And with those reserves deployed through the six-speed dual-clutch gearbox, that has led to moments of very unpolished wheelspin, and a general excess of revving under acceleration. Go far beyond half distance on the throttle pedal, at almost any speed, and any feeling of refined cruising descends into something a bit more uncouth.
Which, the more I think about it, makes me think I’ve got the Polo’s character all wrong. I’m starting to think it’s not an inherently posh car playing a bit rough, but a properly rorty hot hatch that can scrub up nicely when required. A bit like Danny Dyer putting on his tux for an award ceremony, or something.
That would fit with the Polo using the VW Group’s 2.0-litre EA288 engine – the one from the Golf GTI and a host of other performance models – the power and spec of which can be adjusted for the model it goes in. It feels like VW has pegged the engine to the performance it thought a Polo GTI should have, and then worked to smooth out that power to capture the elusive ‘practical performance’ level it seeks in a GTI model.
Certainly, the Polo can be enjoyably wild, rewarding and fun. So dilemma solved, then? Well no, because I’m still not sure – and I still often feel it’s happier being used to deliver comfy, relaxed VW polish.
Over Christmas, I drove a few friends and family members around and they all remarked on its general class and comfort. But even as they did so, occasional wild moments from the powertrain would suggest the car wanted to do a bit more.
After a few thousand miles in the Polo GTI, I’ve determined this: it’s capable of comfort and polish, yet also plenty of raw – occasionally too raw – performance. I just can’t work out which it’s happiest doing.
Until I work that out, it’s likely to remain a bit of a mystery
Tartan seats They’re upholstered in the classic GTI pattern and are plenty comfortable, too.
smartphone tray My oversize iPhone 7 won’t fit in the tray properly when it has a charging cable plugged into it.
Back to the top
Life with a Volkswagen Polo GTI: Month 2
Nothing comes for free, so what price the GTI+ performance? - 30th January 2018
The clearest indication of Volkswagen’s desire to make this latest Polo GTI a true little brother to the Golf GTI can be found under the bonnet. As mentioned previously, for the first time in a Polo, you’ll find a version of the Volkswagen Group’s EA888 engine, and a rather good job of providing the hot hatch with plenty of power and torque it does.
Of course, packing a punch of extra performance comes at a cost and, in the case of the Polo, one place that cost shows up (quite literally) is in fuel economy. Granted, how far a car can stretch a tank of fuel is the sort of practical, fiscally minded thing you probably aren’t supposed to think about too much when buying a hot hatch. But I’d argue that if you’re buying a performance-based supermini, you’re likely to be searching for value for money.
When our road testers put the Polo GTI through its paces, they returned a touring economy of 46.8mpg. That fell to 14.0mpg when they pushed it on our test track. Over the full gamut of road test driving, they found it averaged 36.6mpg – and, a few thousand miles in with our long-term test car, that roughly tallies with the figures we’ve been achieving.