What is it?
The Holy Grail of motoring is to combine pace with parsimony, in terms of fuel consumption that is. Which is why these days so many manufacturers are investing so heavily in hybrid tech.
But is there a more conventional route to achieving this aim? Volkswagen thinks so, because it’s just launched the facelifted Polo Blue GT – essentially a detuned version of the full-fat Polo GTI.
In VW speak, blue - standing for Bluemotion - is the new green, and means that with technology like cylinder deactivation - whereby it cuts two of the four cylinders when demand is low – and engine stop-start, the GT manages some pretty impressive stats: 137mph and 0-62mph in 7.8sec. Driven carefully, it should manage a combined 60.1mpg, too, while emitting 108g/km of CO2 - as long as you have the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox fitted.
However, as is often the case, the official stats are one thing, but it’s how they translate to the real world that really matters.
What's it like?
The beating heart of this latest Polo GT is a new, more powerful 1.4-litre petrol engine that produces 148bhp and a hearty 184lb ft of torque. The engine’s turbo-fed induction system means it suffers a momentary delay before building boost, but from 1500rpm onwards it pulls well, with a lovely linear delivery all the way to the red line. Aurally it won’t set your heart racing like the snarling Ford Fiesta ST or the rorty Mini Cooper, but it makes up for this by being smooth and refined throughout the rev range.
The seven-speed DSG is excellent. In manual mode it snaps between gears in an instant, or, if you’re feeling lazy and switch to auto, slips seamlessly up and down ratios, with the darting rev counter needle being your only guide. The only letdown is that the combination of stop-start and the automatic hill hold feature can make for some jerky take-offs unless you’re super-smooth with the throttle.
With its larger 17in wheels, the Polo GT has plenty of grip and, aided by the standard electronic differential, turns in to corners eagerly and powers out of them with minimal torque steer or wheelspin. The body is well tied down and feels stable mid-corner, helping to create confidence in fast sweepers. That said, the Polo GT is safe and secure rather than outright fun like a Fiesta ST, lacking the feel and alertness that makes the Ford sparkle and keen drivers smile.
It counters this by being more comfortable than either the Fiesta ST or the Mini Cooper, and by some margin. The ride does break down over broken road surfaces and you hear the suspension working away underneath you, but given that the Polo GT has been lowered by 15mm over the standard car, it’s still remarkably compliant.
VW’s designers have restyled the Polo’s bumpers and added side skirts, along with the bigger alloys and twin tailpipes, to emphasise the GT’s more sporting intentions. Despite this, visually it doesn’t shout ‘look at me’ like some small hot hatches do, but, depending on your perspective, that’s no bad thing.
Inside, it’s a similar theme: smart but conservative, with some racy touches such as sports seats trimmed in a mix of Alcantara, faux leather and ‘Blue Speed’ cloth. The seats are particularly comfortable, the side bolsters giving welcome added support, although you might wish they went back a few inches further if you’re more than 6ft tall, and that the rake and reach-adjustable steering wheel extended by a similar amount extra. You sit quite high up, too, but this doesn’t affect headroom, which is plentiful.