Volkswagen Polo GTi review

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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.

The Polo GTi is cute but grown up enough to be taken seriously. The only question potential Polo GTi customers need to ask is do they want a Polo GTi more than the new Fiesta ST? First world problems eh!

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About Author

Michael Sheridan

Michael is Motorhub's Editor. Well known from TV and radio, Michael has been writing, presenting and judging cars since the mid 90's. He is a renowned Producer/Director and documentary film maker. Dozens of credits include: The Whole Way Round (Gay Byrne), The Shamrock Run (Alan Shortt), The Viking Run (Clodagh McKenna) and The Irish 66ers (David Mitchell) and The Climb for Kids (Colin Farrell). Print credits include: the RTE Guide (motoring editor 1999-2003), many national daily papers and Sundays including The Irish Times (freelance) plus other magazines. National radio credits include multiple at RTE Gerry Ryan show, the Mooney Show, The Dave Fanning Show, Drivetime etc. TV credits as a motoring expert include RTE's flagship current affairs show Primetime and TV3's Ireland AM. Michael also presented RTE's car show Drive! in the late 90s and directed some items in MPH2 on TG4. Michael contributes weekly on motoring issues to The Last Word show with Matt Cooper on Today FM. Michael has represented Ireland's motoring journalists in Motorsport at the International Mazda MX-5 endurance race series in Italy and the Arctic Ice Race. He has been a Car of the Year Judge for over 18 years and is a former Chairperson of the Association of Professional Motoring Press (APMP).

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