In years gone by, you wouldn’t have made it past the bouncers at the hot-hatch club without a loud, raspy exhaust note to follow the clutch-dropping ceremony at every second stop street as well as suitably rock-hard suspension, vice grip-shaped sports seats and a menacing body kit to go with the obligatory backward turned baseball cap on the driver’s head.
I never really learned to wear my cap the wrong way round but I must admit that 10 years ago I had a serious appreciation for the typical old-school hot hatch, to the point where I could easily overlook the fact that it was about as comfortable as sitting on a jagged rock during an earthquake. Obviously I’m exaggerating here, but looking back at those boy-racer rides make me realise how much I’ve “grown up” over the years, even coming to value fancy interiors a lot more and qualities like a smooth ride. It sometimes feels like the modern hot hatch has grown up with me, but now the facelifted Volkswagen Polo GTI is making me question my own progression.
In the first few days with GTI junior my schedule subjected it to long, tedious slogs through city traffic and what struck me most was that in these conditions I felt like I was driving any other Polo. Its predecessor had a menacing mumble even at pedestrian pace and its arch-foe Fiesta ST is fun to drive at practically any speed, yet the new Polo GTI is just so silent, insulated and sophisticated that it hardly feels like a hot hatch.
BIGGER, MORE POWERFUL ENGINE
On paper it seems promising enough, having swopped the previous twin-charged 1.4-litre TSI turbopetrol engine for a 1.8-litre version of VW’s third-generation EA288 TSI, with power having risen by 9kW to 141kW between 4300 and 6200rpm. Torque in the seven-speed DSG version, featured here, remains at 250Nm as the gearbox doesn’t appear to have been designed for any more than that, but that twisting force is available across a far broader rev range: between 1250 and 5300rpm, versus 2000-4500 in the old model. Fuel consumption is reasonable enough for a hot hatch, with our unit having averaged 9.3 l/100km.