Volkswagen’s new Polo GTI has large boots to fill as the previous generation model was much-loved by fans of the brand. And the good news is that the new Polo GTI has a great range of talents and makes a good case for itself as one of the more sensible offerings within the current range of supermini hot hatchbacks.
The Polo GTI has an impressive range and breadth of talents but despite packing Volkswagen’s ubiquitous turbocharged 2.0-litre engine under its bonnet it’s perhaps not quite as feisty as its rivals. Those looking for the ultimate thrills from their hot supermini would perhaps be best advised to have a closer look at Ford’s excellent Fiesta ST or MINI’s Cooper S. All three offer the best part of 200bhp but go about their business in quite disparate ways, with the Polo being the most ‘grown-up’ of the three.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with the Volkswagen’s basic ingredients and as a result it’s a great all-rounder but you might feel that it’s not quite as entertaining as its two main rivals when tackling a favourite back road. The flip side of the coin is that the Polo GTI has its rivals beaten for refinement on the motorway.
As you’d expect with a performance version of a supermini, the model line-up for the Polo GTI is not extensive, with just two versions to choose from, the standard GTI and the GTI+. Both use the tried and tested 2.0-litre VW Group turbocharged petrol engine mated to a six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission. Volkswagen is set to offer a manual gearbox in the near future too, and we feel this would suit the car better.
The DSG works seamlessly when punching up through the gears but is less happy when changing down, with pauses between the ratios that hamper your progress when trying to make full use of the car’s performance. And given this is meant to be a drivers’ car it’s likely that many buyers would be keen to have the additional interaction and control associated with a manual gearbox.
Both the GTI and GTI+ are very well equipped with suitably sporty, although somewhat restrained, styling add-ons. You get 17-inch alloys, sat nav, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The main difference between the two models is that the GTI+ offers Volkswagen’s Active Info Display which comprises a 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster with customisable menus and displays. While it’s a good system we don’t feel it’s worth the £1,500 price premium on the hot Polo.
Overall the Polo GTI takes a rather more mature take on the hot supermini than the majority of its rivals that are keener to provide driving thrills. The Polo is perhaps a little too refined and sensible for its own good when the entire reason for buying this model over a cheaper Polo model is to provide an entertaining driving experience. As an all-rounder it’s an excellent prospect, just not an exciting one.