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.
A new engine and gearbox make for a much improved small GTI - but is it a match for some stellar rivals?