is quicker and the power and torque curves are fatter than before.
It may have come quite late in this model’s life cycle, but the 2015 Polo GTI finally has the hardware needed to truly claim top-dog status in the light performance hatch segment.
- Single-zone climate control, leather multi-function steering wheel, dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming rear view mirror, reverse parking sensors and front foglamps.
- Infotainment: Bluetooth phone/media streaming, USB audio input, AM/FM/CD stereo with six-speakers. Sat-nav optional
- Luggage space: 204 litres minimum, 882 litres maximum.
This interior is a familiar one, and one that’s starting to look a bit aged after six years on the market.
Still, it’s been spruced up with some new equipment and a redesigned centre-stack to bring things up to date for 2015.
There’s also the GTI’s signature tartan upholstery to give the cabin a bit more pizzaz, and though there’s plenty of hard plastics on show, it’s generally a high-quality interior.
Alcantara/leatherette upholstery is available as part of an option package, but why pay more to get rid of the GTI’s now-iconic tartan?
Those seats, by the way, strike the right balance of comfort and support. There’s plenty of side-bolstering to keep you in place, but it’s not tight like the Recaros in a Fiesta ST.
Long-legged drivers may judge the front squabs to be a little short and not offering enough under-thigh support, but the vast majority of body shapes should be well accommodated.
ON THE ROAD
- 141kW/250Nm (auto), 320Nm (manual) 1.8 litre turbocharged petrol inline four.
- Six-speed manual or seven-speed twin-clutch auto. Front-wheel drive
- MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear suspension with GTI-specific tuning
- 310mm front brake rotors and 240mm rear brake rotors
We spent the majority of our time at the launch behind the wheel of the manual for a few reasons - it’s a new transmission that warrants exploration, we prefer manuals, and it boasts a whopping 70Nm more torque than the DSG-equipped Polo GTI.
And we’re glad we did.
The DSG might make everyday motoring an easier affair, but the new manual transforms the 2015 Polo GTI into a far more involving - and exciting - machine.
It feels much faster than its 6.7-second 0-100km/h sprint time and 141kW/320Nm outputs might suggest, with the turbo spooling early with only the slightest lag.
The old 1.4 litre may have had a supercharger to fill in the low-rpm gap when the turbo isn’t spinning, but lag on this new 1.8 engine is so minimal that you don’t miss having that extra huffer.
So much so, that, from a rolling start, the Polo GTI feels like it would rival a Golf GTI for speed
The manual itself, meanwhile, is a delight to use. Light and slick through a well-defined gate and with an easily-modulated clutch pedal, it’s no chore to use in urban driving.
Head for the hills and press harder, and the joy that comes from rowing through that shifter and administering your own heel-toe throttle blips is something a DSG simply can’t deliver.
At last, it’s okay for driving purists to love the Polo GTI again.
Lowered by 15mm over the standard Polo and featuring its own unique damper and spring settings, the 2015 Polo GTI is quite firmly sprung.
The suspension proves supple enough for a hot hatch, but is a bit too brittle over small-amplitude corrugations.
That results in a sacrifice in ride comfort, but grip and cornering benefits markedly. Body roll is at an absolute minimum, and the chassis reacts smartly to steering inputs.
With the change in engine also comes a new power-steering setup, with the old car’s hydraulic hardware being swapped for a lighter and more efficient electrically-assisted system.
We don’t doubt its contribution to fuel economy, but the electro-mechanical power steering doesn’t feel as feedback-rich and involving as the pre-update Polo GTI’s steering.
It filters out too much information about what the front wheels are doing, and in a front-drive performance car that’s a bit of a handicap.
But that’s our only real on-road criticism, and the only reason it didn’t score a solid five points for this section.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 34.96 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: ABS, EBD, brake assist, extended differential lock, traction control, stability control (switchable).
Six airbags are standard (front, front side and curtain), as are three-point seatbelts for all five occupants and reverse parking sensors. Front parking sensors and a reversing camera are available as part of the Driver Assistance option pack.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Despite no sheetmetal changes, the 2015 Polo GTI feels a very different car to the model that preceded it.
The bigger engine plays a big part in that transformation, but the provision of a manual transmission (at long last) is a huge factor in the new GTI’s renewed appeal.
Shame then that only 20 percent of Polo GTI buyers are expected to opt for the manual.
It’s a shame too that Volkswagen Australia hasn’t elected to bring back the three-door, especially as it would have been an easy way to reduce the price of entry.
Even so, at $27,490, the new Polo GTI manual is a cracking buy for any hot hatch enthusiast.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
The 2015 Volkswagen Polo GTI is available for order now,
- Volkswagen Polo GTI manual - $27,490
- Volkswagen Polo GTI DSG - $29,990
- Driver Assistance Package - $1700
- Luxury Package - $3300