The everyday talents
There are always reasons someone buys a car. These can range from the basic need to connect the first two letters of the alphabet to the more sensible desire for a safe, reliable and efficient mode of transport. Then there are the purely hedonistic purchases – entertaining cars like the new Volkswagen Polo GTi.
If you’ve never owned or been around a Polo GTi for very long, you might be surprised to learn that they aren’t all that decadent or silly. Born from a need for a smaller, cheaper version of the masterful Golf GTi, the fast Polo also inherited big brother’s broad range of sensible, everyday talents.
That’s right, a Polo GTi (or Golf GTi, for that matter) is a Jack of all trades and masters fast, fun driving with equal ease as grinding traffic outside a school on a hot Tuesday. Having spent quite some time with two new Polo GTi’s recently, I can certainly vouch for its amazing all-round character.
There are a few niggles in the recipe I’d like to start with and the lauded VWAG DSG gearbox (double-clutch automatic) is one of them. Yes, it has razor-sharp reactions to your inputs and yes, most of the time it swaps ratios seamlessly but I’m one of very few journalists who dislike its low-speed antics.
Pottering around town sees it changing up very early in favour of better fuel consumption. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, the car’s 1.8-litre (previously 1.4L) turbo-petrol four cylinder engine has a whopping 250Nm of torque from a delightfully low 1,250rpm upwards. This means that there’s always enough oomph.
Parking, traffic jams, reversing and other leisurely activities can get jerky with a distinct dead spot on the right pedal. However, this is where my criticism of the DSG ends because the other end of its operating spectrum – the one where you give it carrots – is a joyful, exciting and rapid experience.
Volkswagen claims 0-100km/h in 6.7 seconds and a top speed close to 240km/h, both absolutely plausible and both of great concern to Golf GTi drivers. The new engine also produces an entertaining repertoire of noises, from deep induction growls over mid-range howls and faint DSG exhaust flatulence.
The factory claims average consumption of 5.6L/100km from the 45L petrol tank but, as always, you should see that as a best-case scenario. Like, downhill with a tail wind. We once achieved 7L/100km by carefully cruising on the highway but driving it like a GTi – which you will and should – yields around ten.
This brings me to my second and last critique; the car’s suspension. If you’re trading up from a chopped Citi Golf, tired Type R or a wooden cargo trolley with solid casters, the new Polo GTi will be just fine. Should you have driven something with actual rubber tyres before, the ride will be borderline intolerable.
Yes, it clings to the road like you-know-what to a blanket and yes, it sort of suits the car’s attitude but driving around manhole covers and larger pebbles for the sake of your back is not my idea of fun. If you’re surrounded by mirror-smooth highways, ignore all this. If you live in the rural Ovamboland, don’t.
Enough with the hating. I’m thrilled to type that everything else about the new Polo GTi is an absolute joy. Its shape is inoffensive with crisp lines and excellent paint ‘n panel finishes. Tasteful go-faster bits like sporty alloys, skirts, twin exhaust tips, honeycomb grills and red detailing reveal that this is the range-topping model.
Its dark, sober cabin has class-leading quality and materials, with modern gadgets arranged in thee most Germanic and logical manner. It also comes with superb, body-hugging, heated sports seats. Standard on all Polo GTi’s is a touch-screen infotainment system with Bluetooth and multiple media inputs.
You also get four airbags, auto wipers and auto-dimming mirrors, air-con, multi-function sports steering wheel, comprehensive trip computer, cruise control, fatigue warning, ISOFIX anchors, power windows and mirrors, a bit of leather trim and red stitching, multiple cup holders and storage places. Among others.
Space inside this little rocket isn’t too bad either, five adults will be cosy but four will find enough room. The 280L boot extends to 950L with the rear seats folded, offering a low load sill and enough depth for transporting big, bulky items. This hammers home the Polo and GTi versatility.
Starting at N$334,000 with very few options left to tick, the Polo GTi DSG also comes with a three-year/120,000km warranty and a three-year/45,000km service plan. Most buyers would quote driving fun as the main buying reason but they can certainly defend their choice with versatility and quality, too.
0-10km/h: 0.53 seconds
0-20km/h: 1.02 seconds
0-30km/h: 1.54 seconds
0-40km/h: 2.08 seconds
0-50km/h: 2.61 seconds
0-60km/h: 3.13 seconds
0-70km/h: 3.78 seconds
0-80km/h: 4.56 seconds
0-90km/h: 5.45 seconds
0-100km/h: 6.40 seconds
0-110km/h: 7.49 seconds
0-120km/h: 8.71 seconds
0-130km/h: 10.13 seconds
0-140km/h: 11.66 seconds
0-100m: 6.38 seconds @ 99.83 km/h
0-200m: 9.55 seconds @ 125.86 km/h
0-300m: 12.22 seconds @ 143.33 km/h
0-400m: 14.62 seconds @ 156.32 km/h
Maximum acceleration G-force: 0.63G
All data captured by Racelogic® Performance Box