Sticking the letters GTI behind anything is a surefire way to ramp up interest in any car.
It doesn’t even have to be a Volkswagen; the label has been applied to great effect with several Peugeot models (albeit with a lowercase ‘i’). But in most cases, you think GTI and your mind goes to VW, most probably the Golf GTI.
This petrolhead favourite has been around for four decades so naturally that’s the label’s default, but it will appear on VW’s most compact car – the Up – this year, and of course, the Polo GTI is what we’re focusing on today.
The sixth-generation Polo emerged in 2017 and now comes the GTI variant, but is it much cop?
What’s under the bonnet?
Very promising stuff. The new Polo GTI pinches the Golf GTI’s two-litre turbocharged petrol engine.
The bad news is this 1984cc 16-valve four-cylinder unit has been detuned from 227bhp to 197bhp. That said, it can still clear a zero to 62mph sprint in 6.7 seconds, picking up speed until it hits 147mph.
What’s it like to drive?
‘Rather tasty’, to use the words of Car Magazine.
They note how the Polo GTI’s emphasis is on precision whilst maintaining the maturity and comfort of the standard car.
In terms of handling, Car Magazine didn’t want to describe the steering as ‘feeling alive in your hands’, but they did comment on the car’s immediate response with none of the dead-centre vagueness that often comes with electric assistance. The result was crisp and punchy handling.
Every review seemed impressed but trust the reliably pernickety Autocar to highlight the minor sour points.
They said that while the Polo GTI’s outright performance felt fast, it doesn’t take your breath away. Despite admitting that most fast superminis don’t leave their drivers breathless, some ‘rev more keenly’ than the Polo GTI above 5000rpm.
Autocar did like its peak torque though, something that makes it easier to drive quickly than its key rivals – namely the Ford Fiesta ST and Mini Cooper S.
Driving the seven-speed auto version (a six-speed manual is due mid-2018), Auto Express said the transmission shifts swiftly enough and made the process of going quickly impressively easy, however, changes felt a little clunky at low speeds.
How’s the interior?
‘Dazzling’ is how Car Magazine put it. The car’s new MQB A0 platform has allowed for a larger car and hence, a more spacious cabin. VW is clearly gunning for younger buyers with sharper looks, with ‘a bright, colourful and exceedingly modern environment’.
So is it worth getting?
Yes. Every review we found that carried a rating scored it four out of five stars.
Car Magazine hailed it as the ‘best driving Polo GTI yet’ and a ‘superbly capable all-rounder’, while Auto Express said it was ‘the most impressive performance Polo ever’.
Is the VW Polo GTI on your test drive list? Let us know what you think of it down there in the comments.