Volkswagen Polo GTI (2005-2009) review

The Polo GTI looks similar to the Golf GTI, but doesn't match its bigger brother's superb ride and handling.

Overall Auto Express Rating

2.0 out of 5

Driving With all its GTI accoutrements, you'd expect a sporty drive. Certainly this is apparent in the ride, which is very firm - the GTI fidgets over rough surfaces. The damping doesn't seem to cope with imperfections too; you expect some firmness but the Polo is harsh, picking up motorway expansion joints and offering little in the way of cushioning. It's not such an attractive long-distance companion. And this is even less forgivable because the handling hasn't improved that much as a result. The car still rolls and feels nose heavy, lacks urgent turn-in and can't match the stability and surefootedness of the best. And while the brakes performed well, stopping the hatch from 60mph in 34.8 metres, the pedal is soft underfoot. However, thanks to its 1.8-litre turbocharged engine, performance doesn't disappoint. It has 148bhp and a beefy 220Nm of torque, helping it sprint to 60mph in 7.7 seconds. This is helped by the turbo delivering peak power at 1,950rpm, so the powerplant doesn't have to be worked too hard. In fact, mid-range performance is incredibly strong, and out on the open road, the GTI feels punchy and responsive.

Marketplace The Polo GTI line-up is simple - one petrol engine in either three-door or five-door guise. The 1.8-litre engine is one of the VW Group's most prolific, and has powered everything from the Audi TT to the Skoda Superb, but is an old unit and doesn't appear in more recent models. And while it is available in higher-power guises, it will be capped to 148bhp in the Polo GTI; its Ibiza sister car, from Seat, offers up to 180bhp in the even racier Cupra model - which also costs less than the Polo GTI! However, only the Polo could be mistaken for a Golf GTI, thanks to detailing such as the red-framed double-aspect grille, twin exhausts and five-spoke alloys. Other rivals to the hot Polo include Ford's Fiesta ST, the MINI Cooper S and the Renaultsport Clio 197.

Owning Inside, the traditional Interlagos chequered trim from the Golf GTI proudly features, covering extremely comfortable chairs. Deep-set silver-rimmed dials, as well as a leather steering wheel, are other trademark details that give the cabin a unique feel. Yet while it's comfortable and well laid out, the VW's driving environment isn't as enticing as more exciting rivals - although material quality does give it an expensive air. Rear legroom in the back is reasonable and the 270-litre boot is commodious. The Polo also scores highly with its good seating position and steering wheel that offers both reach and rake adjustment. Running costs seem a mixed bag; group 13 insurance isn't too high for a turbocharged hot hatch, while fuel economy seems middling on paper. A choice of variable or fixed-interval servicing, depending on your circumstances, ensures you won't visit the dealer more than you should - which may offset pricy-looking VW dealer rates. Retained values will be pretty good, but as the VW is an expensive proposition when new, monetary losses will still be higher than the competition.

Engines, performance and drive

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MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

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Interior, design and technology

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Practicality, comfort and boot space

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Reliability and Safety

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