Sprint Review: Volkswagen Polo GTi (Manual)

One new car, lots of information in random paragraphs.

Some facts: Volkswagen has refreshed its Polo range with more efficient engines and better technology, at the same time giving the hot-headed GTi a good seeing-to. Where once pounded a 1.4-litre heart, the new Polo GTi now has a growling 1.8-litre with 141kW; in DSG or Manual.

The seven-speed DSG (dual-clutch automatic) is every commuter’s friend, while this six-speed manual version is the enthusiast’s choice with an additional 70Nm over the DSG’s 250Nm. You may also choose the Sport suspension button to make the engine growlier and, quite unbelievably, firm up the already solid ride.

More information: Most testers and GTi buyers (also Golf GTi) prefer the rapidity and convenience of VW’s DSG but yours truly believes that a hot hatch should be manual. Drop the clutch too fast, burn a little rubber, short shift or hit the limiter – that’s what hot hatches are meant to do. And the Polo GTi is one of the best.

We liked: The response and power delivery of that lively turbo-petrol engine with snappy gear changes and direct steering combine brilliantly with loads of grip and agile handling to make this a real driver’s car. The optional LED lights are highly recommended and the great infotainment system gives good vehicle info.

We didn’t: Its back-breaking ride. No, really, you’ve been warned. This is one of the hardest suspension setups we’ve come across, not helped by the supportive but firm sports seats. Audio quality isn’t that impressive (too heavy on mid/bass) while fast changes to second gear can find the reverse gate.

Why you’ll want one: Exceptional versatility of a normal Polo with the speed and excitement of a Golf GTi. All styling details are subtle and tasteful and the build quality is top drawer stuff. Drive it nicely and it can even be fuel-efficient, but honestly, is that what you bought a GTi for? I didn’t think so.


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