Competent, but there’s more fun to be had for less money elsewhere

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Polo GTI
New Polo GTI is powered by a 189bhp 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder motor

A new engine and gearbox make for a much improved small GTI - but is it a match for some stellar rivals?

What is it?

This GTI version of the new Polo is the latest in a line of fast Polos that began with the 1991 G40; though none of which to date has quite hit the mark in the same way that most Golf GTIs have.

It arrives a short time after the Seat Ibiza Cupra, and at the same time as the Skoda Fabia vRS, poignant not just because all three are based on the same platform, but because all three also use precisely the same powertrain - a 1.4-litre turbocharged and supercharged TSI petrol engine, mated to a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox as standard. There’s no manual option on any of them.

Compared to the Skoda and Seat, the Volkswagen demands a premium price: as I write it’s the wrong side of £18,000. In fact, it’s not just more expensive than its VW-group siblings, it’s also more expensive than the standout car in this class – the Renaultsport Clio 200.

What’s it like?

We’re fans generally of the Polo at Autocar. It’s a refined and well-sorted car with a fine interior.

So if there is a supermini that can justify an £18,000 plus price tag, the Polo may be it – certainly, the GTI feels very well appointed and equipment levels are strong. As I write I haven’t driven the latest Fabia vRS but, certainly, the Polo is a class above the Ibiza Cupra inside.

But a hot hatchback should be about more than just a decent interior and the refinement that, in fairness, is continued from cooking Polos into this GTI model. It rides acceptably on 45-profile, 17-inch rubber despite a 15mm drop in ride height over the standard car, and sound levels are well suppressed.

If the Renaultsport Clio and Ford Fiesta Zetec S have taught us anything though, it’s that refinement and an interesting cabin are not necessarily anethemas to delivering an enthralling drive.

And it’s here that the Polo fails to quite hit the spot. With 178bhp and weighing 1184kg it’s certainly quick enough – 0-62mph is claimed to take 6.9sec and it just about feels like it – but there isn’t enough interaction or engagement to really trouble the best cars in this class.

There’s enough ground-covering pace – grip levels are par for the course and traction is very good thanks to an electronic differential lock. The steering, though, for all its accuracy, delivers little back to the driver and there’s little adjustability in the chassis.

The Polo will only ever partly allow disengagement of its stability control and even on the road it’s easy to trouble it. The GTI rolls a bit, grips, reaches its limit, the tyres squeal so you know about it, the body is a bit unsettled, an ESP light flashes, then you just sit it out until the corner ends and you head off again. Competent, but very sterile.

Should I buy one?

See the VW Polo GTI test drive pictures

On pure driving grounds, we’d say not, when there’s more fun to be had for less money elsewhere.

But there are people – you and I might not be them – for whom driving dynamics do not define a hot hatchback; for whom a pleasing interior and mini-Golf looks are more important; and who will never drive at more than four- or five-tenths, if that.

In which case, the Polo GTI isn’t a shabby choice. It’s not a bad car. Far from it. I just think it’d be more appropriate if the ‘I’ was knocked off the end of its name tag.

See all the latest VW Polo reviews, news and video

Join the debate

Comments
23

18 May 2010

[quote Autocar]all three are based on the same platform[/quote]

Without wanting to nit pick isn't the current Fabia, for whatever reason, based on the same PQ24 platform as the previous Fabia, Polo and Ibiza instead of the all-new PQ25 platform used by the current VW, Seat and Audi A1?

18 May 2010

It's not a bad looking car and the cheque seat fabric takes you back to Mk1 golf GTI but 18k for what is exactly the same as both the Ibiza and Fabia even if it has a premium badge is plain crazy. A few years back when Skoda were subject to ridicule and Seat were a manufacturer of cars with 'System Porsche' written down the side the Polo would look like the one to buy but VW themselves have helped engineeer Skoda especially into a brand that tops the satisfaction surveys even out gunning VW and Audi in most if not all of them.

Where does it all end for VW? they have to move the game on closer to home if they are to get a real and ackowledged gap between them and the sub brands they own... for me that gap is closer than it's ever been and when Seat get themselves in order the gap will reduce further.

18 May 2010

i think its great value when you consider an optioned fiesta 1.6 95bhp diesel is £19.5k.

i would rather take the 180bhp polo and classy interior thanks.

18 May 2010

Sounds expensive for what it is. Having read about the new Skoda Fabia vRS I think it looks far better value for money and probably more fun, which must be a factor in choosing this type of car.


Enjoying a Fabia VRs - affordable performance

18 May 2010

How can you drive on public roads a 178 bhp, 1185 kg hot hatch at more than five tenths? You must be a sort of criminal. Let's try to be realistic: these cars will never, or at least should be never, driven at the limit. This magazine sometimes forget to deliver the right message to its readers. We're all petrolhead, not dumbheads. Seriously, how can you compare this Polo with a pathetic Fiesta? Two different classes. You guys sometimes drive us bored.

30 January 2014

RednBlue, I suspect you need to re-align yourself slightly - the Polo GTi isn't being compared with anything at the moment in any hot hatch comparison tests (with Fiesta ST or otherwise ), it simply isn't good enough. Be interesting to see what the refresh brings however.

18 May 2010

Sounds like the Skoda is the more engaging drivers car according to yesterday's Autocar review of the Fabia RS. Maybe the old platform isn't such a bad thing after all...

19 May 2010

[quote RednBlue]How can you drive on public roads a 178 bhp, 1185 kg hot hatch at more than five tenths? You must be a sort of criminal. Let's try to be realistic: these cars will never, or at least should be never, driven at the limit. This magazine sometimes forget to deliver the right message to its readers. We're all petrolhead, not dumbheads. Seriously, how can you compare this Polo with a pathetic Fiesta? Two different classes. You guys sometimes drive us bored.[/quote]

Well petrolheads will prefer the fiesta,it simply is brilliant to drive,i find vw golf,polo,etc boring to look at,boring to sit in......same old,at least the fiesta looks ultra modern....and we all know you dont pay any where near the list price.£18,000 for polo is beyond me,and different classes eh.....fiesta num 35 in 2010 jd power survey,vw polo 95....nuff said.

19 May 2010

[quote beachland2]

i think its great value when you consider an optioned fiesta 1.6 95bhp diesel is £19.5k.

i would rather take the 180bhp polo and classy interior thanks.

[/quote]

Your forgetting the fact that the list price and what you pay are very different even a top of the range Titanium starts at 16.5K then a 4K discount makes it quite a bit cheaper than the Polo. Eeven optioned is will be far cheaper.

The biggets cost saving and make the car more fun would be to have a 6 speed gearbox as well as DSG on all of them and slash the list price by 1.4K!!!

19 May 2010

Maybe the owners of Polo GTI's would just like to enjoy the extra performance and flexibility of the more powerful engine without having to explore the limit of grip.. I am sure this car can go around any bend or roundabout perfectly fast enough for public roads.

Obviously its important for the journalist that if this car 'comes up against a Fiesta RS on the A127 to Wickford' that the Polo has enough grunt to show him a clean pair of heels.

Maybe by making a few mods and tweaking the ECU they can satisfy their road racing requirements.

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