Not the GTi that its name and looks suggest it might be.

What's new? When we drove the new VW Polo GTi in Germany last month (12 April), we worried that although it looked the part of a junior GTi and had adequate performance, its ride might translate poorly to British roads.What's it like? Well, our fears are confirmed. It’s understandable that the car’s chassis is set up stiffly to make it feel agile and responsive: there’s minimal initial roll and the car displays a keenness to turn. We’d forgive that rigidity if this were an indication of better things to come, but delve deeper into the Polo’s dynamics and it falls short. Set it onto a keen cornering line and bumps easily unsettle the chassis.It feels over-sprung and under-damped – too stiff when it hits a crest, but with too little control to contain body movements. A baby Golf GTi this is not.Not that, in terms of pace, it was ever meant to be. VW was worried that a too-powerful Polo would eclipse its bigger brother, but its dynamic failings alone mean there’s no chance of that. The fact it has a 148bhp 1.8-litre engine with slight turbo lag confirms that not only is its sibling’s superiority in no doubt, but it’s even more likely that the forthcoming Renaultsport Clio 197 – if it’s half as good as we expect – will give this car a pasting, too.Should I buy one? Which is a shame because there’s space in VW’s range for a decent hot Polo, and this one has some visual appeal, including telephone-dial alloys, a deep front airdam, a red-piped grille and tartan seat trim. If it kept the looks, was more comfortable and cheaper, it would be more appealing. You could call it a Polo GT.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Join the debate

Add a comment…
jonski 4 January 2008

Re: VW Polo GTI

i have owned a polo gti now for nearly 18 months and i cannot understand why this car is getting such a hard time in all of its reviews, granted, the suspension is rather firm over rough roads but it more than makes up for it on its handling, there is no roll and i have huge confidence in its grip. The only mild dissapointment i had was its performance, compared with its rivals it was a bit off the mark but since i had it chipped up to 191 bhp this car is absolutely fantastic, if vw had done this themselves i am sure we would be seeing alot more polo gti's on the roads.