There’s fashionably late and then there’s just plain tardy. The VW Polo GT TDi falls into the latter category. Which is odd, because VW was at the vanguard of the diesel hot-hatch revolution with the hugely successful Mk4 Golf GT TDi.
In the supermini class, however, there’s a posse of hot diesel hatches already in town: from the Polo’s cousins, the Skoda Fabia vRS and Seat Ibiza FR 1.9 TDi – with which it shares its floorpan and engine – to the Peugeot 206 GTi HDi, Renault Clio dCi 100, Vauxhall Corsa 1.7 CDTi SRi and Fiat Punto Multijet HGT.
At least the Polo doesn’t want for power. The ever-popular 1.9-litre pumpe düse turbodiesel packs 128bhp and 229lb ft of torque to match the Fabia and Ibiza. VW claims that it’ll propel the GT to 62mph in 9.3sec. It feels even faster, and probably is: we’ve managed significantly quicker times in both the Ibiza and Fabia. Maximum torque arrives at 1900rpm with a classic diesel low-blow that has the 205/45 R16 Dunlop Sport tyres chirruping merrily, but below that there’s a doldrum-like dead zone.
Choose the right gear, however (easily done from the reasonably slick six-speed manual ’box) and you’ve got a giant-killer: in-gear acceleration is spectacular.
The steering is less remarkable. It’s well-weighted, but doesn’t provide masses of feedback. It’s not helped by the wheel: the rim is pleasantly covered with perforated leather, but its four spokes are uncomfortably large and awkwardly positioned. At least it adjusts for both rake and reach.
Sports suspension gives the Polo a firm but well-damped ride: it’s a little harsher than the Fabia vRS’s, and body control is correspondingly better, albeit only a touch; a sensation heightened by firm sports seats.
With a heavy diesel block under the bonnet, the Polo will understeer if you push too hard in a corner, but lift off the throttle and it tucks neatly back into line. The all-round disc brakes with standard anti-lock are effective, but there’s not much feel from the middle pedal. And, as usual in a VW, the throttle cuts out when you apply the brake, so there’s no chance of heel-and-toeing.