First Drive: VW Polo GTi

VW Polo GTi rear exteriorYou must have seen the ‘like a Golf…but not a Golf’ advert from Volkswagen? The one where a variety of hatchbacks and their positive attributes are described as being just ‘like a Golf’.

Well, ironically that advert sums up the firm’s new Polo GTi because it sounds like a Golf, handles like a Golf and er, looks like a Golf.

Yes, everything, from the red honeycomb grille to the tartan seats all scream Golf.

Resemblances though, do not just come from the most recent generation and that is no bad thing.

Volkswagen say that the new Polo GTI harks back to the original G40 performance Polo, but actually it is more like a reincarnation of the older, less refined but much loved Golf GTi MK2.

As well as being almost identical in size to its older brother, the new Polo GTi has taken on the essence of the MK2 in its solid-but-chuckable character.

And that’s all down to the Polo GTi’s lightweight but well-built chassis which is propelled along by a turbocharged and supercharged 177bhp 1.4-litre TSI engine.

In other words it’s a German fire cracker and one that will reignite your passion for VW.

VW Polo GTi interiorAt last Volkswagen has given the baby of the family some credit, some life and some spirit by making this the fastest, most focused, performance Polo yet.

The engine has a lovely rorty sound with a deep note in the mid-range and a lovely induction noise when you put your foot down. Pressing the Polo GTi’s shiny aluminium accelerator pedal rewards you with power and sound in equal measure.

You could say that this mini VW has a bit of a Napoleon Complex about it. Like a small but snappy Jack Russell, what it lacks in size it makes up for in plenty of character, energy and bite.

In slow moving traffic the Polo GTi can feel frustrated, pulling and snapping at its chain. It wants to be let off the leash so that it can be free to nip at the heels of its rivals the Fabia VRS and Seat Ibiza Cupra which all share the same engine, gearbox and chassis.

And although it is pint sized and a bit of a giggle, the Polo GTi is actually very serious underneath. Its little 1.4 heart beats strong and can propel the car from 0 to 62 mph in 6.9 seconds before reaching a top speed of 142 mph.

VW Polo GTiThe Polo GTi’s TSI engine really does deserve some praise. Supercharged and turbocharged, this clever little four cylinder feels like a much bigger unit than it actually is. It can produce 178bhp and 184lb ft of torque, delivered from 2000 to 4500rpm.

And even though the car is performance driven, it can deliver 47 mpg on the combined cycle while emitting just 139 g/km of CO2.

Unlike a lot of clean machines though it doesn’t have zero personality. The Polo GTi manages to do something unheard of – it is capable of pleasing those enthusiastic drivers who are being forced to give up their sportier cars in order to downsize.

The ride is definitely on the firm side but you can live with that because the chassis feels nimble and responsive. This latest Polo is fitted with new springs and dampers and it has the same great XDS electronic differential system as in, dare I mention its name again, the Golf GTI.

This electronic cross-axle traction control system is for improved traction and handling which the Polo demonstrates by gripping the road with steely determination. The brakes are also precise and the car always feels sure footed and safe to drive.

Gear changes in the Polo are also smooth and efficient thanks to the seven-speed, twin-clutch DSG gearbox.

VW Polo GTi tartan back seatsInside there’s a substantial amount of space in the front and back, although tall back seat passengers may desire more legroom. The boot is also decent in size and a low loading lip makes loading and unloading shopping easy.

Practical but not boring, the Polo GTi still manages to look sporty with its flat-bottomed GTi steering wheel, aluminium pedals and red stitching.

Outside the sporty theme carries on and there’s a blinging set of 17 inch wheels complete with red brake callipers.

The only thing lacking in the Polo GTi really is some more involvement and with that the car really would be the clone of the MK2 Golf GTi.

Unfortunately, this is not an issue that can be solved by a shake of a stick as there is no manual transmission option. This is a shame because manual lovers could end up looking else where for some hot hatch fun.

The biggest sting in the tail though is the fairly high price tag which starts at £19,410.

Becoming a Polo GTi owner all depends on whether you are ruled by your head or your heart then- because nostalgia is never far away in this lovable VW.


VW Polo GTi, TSI 5-door, £19,410
Engine: 1.4-litre petrol unit delivering 177bhp and 184 lb ft of torque
Transmission: Seven-speed DSG automatic driving the front wheels
Performance: Top Speed 142mph, 0-62mph 6.9 secs
Economy: 47mpg combined
C02 Rating: 139 g/km

By Gemma Senington

For hundreds of new and used road test videos free to browse by model or manufacturer, head to our homepage at

This entry was posted in Road Tests. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply