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 smallest hot hatch Volkswagen makes. This Polo forever lives in the shadow of the VW Golf GTI, its legendary bigger brother, but it's still a capable and rewarding hot hatch in its own right. Its main rivals are VW Group stablemates the Skoda Fabia vRS and SEAT Ibiza Cupra. Styling cues taken from the Golf GTI give the Polo a chunky, aggressive look, while the combination of a 178bhp, 1.4-litre twin-charged petrol engine and VW's twin-clutch DSG gearbox makes for exciting performance. The Polo GTI is available as both a three-door and five-door model, so those who need practicality don't have to miss out.
Our choice: Polo GTI 1.4 TSI DSG 3dr
The Volkswagen Polo GTI has taken inspiration from the Golf GTI to set itself apart from the regular Polo. This means distinctive red trim around the grille and smart details both outside and in. Sporty 17-inch alloy wheels come as standard, helping to give the hot Polo a muscular, purposeful stance. The interior features supportive sports seats and a chunky, leather-trimmed steering wheel, giving a classy feel to the cabin. You'll also spot red leather stitching and motorsport-style aluminium-effect pedals – both unique to the GTI version of the Polo.
The VW Polo GTI has 15mm lower suspension than the standard car and is powered by a 178bhp engine with a supercharger and turbocharger that produces 250Nm of torque. Power is delivered through the twin-clutch VW DSG gearbox and there's also an electronic limited-slip differential. This all looks quite promising on paper, but the car turns out to be a little disappointing to drive. It's certainly fast, yet poor traction and uncommunicative steering mean it's not as entertaining or involving as it could be. Body roll is well controlled in corners thanks to harder suspension, however the downside of this is a fairly firm and uncomfortable ride.
Volkswagen is renowned for building high-quality, solid and safe cars. The Polo GTI is no exception, and features driver, side and passenger airbags as standard. ISOFIX is also standard, though you have to pay extra for the ability to de-activate the front passenger airbag, and curtain airbags are also optional. The stability control and electronic differential lock work together to deliver very safe and predictable handling in slippery conditions. Reliability is generally good, and you also enjoy peace of mind thanks to VW's standard three-year/60,000-mile warranty.
A logically laid-out cabin and plenty of room for most passengers mean the Polo scores well here, although taller adults may find their heads brushing the roof if they sit in the back. With the rear seats in place, the boot only hold 185 litres of luggage, but that increases to 882 litres when they're folded flat. The Polo GTI has a space-saving spare wheel as standard, too.
The Polo GTI is reasonably efficient for a hot hatch. In normal everyday driving, it should return almost 48mpg, and with CO2 emissions of just 139g/km, tax and company-car bills will be manageable, too. Economy is helped by the standard twin-clutch DSG gearbox, although some keen drivers will no doubt be disappointed at the lack of a manual version. As a desirable high-performance car, the Polo GTI will be quite pricey to insure – especially for young drivers – but fixed-price packages help to keep servicing costs under control.