There was nothing understated about the performance, however. “Its top speed of 119mph isn’t too far adrift of VW’s 122mph claim and is remarkable for a 1300cc engine,” reported our testers. “The 205 GTi’s 122mph just about fights off the challenge, but the Fiesta is left red-faced at 118mph.
“The G40 is embarrassingly accelerative, too. It sprints from rest to 60mph in 8.4sec, taking 0.5sec out of the XR2i and shaving 0.3sec off the 205’s time. This truly is big-capacity lugging power from a tiddler and it leaves its 1.6-litre rivals gasping.”
The story out on the road was mixed. The gearchange was described as “sticky and imprecise” and part-throttle response “wasn’t especially crisp”.
The chassis handled the power well, though: “Torque steer is mild and traction consistently good. The steering is accurate and communicative but afflicted by a curious over-centre action that pulls on to lock under power.”
Nevertheless, the G40 was described as “a lot of fun”, with mild understeer as the staple handling characteristic, garnished with “a generous dollop of (admittedly crude) throttle adjustability” that allowed a neutral balance to be achieved mid-corner.
“Grip was good rather than exceptional and the mediocre ride is better at high speeds than in town, but all in all the chassis feels impressively well sorted. It would be nice to say the same about the brakes but, alas, they suffer from dead initial travel and feel disconcertingly spongy.”
Reservations were also voiced about build quality: “It seems to have taken a backward step. The plastic surround for the driver’s seat backrest tilt fell off and none of our testers was impressed by the cheap-looking mouldings and fabrics.”
A mixed picture, then. So would our testers choose a Polo G40 over a 205 GTi or a Fiesta XR2i? Not quite: “As a fully fledged £11,500 hot hatch, it faltered. Its handling is good but not quite good enough, while in both gearchange quality and cabin finish it disappoints. That said, the Polo G40 is tantalisingly close to being an excellent car.”
Previous Throwback Thursdays
5 April 1986 - Audi Quattro vs Porsche 944 Turbo
16 May 1987 - Ford Escort XR3i Cabriolet
17 October 1981 - The £12,000 baby Aston Martin
16 January 1985 - The launch of the Sinclair C5
15 April 1960 - Porsche's four-cylinder roots
17 August 2004 - The Honda NSX's last hurrah
11 October 1986 - Hyundai's second UK market foray
15 March 1980 - Triumph's TR7 Drophead
13 February 1991 - Mercedes F100 predicts future car technology
16 April 1997 - A modern 'Blower' Bentley
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