Wolfsburg, Germany – It’s hard to believe that the Volkswagen Polo GTI has been around for 25 years.
Well, at least it’s harder for us South Africans to believe because we only received the second iteration that hit the scene in 2006. But however you look at it, the sporty hatchback model has hit the quarter-century milestone abroad and there’s now a special edition to celebrate.
The Volkswagen Polo GTI Edition 25 is set apart by a number of unique design features, and production will be limited to 2 500 units. Although local availability and timing have yet to be announced, the fact that South Africa is the only country that builds the Polo GTI is certainly in our favour.
“Our team in South Africa is really proud of this car,” says Martina Biene, managing director of VWSA. “The Polo has a long tradition here – especially the Polo GTI.”
But what sets the anniversary model apart from your regular Polo GTI?
For starters, it rolls on a set of 18-inch “Adelaide” Glossy Black alloy wheels, while the roof and exterior mirrors are now also finished in black to match.
Inside you’ll find premium sports seats in perforated black-red leather, and finished off with stitched GTI lettering. The cabin also features glossy black decorative trim with red accent highlights, a “25” logo on the steering wheel and a sill panel inscribed with “One of 2 500”.
In addition to the regular GTI colours – which are Kings Red, Reef Blue, Pure White, Smoke Grey and Deep Black Pearl Effect – the anniversary edition can also be ordered in Ascot Grey.
As per the standard Polo GTI models, the Edition 25 is powered by a 2.0-litre TSI turbopetrol engine that produces 152kW and 320Nm. VW quotes a 0-100km/h time of 6.5 seconds.
Of course, GTI-tuned sports suspension is part of the deal too, lowering the vehicle by 15mm, and the edition also ships with an XDS electronic diff lock.
Standard features on the Polo GTI Edition 25 include an 8.0-inch (20cm) Ready2Discover high-definition infotainment system as well as IQ.Light LED Matrix headlights. VW’s Travel Assist suite of driver assist gadgets is optional.
Watch Volkswagen brand CEO Thomas Schafer try it out for size in the video below:
Polo GTI: How it evolved
The Volkswagen Polo GTI was first launched abroad in 1998, based on Europe’s third-generation Polo hatchback range, which never came to South Africa, as we got the Seat Ibiza-based, locally-inspired, Polo Playa instead.
The original Polo GTI offered just 92kW from its normally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engine, and production was limited to 3 000 units worldwide.
It would be a while before Volkswagen launched another Polo GTI, with the second iteration launching in 2006, and also arriving in South Africa for the first time. Power came from a 1.8-litre turbopetrol engine that produced 110kW and 220Nm, and later a motorsport-derived “Cup Edition” hit the scene with 132kW.
The engine was downsized to 1.4-litres when the next-generation Polo GTI was unleashed in 2010, but thanks to a combination of turbocharging and supercharging, this little engine-that-could packed a 141kW punch.
The current generation, introduced in 2021, is closer to the latest Golf GTI in spirit, with power coming from a 2.0-litre TSI with 152kW.