Volkswagen Polo GTI vs. rivals

VW’s new Polo GTI is aiming for the top of the pocket rocket class. Does it have the go-kart-like thrills to see off Citroen and Skoda rivals?

Volkswagen Polo GTI vs. rivals
Any new go-faster VW is big news for hot hatch fans. The German company set the pocket rocket template more than 30 years ago when it pulled the wraps off its legendary Golf GTI. Can the Polo GTI repeat the feat, or has it outgrown its surroundings?
It certainly looks the part, with its Golf-inspired styling, while a host of chassis upgrades promises to deliver entertaining dynamics and a more grown-up drive. The Polo packs a hefty punch, too, courtesy of VW’s 178bhp 1.4-litre super and turbocharged engine. A twin-clutch paddleshift gearbox completes the racy makeover. We test the GTI in practical £19,410 five-door form, although a sleek three-door version is also available, for a saving of £620.
Here, it faces VW-owned Skoda’s recently launched Fabia vRS. Using the same engine and gearbox as the Polo, it promises equally strong performance, but with a value price. 
Completing our trio of contenders is Citroen’s DS3. In range-topping DSport 1.6 THP guise, the French flier serves up a tempting blend of head-turning style, driving fun and straight-line pace.
Will the Polo crush the opposition, or will the Skoda and Citroen punch a hole in its defences?

Verdict

All three of our contenders are aiming to deliver hot hatch thrills, but with a measure of grown-up refinement and practicality. 
In terms of raw performance, the new Polo scores highly, while classy looks and a well finished cabin give it an upmarket feel. This isn’t enough to justify the GTI’s exorbitant price, though.
And its problems don’t end there, because the car is also hobbled by uninvolving driving dynamics and a tiny boot. As a result, it finishes last in this test.
If it’s value for money you’re after, the Skoda Fabia is hard to fault. Take into account the firm’s current VAT-free offer, and you’ll struggle to find a car that delivers more performance per pound. 
Better still, it features a practical, solidly constructed interior. Choose the right exterior colour and wheel options, and the vRS even looks the part – but it still can’t topple the Citroen.
If you can live without a five-door layout, the striking DS3 serves up the best mix of performance, value, comfort and versatility. More importantly – and as with every hot hatch worthy of the name – it’s truly fun and engaging to drive.

Most Popular

Appreciating cars: classic cars that go up in value
Appreciators: Renault 5
Features

Appreciating cars: classic cars that go up in value

Looking to invest in a modern classic? Here are some cars destined to appreciate in value
4 May 2021
Ford Escort XR3: we drive the hot hatch pioneer
Ford Escort XR3
Ford

Ford Escort XR3: we drive the hot hatch pioneer

Hot hatches democratised performance, and one of the pioneers, the Ford Escort XR3, is now over 40 years old
5 May 2021
New 2022 Skoda Fabia grows in size and gets tech boost
Skoda Fabia - front
Skoda Fabia

New 2022 Skoda Fabia grows in size and gets tech boost

The new fourth-generation Skoda Fabia supermini is expected to hit UK showrooms early in 2022
4 May 2021