Volkswagen Polo GTI Review & Prices
The VW Polo GTI is the fastest model in the Polo range but its turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine and upmarket cabin also make it the most expensive
What's not so good
Find out more about the Volkswagen Polo GTI
The Volkswagen Polo GTI is a small family car that’s practical, well built and fast enough to keep up with some sports cars on a tight country road. In this respect, it’s a bit more like a retired greyhound than the yappy, terrier-like Ford Fiesta ST. It might spend most of its time sleeping on your slippers in front of the fire, but it’s still happy to show other dogs a clean pair of heels (or paws) playing fetch in the park.
Sadly, this tempting combination doesn’t come cheap, but at least the VW Polo GTI’s upmarket interior helps justify its price tag. Its cabin shares most of its trim with the already pretty posh Polo so it feels more special than a Fiesta ST. You get a pair of very supportive sports seats (upholstered in VW’s signature GTI tartan), shiny red inserts and a digital instrument panel is now standard, following a 2021 revision.
Thankfully, these sporty additions haven’t made the VW Polo GTI any less easy to live with than the standard Polo – it’s still one of the most spacious and practical small cars around. There’s loads of adjustment to help you get comfy in the front seats and enough room in the back for six-foot-tall adults to sit behind an equally tall driver.
Watch: Hyundai i20 N v Ford Fiesta ST v VW Polo GTI
The VW Polo GTI’s practicality is streets ahead of the competition. There’s significantly more space in the boot than you get in the Ford Fiesta ST or Mini Cooper S and it feels more comfortable and more grown-up than these cars around town, too. It’s easy to drive and – with the optional adaptive suspension fitted – it soaks up bumps and potholes impressively well for a small hot hatch, which you would usually expect to be quite bouncy.
Head out onto an empty country road and the VW Polo GTI’s powerful 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine and boisterous exhaust noise certainly help it stand out. That 2021 update gave the Polo GTI more power than before — 207hp — meaning it’ll sprint from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds and its sporty suspension helps it feel stable at speed and grip keenly in tight corners.
You can pretty much have your cake and eat it with the VW Polo GTI – it’s quick, very well built and practical enough to live with every day
It might not be quite as agile as the smaller Ford Fiesta ST but driving the VW Polo GTI is more relaxing for long periods and it’s quieter at motorway speeds – especially now that radar-guided cruise control comes as standard.
You even get an automatic DSG gearbox as standard in all VW Polo GTIs, so you can rest easy knowing the car provides hot-hatch thrills in a more mature package than any other alternative.
See how much you can save on your next car by visiting our VW Polo GTI deals page, or check out all our latest Volskwagen deals. We’ve also got plenty of used VW Polo GTis for sale through our network of trusted dealers, and when you’re ready to sign on the dotted line, you can even sell your current car through carwow too.
The Volkswagen Polo GTI has a RRP range of £30,180 to £32,570. However, with carwow you can save on average £2,403. Prices start at £27,857 if paying cash. Monthly payments start at £278. The price of a used Volkswagen Polo GTI on carwow starts at £16,250.
Our most popular versions of the Volkswagen Polo GTI are:
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|2.0 TSI GTI 5dr DSG
You’ll not be especially surprised to learn that the Polo GTI is not cheap. It is, in fact, the most expensive Polo you can buy, and the Polo was already fairly pricey by small car standards. It’s slightly more expensive than the equivalent Ford Fiesta ST, although in compensation it offers a more refined driving experience and, actually, a little more horsepower than the Ford.
It’s considerably more expensive than the Suzuki Swift Sport, but then the Polo GTI is not only much quicker than the Swift, it also has an interior that looks and feels like a Rolls-Royce compared to the Swift’s cheap and cheerful cabin.
The Polo GTI is even more expensive than the five-door version of the Mini Cooper S, although it’s packing an extra 20hp compared to the Mini, and is better equipped (and roomier) as standard.
The Polo GTI is not too stiff around town, but there’s slightly too much tyre noise for real long-haul motorway comfort
The Polo GTI now gets standard adaptive suspension dampers, which means that you can stiffen them up for driving on a twisty road (see below…) but switch to a more comfortable experience if you’re driving around town. The difference between the two modes isn’t night-and-day, so the Polo GTI still feels fairly firm around town, but it’s not brutal, and nor does it make you feel uncomfortable. It just feels sporty, which is the whole point, really.
The standard Polo good and bad stuff applies when you’re in town. Visibility is good, except for the chunky rear pillars taking away some of your over-the-shoulder view. The steering — sportier and slightly heavier here in the GTI — is still light enough to make parking manoeuvres nice and easy, and the Polo’s relatively compact size means it’ll fit into most spaces, although the larger alloy wheels mean that the turning circle goes up a bit compared to the standard Polo.
You get VW’s Park Distance Control sensors (but not a reversing camera) as standard on the GTI which makes things slightly easier.
On the motorway
As well as the adaptive dampers, the Polo GTI gets sports suspension that’s 15mm lower down than that of the standard car, and when you combine that with bigger 17-inch alloy wheels, and sportier tyres, what you get is a lot of tyre noise at a motorway cruise, much more than you’d find in the standard model.
The Polo GTI comes only with a seven-speed automatic DSG dual clutch gearbox these days, which maybe isn’t the best thing from an enthusiast’s point of view (a manual would be nice…) but it does make longer journeys that bit more relaxing. Equally helping to make things more relaxing are standard-fit radar-guided cruise control, which can brake you all the way down to a safe stop in traffic, and lane-keeping steering. There’s also clever auto high-beam LED matrix headlights, which can alter the layout of your high-beam lights at night, meaning you can keep as much light on the road ahead as possible without dazzling other drivers, which again makes long journeys much easier and more relaxing.
On a twisty road
The Polo GTI is very stable and very predictable when you chuck it at a corner. Does that mean it’s also a little bit dull? Maybe… Certainly, it’s less of an attacker of apexes than the Ford Fiesta ST, and the steering doesn’t have the same sense of involvement and connection as you’ll get in a Mini Cooper S. That said, it has a more natural feel than the ST’s, and there’s less of the darting about that you get with the Ford. Pick your line and the Polo hooks up and takes you round. It’s very reassuring.
Point the Polo GTI, and it goes where you want it to, unerringly. That’s great from a confidence point of view, but it’s less good when you remember that you can’t quite flick it at a corner, nor adjust your cornering line, in the same way that you can in a Ford Fiesta ST. You do get VW’s electronic front ‘XDS’ differential, which uses the front brakes to help the Polo GTI sniff out grip and traction, and that’s a big help especially on a wet road.
The standard DSG auto gearbox could be a liability here, but actually it’s fast and responsive, especially in Sport mode, and while a manual would be more involving (you can change manually with the paddles or the shifter, but the gearbox’s electronics will still annoyingly take over and change up or down if they really, really feel like it), the DSG kind of suits the Polo GTI’s ‘great all-rounder’ remit. It strikes a good balance between fun and practical.
The Polo is, as you’d expect from a VW hatchback, very practical with plenty of space in the back seats. The GTI gets a smaller boot than that of the standard Polo though, which is limiting
The Polo GTI — and indeed all Polos — come with a central armrest, which isn’t true of all other small cars, so there’s some handy storage under that. There’s also a large storage area at the base of the dashboard, which will hold a phone and comes with two USB-C connectors too. The glovebox is decent in size, and there’s a little flip-down holder for your sunglasses in the roof. The door bins are good too, and can hold a 1.5-litre bottle of water. There are also a couple of cupholders down on the centre console, next to the handbrake but these are a weird octagon shape, which don’t grip your bottle of water as tightly as they should.
Space in the back seats
A small car the Polo GTI might be, but in the back seats it’s really quite spacious. There’s plenty of headroom and knee-room, so even passengers who are over six-feet tall will be fine. There’s a little bit of space for your feet under the front seats too, so you can stretch out slightly.
There are some useful touches in the back of the Polo GTI too, such as ISOFIX points with no annoying covers on the latches so it’s easy to plug in a child safety seat. There’s another set of ISOFIX points in the front passenger seat too, so the Polo GTI is really family-practical. Rear seat passengers also get their own USB-C sockets. That said, the Skoda Fabia — closely related to the Polo don’t forget — is roomier still in the back, although sadly there’s no longer a sporty vRS Fabia to act as a foil for the Polo GTI.
One annoying thing — the rear windows don’t wind all the way down. In fact, there’s a good couple of inches of glass left sticking up. Does no-one at VW like to rest their arms on the open windowsill or something?
Thanks to the design of the GTI’s rear suspension, the Polo GTI has a smaller boot than that of the standard model. The regular Polo has a roomy 351-litre boot, but for the GTI that drops to 303 litres. That’s still more than you get in a Ford Fiesta ST (292 litres), and way more than you get in a Mini Cooper S (211 litres), but it still feels a bit snug compared to some hot hatches, such as the Hyundai i20 N which gets a 352-litre boot. At least the Polo GTI has only a small load lip over which to lift heavy things, and there are handy storage areas at the side of the boot as well as hooks for shopping bags.
The rear seats split-fold easily (you can do it just by leaning into the boot) and they give you a continuous load floor, even though the seat backs don’t sit completely flat. There’s nowhere to stash the rigid luggage cover, which is annoying. Helpfully though there is a dedicated runner for the rear seatbelt, so when you fold the back seats down, they don’t get caught in the belt, and the belt doesn’t get stuck behind the seat when you flip everything back up again.
The cabin quality is probably the best of any hot hatch although the touch-sensitive controls aren’t as easy to use as regular buttons
Here’s where the Polo GTI really scores highly. The cabin is just lovely, with lots of very high quality plastics (aside from some scratchy grey stuff on the tops of the doors). The front seats are just figure-hugging enough without being too tight and you’ve got to love the nicely retro tartan seat trim, a throwback to the original 1976 Golf GTI.
The recent updates to the whole Polo range mean you get a new touch-sensitive climate control panel mounted down low, which is easy enough to use even though the controls are similar to the awkward screen-and-sliders layout you get in VW’s electric ID models. Here in the Polo GTI, though, they’re at least backlit so you can use them at night.
You get a big screen in the centre of the dash for the infotainment system, which is — again — slightly easier to use than that of the electric cars that VW makes, but which oddly comes with two physical knobs, one for volume and one for tuning, which seems a bit strange. Equally the button for the voice control is located on the dash, on the far side (set up for left-hand drive, clearly) and there’s no button for voice control on the steering wheel. The 10.25-inch digital instrument screen works well though, and it has some GTI-specific colour and display variations. The new-look, slimmer steering wheel has proper physical buttons too, which are easier to use than the touch-sensitive pads used by some other models, which allow you to control the instrument screen nice and easily.
Optionally, you can use the forward-facing camera that runs the emergency braking system as a ‘dash-cam’, storing footage to prove that — hopefully — you weren’t at fault if you have an accident.
For a car with a 2.0-litre, turbocharged, 207hp engine the Polo GTI is not what you’d call very thirsty. The official WLTP figure sits at 42mpg, and experience with the closely-related engine from the Golf GTI suggests that you can actually beat that if you take things gently.
CO2 emissions are a bit chunkier though at 154g/km, which means you’ll pay a pricey first year’s tax, although at least the Polo GTI’s relatively modest price means you’ll not need to worry about the levy for cars costing more than £40,000.
VW has long marketed the Polo as being one of the safest cars around, and when you look at the Euro NCAP crash test results, you can see that’s not just advertising waffle. The Polo scores a maximum five stars on the crash tests, with a 94 per cent adult protection rating — better than some much bigger and more expensive cars.
Standard safety equipment for the GTI includes active cruise control, lane-keeping steering, ‘extended’ pedestrian and cyclist detection for the automated emergency braking system, road sign recognition, a speed limiter, and driver fatigue detection.
In terms of security, you get an anti-theft alarm system, interior monitoring, backup horn, and towing protection and the parking camera system can optionally be used as a ‘sentry’ system, monitoring the car’s surroundings and pinging an alert to your mobile phone if it detects anything untoward.
Is the Polo reliable? Generally speaking yes, but while VW as a brand tends to sit at the higher end of reliability survey tables, the Polo itself is often more of a mid-table performer. Keep an eye out for niggles with the infotainment system, especially.
All VW models come with a three year warranty in the UK, which has unlimited mileage for the first two years, but which is limited to 60,000 miles in year three. You can extend that warranty out to five years from £140 per year, depending on the model.
The Polo has had some recalls, including ones for a loose rear spoiler, a faulty passenger airbag, a wonky sunroof, faulty rear seatbelt buckles, and oil getting into the brake booster.
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