The Citizen (KZN)

Jailbait for the bulletproo­f


- Mark Jones

It’s the only compact hot hatch left on the market.

Ilast drove a VW Polo GTI in 2020, and despite the car not changing during this time, I was looking forward to getting reacquaint­ed with this pocket rocket when VWSA offered us a drive.

What has changed is my 16-year-old daughter and her boyfriend have gone from being car-mad passengers to car-mad drivers, and the keys hadn’t even touched the counter when they were all over it, proving the aspiration­al pulling power of a Polo GTI amongst youngsters is a strong as ever.

There was a time when you could pick and choose your weapon in this hotly contested segment of the market if you didn’t want to drive the country’s most popular hatch with a GTI badge on it.

The loyal Ford and Opel fans could opt for the likes of the Fiesta ST and Corsa OPC, but these models have long disappeare­d from showroom floors, and now if you want to go play with a compact hot hatch, only the Polo GTI is available to you.

Playing means a 147kW and 320Nm, 2.0-litre turbocharg­ed TSI engine, paired to a six-speed DSG double clutch gearbox, running down to the front wheels through an XDS differenti­al lock that does its best to limit wheelspin, but seldom succeeds.

Riding 15mm lower than a run-of-the-mill commuter Polo, and offering a sport suspension with adaptive shocks (and optional 18-inch alloys), this GTI likes to remind you of your age (in my case) and that you are driving the sportiest derivative in the range.

But at least with standard driving profile selection that offers four driving modes, Eco, Individual, Normal and Sport, you can choose to set-up your Polo GTI to suit your mood or road conditions at the push of a button, thus retaining that everyday versatilit­y that makes VW GTI cars such popular choices for those who want more than just hardcore track or dragstrip driving.

Despite testing this exact same engine/gearbox combo twice before, we still took the Polo GTI to Gerotek to have a little look to see whether VW hadn’t maybe snuck some undeclared horsepower under the hood.

But the sprint numbers all came in within a few hundredths of a second of the previous runs.

What did catch us by surprise was the fact that the electronic top speed limiter that kicked in at 238km/h before, has seemingly disappeare­d and our test car ran way past this to 260km/h.

Rather academic in a world where you can attend open track days to show off your driving skills and not just your car’s computeris­ed launch control functions – and will gain you a criminal record if you choose to test this theory on a public road.

But for some, this is exactly why they buy a car like this. Bragging rights beat prison food when you are young and bullet proof.

When you get older, you prefer your morning cappuccino served by your partner, and not some cuddly mass murderer called Big Bubba.

Just like men my age should not have man buns and wear skinny jeans, I am too old to be driving a Polo GTI, but despite this, I really enjoyed my time with the Polo GTI, and I guess this is why it will remain as popular as it is.

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