We didn't get on all that well with the previous Volkswagen Polo GTI.
It was worthy enough in a modest kind of way, but whereas its rivals made a punching bag of your adrenal gland, the Polo merely prodded at your reasoning, forever reminding you how economical and easy to live with it was.
At the heart of its rationale was the powertrain, a tedious combination of DSG auto and twin turbocharged TSI that was its biggest fault, it being about as brawny and thrilling to tussle with as a knackered budgerigar.
Consequently, the best thing about the new version is its wholesale replacement. You can still have a DSG as an option, but we urge you not to. Stick with the standard six-speed manual, which is what we drive here.
Attached to the new ’box is an all-new turbocharged four-pot lump. Better still (and rather unconventionally) it gets larger, at 1.8 litres and is a variant of the EA888 engine lineup, which, in other breathed-on formats, fills out the engine bay of the marvelous Mk6 Golf R. In Polo guise it cranks out 189bhp from 4200rpm, and 236lb ft of peak twist from just 1450rpm.
VW has had a go at the chassis, too; stiffening up the anti-roll bars and reassessing the settings on a suspension that has the Polo’s ride height dipping by 10mm at the front and 15mm at the back. Looks-wise, the morph into shrink-wrapped Golf GTI is almost complete. It’s as chunky as pool cue chalk, with only the reduced track width really giving the game away.
The bar was low given the spiritlessness of its predecessor, but the changes wrought have delivered much in the way of hoped-for effect. This is a more rambunctious and modestly involving brand of Polo.
Much as fitting a larger capacity engine helped the Mini Cooper S’s overall appeal so the EA888 enhances its new surroundings. There is a bigger presence and soundtrack for a start, married to the kind of ingratiating get-away that doesn’t immediately need stoking up with the throttle to feel brisk.
But briskness there is, should you want it. Where the 1.4-litre TSI was all forced induction fizz and then labored at the top end, its replacement is a grower; still inevitably muscular in the mid range, and more linear at high revs than peaky - but there’s now a decent payoff to keeping the GTI beyond 4500rpm.