Having started off with a 1.6-litre atmospheric petrol engine and then wavering between 1.8- and 1.4-litre turbo power over the years, the Polo GTI now literally has a bit of what makes its bigger brother, the Golf GTI, special.
Namely, VW’s ‘EA888’- type 2.0-litre turbo four, which powers the current Golf GTI (albeit in a higher state of tune) and which develops 197bhp and a particularly punchy-sounding 236lb ft.
That beats the latest Mini Cooper S for power and torque, and it’s got both a Ford Fiesta ST and a Renault Clio RS licked for outright mid-range pulling power too. Not a bad start.
The car is available in five-door form only; in front-wheel drive only; and, to begin with, with a six-speed twin-clutch DSG automatic gearbox only (a manual gearbox is joining the range later this year).
Further downstream in the drivetrain, where others in the class now offer proper mechanical limited-slip differentials, VW sticks with what it describes as an ‘XDS electronic differential lock’. Which, you’ve guessed it, isn’t a locking differential at all (although, confusingly, the one described as ‘XDS+’ on bigger VW Group hot hatchbacks is exactly that).
‘XDS’ is actually torque vectoring by braking across the front axle delivered by an extension of the car’s stability control software. We’ll see how well it works in due course.
The Polo GTI’s suspension overhaul comprises shortened, stiffened coil springs, with retuned dampers and anti-roll bars – the car riding some 15mm lower than a standard Polo. There are wheel hubs and steering knuckles unique to the GTI here also, allowing the car its own axle kinematics and roll-centres relative to those of the standard Polo. Suspension is by struts up front and a twist-beam axle at the rear, as is common among hot superminis.
Meanwhile, ‘selective’ dampers (which can be switched between preset Normal and Sport settings) are standard on UK cars (although they’re a cost option in other markets). Also standard are 17in alloy wheels, surrounding enlarged brake discs front and rear; they can be upgraded to 18s at extra cost.
VW quotes an unladen weight of 1355kg for the car, which is a touch heavy by hot supermini standards, even though we trimmed that slightly to 1342kg in the case of our test car, weighed on Millbrook’s scales. It’s a class where every few kilos count, and in which some cars hover at the 1200kg mark.