The VW Polo GTi is the spiritual successor to the original Golf GTi from 1976. The car is compact on the outside, has a powerful engine under the bonnet yet can still seat up to five. The 200hp turbocharged 2 litre petrol engine is lively and the steering is beautifully fast and direct. These are two key elements in any good GTi, so what’s not to love? Very little except the Ireland asking price… from €33K on the road.
As you’d expect in a modern car electronic advanced driver safety aids and various driving modes feature. Key to power delivery in the sporty front wheel drive car is an ‘XDS’ differential lock that reduces wheel spin. 320nm of pulling power from the four cylinder engine means the Polo is a strong puller too. The dash 0-100km/h dash takes a lively 6.7 seconds ,while emissions are relatively low for a performance vehicle at 134g/CO2 per kilometre, that equates to €280 annual road tax.
Polo GTi is built on the same MQB platform that underpins the Golf with some subtle differences. Styling outside is conservative yet classy, while inside the trademark GTi tartan seat trim is present and looks great. Bright red accents on the dash added to the theatre of my test car. You can spend a few quid more on a virtual cockpit and other toys but I recommend getting the basic machine and keeping the cost as low down as possible in true GTi tradition. A six speed DSG gearbox is standard and there are paddle shifters too.
On the track the Polo GTi flatters the less talented and rewards the competant. The car will hang on much better when cornering at speed than it should. On the Ascari track in Ronda the you could really attack the turns knowing the little Polo would do its best to let you know how much grip was available without suddenly letting go. The GTi’s steering is sharp thanks to a more powerful electric steering motor. So when you turn the steering wheel everything reacts quicker. There isn’t an older driver who hasn’t had a brown trouser moment from back in the day when ht hatches frequently would swap ends without much notice – thankfully the GTi thrill when you press on hard is present in the Polo GTi without the potential for shocking drama. I had a blast on track in Spain and on Ireland’s back roads the fun continued. The GTi has a firm ride that is comfortable on smooth surfaces but on less kind surfaces the ride can be a little harsh. On one section of bog road in the midlands I found myself laughing out loud as the warped tarmac surface tried to send the car anywhere but in a straight line. Thankfully if you pay attention the GTi will go where your steering and throttle input wants to send it. Overall the work VW has done underneath like remounting its anti-roll bars and tuning up the stiffer suspension with new springs and shocks has paid off. Importantly the brakes are strong and there is plenty of mechanical grip from the chunky hatchback’s sport orinatated tyres. ‘Sports Select’ specified GTis allow for suspension adjustment. Is there room for Polo GTi when the Golf GTi is so competent as an all rounder? Yes, Polo’s compact size, about the same as a mark 1 Golf, is the key to its appeal. It’s also a lot cheaper with the Golf GTi that starts from around €39K.