Straight-line performance is a poor measure of a hot hatchback’s appeal, but it does serve to illustrate just how far the Polo GTI has come. Its recorded 0-60mph time of 6.7sec is a mere 0.2sec adrift of the 242bhp Performance Pack-equipped Golf GTI we’ve previously tested, and by 100mph the deficit has grown only to a solitary second.
This despite the fact our dual-clutch car’s launch-control function never quite got to grips with the near-perfect conditions (if you’ll excuse the pun), allowing the front tyres to over-rotate a fraction too vigorously.
Claimed top speed is nigh on 150mph, and given how readily the Polo accelerated to 130mph along the steeply banked, outermost lane of Millbrook’s high-speed bowl, there’s little reason to doubt it.
Nobody could accuse the hottest Polo of lacking performance, then, and yet there’s a sense it could be even quicker – and without modifications to the engine. The gearing is curiously long (most likely to more easily achieve emissions targets), and while 236lb ft from a mere 1500rpm helps disguise the effects of that out on the road, more closely stacked cogs would make proceedings that much more excitable.
This being an everyday kind of performance car, fuel economy will matter to owners. In this regard, the Polo GTI’s touring economy of 46.8mpg is entirely respectable, and only a small increment shy of what we’ve experienced in the new Fiesta ST (yet to undergo a full road test).
The Fiesta not only uses only three cylinders but can shut one off under light throttle loads. Driven without restraint during track testing, the Polo’s figure fell to 14.0mpg, for an overall economy of 36.6mpg. With its 40-litre fuel tank, that means owners can expect a range of roughly 320 miles between visits to the pump.
If this 2.0-litre unit has a weakness, it is its lack of a distinctive character. We can’t fault the supreme smoothness of the EA888, or its propulsive force, at least until the needle sits beyond 6000rpm, when the balance between power and noise becomes disappointingly skewed towards the latter. It’s unremarkable in tone, however, and the uniformly flat, muted and slightly nasal report from its twin-tip exhaust does nothing to encourage you, the driver, to hold onto gears (though, once hot, the exhaust does emit little pops on the over-run in Sport mode).
In any event, the gearbox will automatically upshift some 250rpm short of a redline set at 6500rpm, even with the gearstick flicked sideways and in Manual mode. The kick-down nipple at the bottom of the accelerator pedal’s travel also remains operational, and so you never have quite the control you’d like over a hot supermini.