Performance & Handling
The latest Polo GTI comes with a detuned version of the Golf’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder motor, in this guise producing 200PS (197bhp) and a more impressive 320Nm (236lb ft) of torque. That’s then routed through a six-speed auto box (unlike the big GTI’s seven) to the front wheels.
Even in the power arms race that the hot hatch world has become, that means that the Polo matches many of its competitors. There is no Clio Renaultsport at the moment, but there will be, and the old one had around 200bhp (or 220 for the Trophy) and the current benchmark – the Fiesta ST – is pretty much bang-on 200 horses.
So what can the Polo GTI do to stand out? Well Volkswagen’s game has never really been to produce the most grin-inducing, spankingly fun car around. In both the Golf R and Golf GTI VW have taken the view that what they can do with consistent excellency is controlled enjoyment. The Golf R is the fastest thing from A to B in its class, but while an i30N will leave you breathless, the Golf R helps you arrive with your suit un-creased. The front-wheel-drive nature of the GTI allows for a little more engagement.
On the road the GTI’s torque is delivered almost straight away – peaking at just 1,500rpm – and you can definitely feel it as you set off, the FWD system at time struggles to reign it all in, but this mostly manifests as tyre slip rather than torque steer. Peak power is at 4,400rpm and the little GTI will head on to 147mph if you have enough room.
Behind the wheel the Polo is undeniably quick, that hit of torque will get you to 62mph in 6.7 seconds, and the steering is light and responsive. Start the GTI up and it makes a decent enough noise, but nothing to compare to the Fiesta ST’s manic three-pot. Point to point the Polo suffers from perhaps the odd whiff of understeer – to be expected – but nothing to really startling. The performance is a totally flat delivery, with nothing to shock, but at the same time little to really send that frisson of excitement.