From £18,6457
Extra power and a manual gearbox breathe new life into Polo GTI – but it's still pricey

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?

3 December 2014

What is it?

It’s easy to feel sorry for the Volkswagen Polo GTI. Not only does it play second fiddle to VW’s iconic Golf GTI, but more recently the huge – and warranted – success of Ford’s current Fiesta ST has also kept the Polo firmly in its shadow.

That could be why this facelifted version is quite a radical departure from what went before. Gone is the previous car’s 178bhp turbocharged 1.4 petrol engine, replaced by a more powerful 189bhp 1.8, while those who prefer a manual gearbox now have that option – in six-speed guise. The choice of three-door or five-door body styles remains. 

It’s no surprise, then, that the new Polo GTI is now quicker, sprinting from 0-62mph in 6.7sec both as a manual and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The DSG model also emits less CO2 than the old car did, and the new manual model will travel slightly further on a tank of fuel.

All these marginal improvements are very well, but the Fiesta ST has proven that huge fun behind the wheel needn’t cost the earth. With a starting price of around £18,800, the Polo is comparatively expensive, so will its pace and handling prove that it’s worth the extra?

What's it like?

Due to the different tolerances of the two gearboxes, the Polo’s engine is allowed to produce more torque paired with the manual ’box than the DSG. However, as mentioned, both are equally quick in a sprint, thanks to the DSG’s faster shifts, and frankly you never really get a sense of the manual’s extra pull.

Bury your foot hard, though, and the Polo feels decently fast, and it has short bursts of acceleration in gear sorted, too, pulling hard from low down over a usefully wide range of revs. 

Choose to add the optional (around £250) ‘Sports Performance Kit’ and you’ll be able to stiffen the dampers, sharpen the throttle response and have a more aggressive engine note, by pushing the Sport button located on the dash. In truth, the sharper throttle is welcome when pressing on, but the Polo’s actuated engine noise sounds overly enthusiastic under load.   

The GTI’s suspension has had a thorough revision over the old car, getting stiffer anti-roll bars and a new set-up to ensure more traction. Even without the Sports Performance Kit added, the Polo controls its body well in tight turns, but stiffening the dampers improves things further, helping you to enjoy exploiting the impressive grip.

The steering isn’t quite so impressive. It just doesn’t offer the same level of communication as a Fiesta ST’s, and you never get the sense that the Polo has the same front-end agility threading from corner to corner. Don’t expect the rear end of the Polo to be as playful as the Ford’s, either; it’s capable and secure but nothing more.

There’s more to be said for the Polo’s more supple ride, which feels firm but controlled over broken asphalt at all speeds and will be easier for some to live with than the Fiesta’s even firmer set-up; despite its many talents, the bouncy ride in the Ford isn't for everyone.

Inside, there’s the same brilliant infotainment system and high level of build quality as any other Polo, with the addition of GTI trademark tartan cloth seats that provide very good lateral support. A GTI sports steering wheel and plenty of red stitching round off the sporty look.

Should I buy one?

If you want the best-handling small hot hatch on the market, then no. The Ford Fiesta ST remains that car and will offer it to you for a lower price, with an even more exciting power delivery and a remarkable chassis.

The Polo is now back in contention in this class, and paying the extra for the VW does get you a more comfortable ride, a higher-quality cabin and better resale values than the Fiesta, but handling and driver involvement come first, and while the Polo is undoubtedly capable, it remains an also-ran in this class.

Volkswagen Polo GTI 3dr manual 

Price £18,800 (est); 0-62mph 6.7sec; Top speed 146mph; Economy 47.1mpg (combined); CO2 139g/km; Kerb weight 1272kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1798cc, turbo, petrol; Power 189bhp at 4200rpm; Torque 236lb ft at 1400rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
12

3 December 2014
They'd put the 1.8t in the Golf, take out some bling and sell it for £2500-3000 less than the GTI. Not my favourite car by any means but I feel it's the missing link in the Golf range, just about every big seller in this segment has a1.6 turbo option.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

3 December 2014
The real reason for the 'radical departure' in the engine department being numerous mechanical woes suffered by owners of that engine in Polo, Golf, Scirocco and other VAG cars.

The Polo GTI may be a good car but will it be overshadowed by the upcoming R? I suppose it depends on the price of the R.

3 December 2014
StuM82 wrote:

The real reason for the 'radical departure' in the engine department being numerous mechanical woes suffered by owners of that engine in Polo, Golf, Scirocco and other VAG cars.

The Polo GTI may be a good car but will it be overshadowed by the upcoming R? I suppose it depends on the price of the R.

WHAT! an unreliable Volkswagen! I mean that's why they cost so much isn't it? The marketing can't be wrong, can it?

3 December 2014
...is the price still showing as estimated? They were released on Monday.


3 December 2014
The chassis on the Fiesta Zetec S was enough to put me off sporty Fiestas for life so God knows what the ST is like when driving over a small pot hole. It's the Gti every time for me, the extra comfort, practicality and vastly superior build quality is just an added bonus.

autocar wrote:

With a starting price of around £18,800, the Polo is comparatively expensive

But as ever the pictures tell a different story. I don;t know what the specs of the new GTi are but if the base is £18800, add to that xenon lights at an est £900? Sunroof an est £600? Sat nav an est £600 extra, upgraded wheels, £400? Climate control £400, DSG £1400, winter pack £400 and special white paint - £200. How far out would I be if I suggested the car in those pics is over £24k?

3 December 2014
...that the KIA Ceed GT Tech is expensive at £20,000 when the spec shown is clearly well over that figure.
  • If you want to know about a car, read a forum dedicated to it; that's a real 'long term test' . No manufacturer's warranty, no fleet managers servicing deals, no journalist's name to oil the wheels...

4 December 2014
scotty5 wrote:

But as ever the pictures tell a different story. I don;t know what the specs of the new GTi are but if the base is £18800, add to that xenon lights at an est £900? Sunroof an est £600? Sat nav an est £600 extra, upgraded wheels, £400? Climate control £400, DSG £1400, winter pack £400 and special white paint - £200. How far out would I be if I suggested the car in those pics is over £24k?

New Polo GTI come with LED lights as standard now and there are currently no other wheel choices than the standard 17" but you're pretty close on everything else. If you choose the manual you'll add about £1500 for the other items you mention.

I know Autocar always point out that you can have a Fiesta ST for around £17k, but nobody buys it! Why do you think Ford brought out the ST3?


3 December 2014
An £18,800 price tag seems very optimistic, given that the BlueGT currently starts at £17,860.

In addition, the previous 1.4TSI version retailed for about £20k, and I wouldn't suspect Volkswagen UK to price a replacement model for less than the previous version...

Incidentally, the base price in Germany is €22,575 - equivalent to about £17,700 at present.

4 December 2014
The All New Skoda Fabia mk3 would have been a better package to launch this drive train , to make up for the MK2 failings - with more vehicle options ie. hatch and Estate available and tooled up for the next 5years..
As with all Skoda v VW similar models, the price would have been more market acceptable and more likely to get better overall sale volumes..
With the removal of the Fabia vRS then VAG have DELIBERATELY neutered an otherwise sporty ,competitive small hot hatch brand for ever if you believe their current CEO.
He just wants a Sporty looking ,but no guts car that might sell in volume with out a real flagship representative. However they will have the R5 Rally car soon for the young to salivate over.

4 December 2014
Interested to see what SEAT do with this engine in the 2015 version of the Ibiza Cupra considering that it's already available in the Leon FR range.

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