Volkswagen's hot supermini tested on Irish roads
Pros: Punchy performance, cabin tech, lots of fun
Cons: Fiesta ST more track-focused, expensive, no three door option
Volkswagen’s GTI stable is growing with the recent arrival of the up! GTI, the new entry model in the German brand’s performance range. This means the Polo GTI is no longer the entry model in the GTI range, however it has been updated and overhauled for 2019 to compete with the all-new Ford Fiesta ST, MINI Cooper S and Suzuki Swift Sport. The new Polo GTI is more powerful and based on the VW's new MQB platform which means it is bigger than before, but is it the best option in the hot supermini segment?
What is it like?
The new Polo GTi uses the same 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine as the latest Golf GTI with 200bhp and 320Nm of torque on tap. Add a six-speed DSG transmission into the mix, and it accelerates from 0-100km/h in just 6.7 seconds. The GTI offers punchy acceleration and a snarling exhaust note with a surge of power beyond 3,000rpm, while different driving modes are available via a button next to the gear lever, including ‘Eco’, ‘Comfort’ and ‘Sport’. There’s even a customisable ‘Individual’ mode for those additional tweaks The Polo GTI is pretty economical and we achieved circa 7.5l/100km in fuel economy, while annual motor tax is listed at €280.
The new Polo GTI has grown in stature, and it can easily be mistaken for a Golf GTI at first glance. It boasts lots of sporty upgrades over the standard Polo, such as a red stripe along the front grille, 17-inch Milton Keynes alloy wheels andsporty diffusers with a sports exhaust at the rear. Our test car is fitted with optional 18-inch Bresica alloy wheels and a pearl effect black paint scheme for added flair. Up against the MINI Cooper S in the styling stakes, the Volkswagen Polo GTI is comparatively subtle and it will appeal to those who don’t want to attract attention.
There are lots of GTI goodies inside to match the Polo’s sporty exterior. The seats are finished in Volkswagen’s iconic ‘Clark’ upholstery, while a leather-wrapped sports steering wheel and GTI gear knob are also included. Our test car features contrasting red-coloured trim along the centre console, while the eight-inch glass infotainment screen is a joy to use. Our test car boasts an optional Active Info Display that presents driving information in digital fashion and it even has an integrated lap timer, although it is an expensive addition. In terms of space, the Polo GTI lacks the practicality of the Golf GTI, however it is roomy enough to transport four passengers in relative comfort.
The Polo GTI is equipped with sports suspension and an electronic differential lock as standard for increased agility out on the road, although it isn’t available with a limited slip-differential. It’s an incredibly fun car to drive and the setup is accommodating enough for bumpier road surfaces. The Polo GTI holds the road very well and the steering is responsive, although cabin noise is noticeable at motorway speeds due to large alloy wheels. The new Ford Fiesta remains the best handling car in the class with sharp steering and a playful chassis, while the Polo GTI is well setup for general day-to-day use.
Prices for the Volkswagen Polo GTI start from €32,395 which is closer to the entry-level Volkswagen Golf GTI than you might think (€38,195). That said, it is equipped with an array of features including Volkswagen’s latest infotainment and App Connect systems, front and rear park distance control, pedestrian monitoring and the aforementioned GTI interior and exterior upgrades. A Technology Upgrade is also available at a discounted rate of €499 for a limited time, which adds a Rear-View Camera, Folding Mirrors, Active Info Display and a Lights and Vision Package. Other optional extras on our test car include Keyless access and two-zone climate control.
Carzone verdict: 4/5
The new Volkswagen Polo GTI is a standout hot supermini, with smile-inducing power, personality and poise. It’s rewarding to drive, with an excellent cabin that is filled with tech and sporty upgrades. Based on performance terms, the Polo GTI is only eclipsed by the latest Ford Fiesta ST, which offers superior acceleration and driving thrills. That said, as an all-round performance supermini package, the Polo GTI delivers in all of the right areas, and in a way that's better than ever before.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: Volkswagen Polo GTI
Prices from: €32,395
Price as tested: €36,024
Annual Road Tax: €280
Engine: 1,984cc four-cylinder TSI
Power/Torque: 200bhp / 320 Nm
Top Speed: 237km/h
0-100km/h: 6.7 seconds
Transmission: DSG six-speed automatic
Body style: Hatchback
Boot Space: 305 litres
Fiat 500 Abarth
Ford Fiesta ST
MINI Cooper S
Suzuki Swift Sport