Most car people at some point in their driving career will have a GTI in their garage (or at least, been behind the wheel of one). Mine happened to be a Golf Mk 2 16v back in the ’80s and it has remained one of the standout vehicles I’ve had the pleasure of possessing. Since its inception in 1976, the Golf ‘benchmark hot hatch’ GTI has been in the crosshairs of most car marques ever since. However, now Volkswagen has another hot hatch for everyone to stand up and take notice of – and it’s called the Polo GTI.
I attended the NZ launch of the new Generation 6 Polo last year and have to say that I was impressed. It has sharp, good looks that are further enhanced with a ‘tornado line’ that runs around its entire body offering a sense of the dynamic even at rest. Despite having increased its overall dimensions to a shade over four metres long and just under two metres wide (with mirrors), it’s still a compact vehicle. But now it has far more room inside to play with increased leg and shoulder room and a boot with an extra seven litres (now 35 litres) over the previous model.
I had already enjoyed the driving characteristics of the one-litre turbo and the ‘sounds’ that the very hip Beats model had to offer, so when VW asked if I’d be keen to take the GTI for a spin, my reply was an emphatic, “Hell, yes!”
Having picked up various accolades both internationally and locally, there’s no doubt that the Polo is getting noticed in all the right places, but what of the GTI? Well simply put, to me, the GTI is an entirely different beast than its other Polo siblings. From the outset, it somehow looks wider and more stoic, especially in the pure white version I had been given. It has a racing red line that cuts along the honeycomb grille and chicanes through the hatch’s LED headlights. Then there are the sporty 17-inch feet with red brake calipers, lowered suspension, eye-catching spoilers and twin exhaust pipes that allude to its speedy prowess, a statement underlined by the discrete GTI badging. The sports story continues inside too. D-shape steering wheel, ‘Clark’ tartan upholstery on the bucket style seats, red stitching throughout and performance monitors on the infotainment screen, it’s ready for action and you’d better be too.
Under the bonnet is a two-litre, four-cylinder turbo engine that will quite happily deliver 147kW of power and 320Nm of torque via a six-speed DSG box, while 0-100km/h is achieved in 6.7 seconds and the top speed sits at 237km/h. Yet, fuel economy is only 5.9L/100km. But it’s the way it drives, that matters most.
As with the other Polos, the GTI is a front-wheel drive car, which when combined with the above numbers should result in lots of smoke from the tyres and very little else (maybe some torque steer for good measure). If this is what you desire (there are people out there that like to burn rubber I’m reliably informed, ahem), just find a racetrack, switch off the traction control, put your foot down hard and enjoy. But with the traction system engaged, you can still put your foot down, just be prepared to hang on.
The Polo GTI features VW’s XDS (torque vectoring system). XDS allows you to attack corners at an ambitious rate and electronically adjusts the braking to virtually eliminate the ‘under-steering’ that normally comes with high-powered front-wheel-drive cars. Of course, it can’t beat physics so common sense must prevail but the result is a truly thrilling ride.
As usual for my review, I used my time with the Polo as a work and leisure vehicle. Its increased size meant that my small family and I went about our chores in relative comfort, commutes to town and back were stress-free and it merged well into mall trawling. But just quietly, I preferred to be alone with the Polo GTI, traction firmly on, heading towards the twists and turns that make up the northern side of greater Auckland. The way it handled like a go-kart, its size, its ‘hot-hatchness’ all combined to invoke my VW GTI experiences of the past and all the fun that came with it – it even has a proper handbrake!
There’s talk that the Polo GTI is the new (or is that old) Golf and with its relative size and sense of style, I can see why. But I also beg to differ. The Golf GTI will always be the undisputed original hot-hatch, however, now with the Generation 6 Polo GTI, VW offers another compact and in my case ‘white hot’ GTI to truly ignite the sportscar market.