GTIs HAVE BUILT A REPUTATION ON ACCESSIBILITY, SOPHISTICATION AND PRACTICALITY
close for the small choofs from the turbocharger, the muffled pops on overrun and a nice rort. They suit it.
But they need to. GTIs have built a reputation on accessibility, sophistication and practicality, and the Polo clearly values those things most. Even the incoming Fiesta ST has heeded the Polo’s steadfast focus on class and has been heavily upgraded in that area. The VW’s interior is the slickest here and, while the car is inherently practical, it’s also fast enough in a straight line to match a Golf GTI’s claimed acceleration times.
But the Polo GTI can only do so much. When you start to push on, suddenly it feels twice as tall as the others. It’s the most pliant car, but it’s low-speed ride isn’t all that much better than the others. That would be acceptable if it set a winding road on fire, but it doesn’t. Only its brakes.
Speaking of which, at 1285kg tare (which means empty but with fluids), the Polo is starting to creep up in size. Yes, it needs to seat five, but we need to draw the line on what makes a small hatch, well, small. On the other hand, its bigger spread of grip has made it a better handler, but we suspect the new Fiesta ST will be the go-to for razor-sharp responses.
And if that’s what you really want then you could just buy the BRZ tS. At $39,894, it costs as much as a Polo GTI fully optioned. Sure, it won’t have a chance in a straight line, but its extra grip has enhanced rather than spoilt the car’s core characteristics. A lot of charm already existed in the base car, but the tS’s unique Sachs dampers give the BRZ a better ride to make it more believable as a day-to-day chariot. And we don’t doubt you could drive to a track, bang out laps all day, only to have the car lap it up and take you home with a smile on its face. We like the interior’s infotainment system – it’s even better than the Mazda’s faux iDrive arrangement – and it’s also got rear seats and a decent boot to get you out of trouble.
But where the Mazda’s going, you don’t need luggage. It’s hard to quantify its appeal on sheer numbers, or price, as it is the most expensive car here and perhaps the slowest on a racetrack. But that new engine and tweaked chassis sprinkle brilliance on the MX-5’s already high appeal. Yes, it’s dearer. But one visit to its 7500rpm redline makes all other considerations, good or bad, fade away.
Caning the MX-5 on a clear, warm day with nothing but winding roads ahead of you is one of motoring’s greatest pleasures. And, as you’ll find out at the bowser, it won’t cost you much either. Even if you’ve spent the whole time taking corners with the throttle flat.
MAIN All these cars – even the pair of 2.0-litre atmos – are faster in the 400m sprint than a 5.0-litre V8 Commodore SS managed just two decades ago...