It’s the most powerful Polo GTI to date, and the five-door hatch goes up against Renault’s Clio RS 200 (147kW and 260Nm). Backed by a meaty 320Nm of torque, sports suspension and a front differential lock, this baby GTI (Gran Turismo Injection, in case you didn’t know what it meant) becomes the new hot-hatch flagship of the Polo range.
The 2-litre direct-injection petrol four-cylinder engine replaces the 141kW/250Nm 1.8-litre unit used in the previous-generation Polo GTI, representing a relatively minor 6kW power increase but a big torque hike of 70Nm.
The new car fires its power to the front wheels via a six-speed dual clutch gearbox (DSG), giving quoted performance figures of 0-100km/h in 6.7 seconds and a top speed of 237km/h. VW also claims a modest fuel thirst of just 5.9 litres per 100km - when driven sedately.
The Polo GTI’s ‘war paint’ includes a red stripe in the radiator grille, a sportier bumper with integrated spoiler lip and fog lights, 17-inch ‘Milton Keynes’ alloy wheels (18-inchers can be ordered optionally), red-painted brake callipers, and C-shaped black high-gloss air curtains in the bumper. An exclusive feature in the GTI is optional LED headlights with a red winglet, as a stylistic extension of the radiator grille’s red stripe.
At the rear, the GTI is identified from lesser Polos by its enlarged, two-piece roof spoiler painted black, along with a high-gloss black diffuser and chrome dual tailpipes, plus LED tail light clusters that provide a very distinctive light signature at night.
Interior glamour comprises a GTI gear knob and Art Velour upholstered sport seats, with black rooflining, red contrast stitching, and a multifunction sports steering wheel. The sports seats are optionally available in black leather upholstery with seat heating. The dash panel can be ordered in Deep Iron Metallic or Velvet Red.
The GTI rides 15mm lower than regular Polos and comes standard with sports suspension on steel springs, but for extra money you can opt for ‘Sport Select’ suspension with active dampers offering Normal and Sport modes. Whichever version you choose, the Polo GTI comes with driving profile selection which provides selectable Normal, Sport, Eco and Individual Modes.
Clawing power in all Polos is assisted by Electronic Stability Control (ESC), but in the GTI the handling is enhanced by the XDS differential lock.
I drove the new Polo GTI at its media launch in Cape Town last week and was impressed by the big-hearted performance of the small car. It’s a pleasingly swift hatch with enough power to cause a little torque steer when you give it full throttle in a pull-off, and at sea level the turbo engine has a lag-free power delivery that makes for brisk overtaking.
It has a rorty sound for some acoustic charm too.
The Polo GTI danced through Cape’s curvy mountain passes with endearing agility, and that XDS diff lock was effective at minimising understeer, particularly when accelerating out of tight corners. It’s a great little junior GTI for those who can’t afford the 550 grand pricetag of the big-brother Golf GTI.
The Polo GTI can be equipped with a vast range of optional convenience and assistance systems, including a large panoramic sunroof, and an Advanced Safety Package (which includes Parallel Park Assist, Park Distance Control, Rear View camera, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Traffic Alert, and Electric Folding mirrors).
Rear Traffic Alert takes much of the risk out of reversing from driveways and parking spaces. The radar-based sensor detects imminent collisions with passing traffic and produces an audible warning. If the driver or other road user don’t react, the system automatically activates the car’s brakes.
The new generation Active Info Display is another extra-cost option, and includes a 26cm display with high-quality graphics that customises the instrument panel to one of three layouts. Standard Infotainment is the 20cm Composition Media 20cm system (optionally with navigation).
The new VW Polo GTI DSG is priced at R375 900 which includes a 3 year/120 000km warranty and 3year/ 45 000km Volkswagen Service Plan.