Out goes the 1.8 TSI, the new Polo GTI gets a bigger motor
I’M HAVING A BIG PROBLEM WITH THE POLO GTI and that’s staying away from the usual road testy stuff – how the styling has evolved over the earlier Polo (very well indeed, especially the red stripe running through the headlamps), how there’s significantly more space at the rear (matching its class rivals now), how the cabin is a damn sight better looking (that dash is gorgeous, easily the best I’ve seen in this class) and how, in the current form, this Polo just cannot come to India (it is over four metres in length). I’m here to lap the track, so lap the track we shall.
First things first, out goes downsizing and the 1.8 TSI and in comes the 2.0 TSI from the Golf GTI. The power output is just shy of 200 at 197bhp while torque peaks at 320Nm, figures that leave some breathing room to the Golf GTI but are a massive jump over the Up GTI, especially since the Polo GTI tips the scales at a very competitive 1280kg. Jumping into the Polo from the Up feels like a big step up – launch it and the Polo GTI gets to 100kmph in just 6.7 seconds (just half a second shy of the Golf GTI) and there’s both muscle at the bottom end and a ripping top end. Where the Up is a puppy the Polo is a hound. Not a blood hound, but a hound nevertheless.
All the Polo GTIs lined up for us had the DSG gearbox, a manual only comes later this year, and while it takes a bit away from the driver engagement there’s no getting away
VW CLAIM THE POLO GTI IS THE MOST PLAYFUL AND DRIVER-FOCUSED YET AND ON TRACK IT DEFINITELY FEELS FRISKY
from the fact that you end up lapping the track quicker. There’s also polish to the chassis. VW claim the Polo GTI is the most playful and driver-focused yet and on the track it definitely feels frisky. ESP can never be fully turned off but in the Sport setting, and when pushed hard, the Polo shimmies its bum enough for you to be aware that you’re pushing its limits. This is also down to the torsion beam rear suspension, unlike the more expensive multi-link on the Golf that provides better stability and, consequently, manners. But otherwise the two share the same MQB toolkit and the Polo GTI definitely feels a big step up on the track, compared to the earlier car. There’s stronger bite from the front tyres and a tauter ride. The Polo even gets the XDS differential that, by braking the inside rear wheel, functions like a mechanical limited slip differential, though that said, I did experience a fair bit of inside wheel spin while attacking the tighter corners.
The biggest take away though is just how much quicker the Polo GTI has become. It’s true what they say, there’s no replacement for displacement.
Left: New Polo carries old Polo’s visual identity but is so much better looking. Wider, longer and more grown up too. Facing page: Cabin clearly the best in this class; GTI only gets a DSG for now