Volk­swa­gen Polo GTI 2,0 TSI DSG

Can the new Polo GTI close the gap to its leg­endary big­ger brother?

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -


R375 900

0-100 km/h:

6,65 sec


147 kw/320 N.m

Top speed:

237 km/h

CAR fuel in­dex:

7,08 L/100 km


134 g/km

LIKE an earnest younger sib­ling des­per­ate to mimic the suc­cesses of an over-achiev­ing older brother or sis­ter, imag­ine the weight of ex­pec­ta­tions placed on more youth­ful mem­bers of Volk­swa­gen’s grow­ing GTI fam­ily. As the ven­er­a­ble Golf GTI cel­e­brates its 41st year of con­tin­ued suc­cess, its smaller Polo-based clan mem­ber has strug­gled to find a bal­ance be­tween play­ing to its seg­ment-re­lated strengths and do­ing jus­tice to a badge lauded for its in­her­ent poise and mod­ern-day hot-hatch ver­sa­til­ity. It’s not that the first two Polo GTI at­tempts sold in our mar­ket (the Mk4 and Mk5) weren’t good cars in their own right. It’s just that nei­ther quite man­aged to match the same lev­els of all-con­quer­ing round­ed­ness as­so­ci­ated with the GTI badge.

Un­like the pre­vi­ous two ver­sions, the plan­ning for the lat­est GTI de­riv­a­tive be­gan at the de­vel­op­men­tal stages of the sixth-gen­er­a­tion Polo. Har­ness­ing the strengths of Volk­swa­gen’s MQB AO plat­form, the new flag­ship GTI model has been in­tro­duced early on in the Mk6 Polo’s life­cy­cle in or­der to bet­ter com­ple­ment the rest of the range as it evolves.

Built for the first time in SA at VW’S plant in Uiten­hage, the new­est GTI dis­tin­guishes it­self from other Po­los via suit­ably up­graded garb, in­clud­ing the red­badged Polo’s be­spoke body kit stretch­ing the car’s pro­file by 14 mm, dis­tinc­tive 17-inch al­loys, sig­na­ture red high­light­ing and a hon­ey­comb grille. There is a no­table un­der-the-skin re­vi­sion, too: an up­rated sports suspension (in­clud­ing new an­tiroll bar and damper set­tings) that low­ers the ride height by 15 mm.

Com­ple­ment­ing class-lead­ing lev­els of per­ceived build qual­ity, the flag­ship Polo’s in­te­rior gains snug sport seats, neat red high­light­ing and a leather-bound, flat-bot­tom steer­ing wheel lifted straight from the Golf GTI’S parts bin. Of the op­tional ex­tras fit­ted to our test unit, we’d forego the

Luxury Pack­age (cli­mate con­trol and key­less en­try) in favour of the sim­i­larly priced (R8 676) sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion Ac­tive Info Dis­play re­plac­ing a tra­di­tional in­stru­ment clus­ter with a crisp, highly con­fig­urable dig­i­tal dis­play screen.

Where large sec­tions of our two pre­vi­ously pub­lished Polo 6 range tests (Fe­bru­ary and April 2018) were ded­i­cated to man­ag­ing the com­pli­cated in­tri­ca­cies of VW’S lat­est-gen­er­a­tion 1,0-litre TSI driv­e­trains – our feel­ings re­main that the out­go­ing 1,2 TSI of­fered a bet­ter blend of per­for­mance and re­fine­ment – there are no such con­sid­er­a­tions with the GTI. Buck­ing the global trend to­wards down­siz­ing, the new flag­ship Polo has been fit­ted with the brand’s fa­mil­iar EA888 tur­bocharged 2,0-litre en­gine mated ex­clu­sively with a six-speed du­al­clutch trans­mis­sion (VWSA is un­likely to of­fer the man­ual ver­sion here). Tuned to of­fer 147 kw – as per the Golf 5 GTI – there’s also a healthy 320 N.m of torque avail­able be­tween 1 500 and 4 400 r/min.

While the claimed 0-100 km/h sprint time of the new car is the same (6,7 sec­onds) as the out­go­ing 141 kw/250 N.m 1,8 TSI Polo GTI, on our test strip the Mk6 recorded a best time of 6,65 sec­onds compared with the 6,97-se­cond fig­ure achieved in a road test of the older model (July 2015).

More sig­nif­i­cant than this straight-line fig­ure, though, is the way VW has man­aged to mimic the del­i­cate bal­ance be­tween per­for­mance and ev­ery­day us­abil­ity which has earned the Golf GTI its stel­lar rep­u­ta­tion. Build­ing on the al­ready more ac­com­plished un­der­pin­nings of the new Polo (in­clud­ing a longer wheel­base), the GTI gains both wider tracks front and rear, and the XDS elec­tronic dif­fer­en­tial from the stan­dard Golf 7 GTI. To­gether with new front-suspension knuck­les and a stiffer rear tor­sion beam, we’d go so far as to say that the op­tional two-set­ting damper con­trol (R5 044) of­fered in our mar­ket

VW has mim­icked the Golf GTI’S del­i­cate bal­ance

is un­nec­es­sary. Its firmest set­ting will likely prove tire­some; the de­fault setup strikes an al­ready im­pres­sive bal­ance be­tween ev­ery­day com­fort and as­tute body con­trol. Here, the fast Polo im­presses with sharp turn-in and a cor­re­spond­ing light­ness at the rear that lends it a more play­ful na­ture than be­fore.

A wel­come in­clu­sion in the menu of drive modes is an in­di­vid­ual set­ting al­low­ing for the con­fig­u­ra­tion of the car’s var­i­ous driv­ing modes through steer­ing weight, throt­tle re­sponse and (should it be fit­ted) damper set­tings.

If we have one com­plaint, it’s an ex­haust note with both a ten­dency to drone at cruis­ing speeds in sport mode and which doesn’t of­fer quite the same lev­els of au­ral sat­is­fac­tion with each gearshift as it does in the more pow­er­ful Golf de­riv­a­tives.


As we’ve come to ex­pect, each ver­sion of the new Polo we’ve en­coun­tered has man­aged to im­prove on the al­ready im­pres­sive (and class-lead­ing) model it has re­placed. And the lat­est GTI con­tin­ues this trend.

Sure­footed in its dy­nam­ics and well built, the new car takes a gi­ant step for­ward as a bona fide mem­ber of the GTI fam­ily, com­ing closer than ever to match­ing the virtues ex­uded by its more fa­mous big­ger brother. That its local as­sem­bly means its cheaper than be­fore is merely a bonus.

Also, built on a mod­ern plat­form and us­ing a driv­e­train we know from ex­pe­ri­ence can han­dle more, you have to won­der if VW might launch an even more fo­cused Polo GTI pack­age to pre­empt a po­ten­tial change of heart from Ford SA to launch the new Fiesta ST lo­cally.

from be­low Op­tional Luxury Pack­age adds key­less go and au­to­matic cli­mate con­trol; cloth sports seats are both com­fort­able and sup­port­ive (leather is an added-cost op­tion at R9 850 but adds heat­ing).

A Golf GTI slightly di­luted. Save your­self R170k and get this Terence Steenkamp

The ideal plat­form on which to build a more fo­cused Club­sport edi­tion Ian Mclaren

The most ex­cit­ing Polo GTI to date Ni­col Louw

clock­wise from top As ever, VW’S GTI line errs on sub­tle rather than shouty ex­te­rior styling; op­tional Ac­tive Info Dis­play in­cludes a lap timer; red high­light­ing in­cor­po­rated into head­lamp design.

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