£19,125 - £21,000 Price range
47 - 50 MPG
The Volkswagen Polo GTI can be considered a junior Golf GTI because it shares the things that make the Golf a highly recommendable performance hatch – everyday usability, a practical interior, excellent build quality and impressive performance. The Polo faces some tough competition in the form of the fun-to-drive Ford Fiesta ST, trendy Mini Cooper S and chic Citroen DS3.
The Polo GTI wins many admirers for its interior – it is built from good-quality materials and has little touches such as tartan-fabric seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel that separate it from lesser models. In terms of room there is plenty for both driver and passengers with only headroom being limited in the back.
In terms of driving the Polo GTI is praised by reviewers for being stable and easy to manage. VW haven’t forgotten about comfort and the Polo GTI is equally capable devouring twisty roads as it is cruising quietly on the motorway.
The Polo GTI’s engine is a big improvement over the old unit – the increased capacity provides more torque and making it one of the quickest cars from 0-62mph in its class – taking just 6.7 seconds. The optional seven-speed DSG gearbox offers smooth and quick changes, with well-chosen gear ratios that keep the engine on the boil. It’s worth considering if you often drive in stop-start town traffic.
Compared to competitors, the Polo GTI is as a bit expensive, but when you factor in the great build quality it arguably justifies its high price. Read on to find out more about the VW Polo and if it’s the car for you.
Cheapest to buy: 1.8-litre TSI GTI 3dr Petrol
Cheapest to run: 1.8-litre TSI GTI 3dr Petrol
Fastest model: 1.8-litre TSI GTI DSG 3dr Petrol
Most popular: 1.8-litre TSI GTI 3dr Petrol
As expected from a Volkswagen, the interior is among the car’s main highlights, with high quality materials giving the GTI a solid, premium feel. Helping the GTi stand out from the rest of the range are the traditional tartan fabric seat trim and a flat-bottomed steering wheel with red stitching helping to further liven the place up. Some testers argue that things are still a little dull though – if any car can get away with being a little over the top, a hot hatch can.
From a sensible point of view though, things are great. As with the humdrum versions, space for the driver and passengers is good for a car of this type, while boot space is about average for the class. Unlike rivals such as the Ford Fiesta ST, the Polo is also available with five doors for better access to the rear seats.
Like the larger Golf, the Polo GTI is a commendable hot hatch, with experts praising its ability to cover ground quickly and effectively. The car sits 10mm lower than the regular Polo, and 15mm lower at the rear. Meanwhile a new-for-2015 electric differential borrowed from the Golf has endowed the Polo with a chassis which does a highly impressive job of resisting understeer. It also manages to keep passengers contained in refinement and relative comfort, though it has to be said that a few testers also weren’t fond on the slightly firm ride over rough roads.
More of a concern was that some testers believed the GTI wasn’t as fun to drive as more extreme rivals like the Renault Clio Cup and the Ford Fiesta ST. This is compounded by the fact that the electronic stability systems can never be fully switched off.
Two major changes have taken place with the Polo GTI for 2015: Gone is the 1.4-litre TSI petrol with a turbo and a supercharger – it’s been replaced with a new 1.8-litre turbo – and the transmission options have been expanded with the addition of a six-speed manual gearbox. The now optional seven-speed DSG gearbox remains as excellent as it is in other Volkswagen Group products, with smooth and seamless gear changes.
The new engine produces 190hp – 11hp more than before – and a generous heap more torque. At least in the manual – the torque is limited in the DSG auto to prolong the life of the unit. This endows the GTI with a 0-60 time of 6.7 seconds and a top speed of 147mph. That makes it 0.2 seconds and 10mph faster than the Fiesta – though other rivals are quicker. Most reviews describe it as a punchy and efficient unit, and critics like the “sporty burble” that enters the cabin on idle.
Where the Ford Fiesta ST is something of a bargain, the Polo GTI could do with being a little cheaper. Nevertheless, it has all the go-faster add ons that most potential buyers will be looking for. Those include 17-inch alloy wheels, an aggressive looking front bumper and grille complete with LED headlights, and sports suspension that means the GTI sits 15mm lower than a standard Polo.
Inside, it would have been nice if VW included the £700 sat-nav as standard, but we have little else to complain about in terms of equipment – air-con, central locking, electric windows and a height-adjustable driver’s seat all come as standard.
Many driving enthusiasts will be more tempted by the latest version of the Polo GTI, thanks to the subtle boost in power and the addition of the six speed manual gearbox.
Overall, the Polo GTI is a very rounded and likeable hot hatch. The interior quality is top notch, refinement is commendable, it’s fun to drive and the performance is more than adequate. However, it isn’t the last word in driver excitement and involvement and nor is it particularly thrilling to look at – inside or out. It is certainly very expensive for a Polo, even if it is a very talented and capable one.