Motor (Australia) - - COMPARISON TEST. POLO GTI V BRZ TS V MX-5 2.0 -

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...

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