Drive Test – VW Polo GTI



I don’t know if you have noticed this but there seems to be a race on at the moment between two fast food giants. A race to see who can produce the biggest burger. A burger with bigger everything; bigger buns, more cheese and most of all, much bigger beef patties. I’m sure you have seen the testosterone focused adverts on TV; it’s all quite amusing. However, what’s wrong with a normal sized burger? Why this need for these big over the top burgers?

What we really want is a plain and simple ‘Burger’. That’s where the new Polo GTI comes in. Its small, fun and most importantly…fast.

However, is the Polo GTI a real GTI or just an affordable way of getting the GTI badge to the masses?

The previous Polo GTI – although very popular- was a slight let down for me. This new version on the other hand is somewhat true to the GTI heritage. The original Golf GTI was a small, no fuss and fast little car designed in secret by only a handful of young designers and engineers. It was designed to be a small fast car and that’s exactly what the Polo GTI is.


As is the case with the Golf 6 GTI you have to look very closely to spot that it’s a GTI and the Polo is the same. One can be fooled into thinking it’s a standard Polo with GTI rims. Slight hints here and there prove that this in no ordinary Polo. If I was to be completely honest, I expected more. The Golf 6 GTI is the subtle hot hatch out there. The Polo GTI should have been more in your face with big wheels, wings and gills. Something along the lines of the Clio RS Cup, I loved the exterior look of the Clio over the Polo. Then again if you think about it, Volkswagen seems to do the subtle and classy thing very well.

Inside it’s typical Volkswagen. The thing with Volkswagen is that they don’t do ‘Over the top’ styling. The Polo is very simple inside much like the standard Polos on offer. Sure there are some GTI markings and the seats – alcantara and leather trim – are very sporty but other than that, there is not much difference to the rest of the range besides some brushed chrome surrounding the air vents and chrome accents on the control knobs. It’s a classy and refined interior with hints of its sporty nature. A flat-bottomed multifunction steering wheel completes the package.

It’s not the biggest of interiors but there is space to seat 4 people in relative comfort. The boot though is very small; I can’t really work out why because there is quite a big gap between the boot floor and the spare wheel housing? The rear seats can fold down but then only one friend can join you on your joy ride and that’s not nice.

The Polo is powered by a 1.4l engine which produces an impressive 132kW. The engine is both turbo charged and supercharged and the Polo produces 250Nm of torque. It’s a real little gem and sounds pretty good once you climb up into the higher rev range. Low down the note from the exhaust is well, low down – it’s throaty to say the least. The Polo gets from zero to 100km in just under 7 seconds which, if you know your stuff is about the same as its big brother, the Golf 6 GTI.


The Polo GTI comes standard with a 7 speed automatic DSG gearbox with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel for when you want to have some fun. Pop it into Sport mode and the revs climb, the throttle becomes super sensitive and the whole car livens up. In Sport mode the Polo will shift at about 7500rpm – this little car is to be taken seriously. Even a tuned BMW E36 328i stood no chance once the Polo hit second gear and the wheels stopped spinning.

If I had to fault something it would be that the Polo in the corners is not as convincing as say, a Clio RS Cup. I feel that the wheels – which are the ‘love them’ or ‘hate them’ 17-inch Denver alloys as seen on every GTI since 2005 – could have been bigger and the Polo’s ride height could have been slightly lower. It does feel that there is too much engine for the chassis. That said, the Polo offers a much softer ride than the Clio RS Cup.

The Polo can be thrashed to that very exclusive restaurant and the valet parking attendant will still open the door for you and call you sir. Some people may find that boring but then again they will probably opt for the Clio or MiTo in which case you, in the Polo will destroy them once you get out of the corner and onto a straight.

At R259 000, the Polo GTI makes a strong case when compared to rivals such as the similarly-priced Alfa Mito, Opel Corsa OPC and the Renault Clio RS. The Polo GTI comes with some neat standard equipment but things like PDC will set you back R3 510 and a panoramic roof will cost you R8 800. So be cautious about how much you are willing to spend on extras.

The Polo is a true little hot hatch, a real little firecracker. It’s like that nice cheese burger, nothing fancy or over the top, it is what it is and it does what it’s supposed to do well and that’s put a smile on your face. I just wish Volkswagen added that extra cheese.

-Justin Jacobs

 Drive Specs: VW Polo GTI

Engine: 1390cc Twincharged 4 cylinder petrol

Transmission: 7-speed DSG

Power (kW) 132 @ 6200rpm

Torque (Nm) 250 @ 2000-4500rpm

Kerb weight (kg) 1269

Driven wheels Front

0-100km/h 6.9s (claimed)

Price R259 000


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