Blessed are we who come to Volkswagen’s table with low expectation, for our just reward is a gem worth a priceless drive. The new VW Polo GTI ladies and gents, is a gem. Straight off the block it makes no apologies for its underwhelming predecessor, but presents its own case in a fashionably strong manner. If you thought the Golf 5 GTI was a revolution then you have plant your behind inside the new Polo GTI.
That’s exactly what I did down in sunny Cape Town after being handed the keys. The previous car set such a low bar that frankly speaking, this wasn’t a drive I was going to tell all my chommies about. Yet, with the turn of key and reply of exhaust tailpipes, I knew it was worth at least a Tweet, if not an SMS. Spotting a stock GTI is easy enough. Just take a look at the wheels with that old Denver style used by GTI 5. In this case they are down an inch at 17-inches across. More telltales include that honeycomb front grille with a lip splitter and GTI badging. Red brake calipers, a rear apron and twin tailpipes completely give the game away. One of the cars at launch featured different-looking multispoke wheels with a smokey texture. Those are available as options. One might not notice immediately but the GTI sits 1.5cm lower than its everyday regular Polo brothers, thanks to new stiffer dampers and modified springs. Buyers will choose between six paint colours, including one called Candy White.
A step into the cabin reveals swanky seats in an Alcantara/Vienna leather trim combination. This is all standard by the way, which is quite lovely for this class of car. The optional bits are a panoramic sunroof, rear park distance control and curtain airbags. Only the 5-door model can be bought in SA. The seats are quite huggy, which could prove a little uncomfortable for those of us with wider frames. Chrome accents are evident on control knobs, door handles, the gear lever and elsewhere. Even the foot pedals feature a combination of some shiny material with rubber for better shoe grip.
Polo GTI is only offered with a 7-speed DSG gearbox, and not just in Mzansi but globally as well. It draws power from the direct injection 1.4-litre TSI engine with the benefit of both turbo and supercharging technology. How it works is that at low rpm the supercharger is in charge, so to speak, because it works as soon as the engine is started. At higher rpm the turbo takes over. In the end you’ll find 132kW at 6200rpm and 250Nm between 2000rpm and 4500rpm. Very useful when tackling fast-moving traffic as well as curvy mountain passes. Thanks to the car’s unladen weight of 1 269kg, nimbleness is abundant at Polo GTI. VW claims a 0 – 100km/h time of 6.9 seconds, with top speed sitting at 229km/h. average fuel consumption is said to be 5.9 litres per 100km and C02s are 139 g/km.
While it’s undeniable that the Polo GTI lags behind its fiercest rivals in power terms, that hasn’t stopped it going for the jugular in the handling sphere. Equipped with the latest electronic transverse differential lock (XDS) found in the Golf GTI, understeer is reduced to a bare minimum. Understeer by the way, is when the front wheels don’t turn as much as the driver wishes, thus limiting the car’s capacity to handle better. XDS is designed to work against understeer, smooth out the rough edges and bring the car home. For this car it works beautifully, even encourages driver to campaign a little harder.
As stated earlier, a first for the segment is the exclusive use of a DSG automatic gearbox with paddleshifts behind the multifunction steering wheel. Changes are quite speedy and the reaction from the exhaust when blipping is a serious performance thirst quencher. Personally I didn’t miss the manual gearbox at all and if you live in a traffic-infested area like Jozi, neither will you.
The new Polo GTI goes up against Renault’s Clio RS and Opel’s Corsa OPC. To a lesser extent you can throw in a MINI Cooper S and Citroen DS3 into that mix as well. What made the previous car sell as it did was a marketing giant with a VW vest behind it, to compensate for its glaring lack of personality and disappointing performance. The new model needs no giant to succeed. It is the giant.
Volkswagen Polo GTI Pricing
Polo GTI DSG (R259 000)