Quite fast when it manages to get its power to the ground, but it's lacking the handling finesse of some of its more keener rivals.
At 1249kg, the Polo R WRC hits the scales 54kg above the Polo GTi due to its heavier engine and more comprehensive standard equipment billing. Still, its reserves are sufficient to provide it class leading levels of acceleration.
Volkswagen claims a 0-62mph time of 6.4 sec, making the Polo R WRC some 0.5sec faster up the strip than the Polo GTi and Fiesta ST. It also says it’ll dispatch 50-75mph in fourth gear in 4.5sec. Flat out, it reaches 151mph – outpacing the Polo GTi and Fiesta ST by 9mph and 11mph respectively. Not slow, then.
The engine is impressively smooth and quite responsive, offering up a big slab of low end flexibility and a keenness to run to the 7000 rpm redline without any undue strain. What it could do with is a feistier exhaust note. There is a rawness to the acoustic qualities under load and you occasionally receive a resonant drone on a trailing throttle but it is all rather distant and lacking for purpose in a way the Golf R is not.
Also found wanting is the Polo R WRC’s ability to place its reserves to the road through the front wheels with any great resolve. A sharp loading of the throttle in lower gears in dry conditions corrupts the action of the steering as the ESP (electronic stability program) struggles to corral the efforts of the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol unit.
This is disappointing, because as the excellent mechanical differential fitted to the new Golf GTI has shown, Volkswagen can successfully engineer its more powerful front-wheel drive cars to place their reserves to the road without any old-fashioned torque steer antics. It’s just a pity it didn’t apply some more of that know-how to the Polo R WRC.
Accept that you have to live with the new Volkswagen’s inability to get its power down and you discover a car with otherwise sound handling traits.
Firm underpinnings provide excellent body control and the upgraded wheel and tyre package affords plenty of purchase. The steering could be a bit more communicative, but when it's not corrupted by efforts to get power to the road it's nicely weighted, very accurate and satisfyingly dependable.
You can push hard with a fair deal of confidence over snaking roads without any premature understeer, and lift off sharply mid corner without having to worry about the rear end stepping out of line. But while there is plenty to like there isn’t sufficient adjustability within the chassis to see the Polo R WRC trouble the best cars in its class for pure engagement.
The ride is firmer than that of the Polo GTI owing in part to its lower profile rubber. There’s enough compliance in compression and control in rebound to ensure it remains composed on all but badly pitted bitumen and without any confidence-zapping skatiness on mid-corner bumps.