Volkswagen Polo GTI review
The Volkswagen Polo GTI has a novel 1.4-litre twin-charged engine, a stiffened chassis set up and Golf GTI-inspired looks
The VW Polo GTI is the maker’s smallest hot hatch and lives in the shadow of the legendary Golf GTI, but it is an interesting pocket rocket in it's own right. Thanks to its Golf-inspired styling it looks the part and with a 178bhp 1.4-litre super and turbocharged engine matched to a twin-clutch paddleshift DSG gearbox it has all the latest toys from VW’s performance cupboard and is available in three or five-door trim.
Our choice: Polo GTI 1.4 TSI DSG 3dr
Taking most of its sporty styling cues from the much-loved Golf GTI, the Polo GTI has eye-catching red trim around its grille and nicely executed details inside and out. Attractive 17-inch alloys are standard and overall the racy Polo has a squat and muscular stance on the road.
Inside, classic features like chunky sports seats and a thick-rimmed steering wheel continue the upmarket hot hatch feel, while nice touches like red leather stitching and the aluminium effect pedals distinguish the interior design from lesser models.
The Volkswagen Polo GTI has all the ingredients to be a class leader but comes up short. The suspension has been retuned and the ride height lowered by 15mm, while the 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine, which combines a supercharger and turbo to deliver 178bhp and 250Nm of torque, is mated to a hi-tech twin-clutch transmission and an electronic limited-slip differential. But while performance is spirited, direct but lifeless steering and poor traction mean the Polo isn’t entertaining enough. Body control is decent but a stiff ride takes the edge off comfort.
Volkswagen has a well-earned reputation for building solid and safe cars. The Polo GTI gets driver, side and passenger airbags as standard but a curtain airbag is optional. ISOFIX is standard but there’s a small charge for front passenger airbag deactivation. The standard stability control works in conjunction with the electronic differential lock and the handling is very safe. Like all Volkswagen models the racy Polo gets a three-year/60,000-mile warranty.
The Polo cabin is logically laid out and there’s a decent amount of space for occupants, but taller rear seat passengers will find headroom tight. The 185-litre boot is small but 60/40 split folding rear seats tumble to increase carrying capacity to 882 litres. A multifunction wheel and heat insulating glass are optional, while the racy Polo gets a space saver spare wheel as standard.
For a hot hatch the Polo GTI is reasonably efficient. A claimed combined economy of 47.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 139g/km are decent given the performance on tap. Drive the GTI gently and use the DSG in auto mode and it’s a relatively calm machine that can achieve reasonable fuel consumption. With a Group 30 rating insurance costs will be an issue for younger drivers, but Volkswagen offers a fixed priced service plan making it easy to budget for maintenance.