I have a love of 'fast' VW models, however with the Golf R offering obscene capability it took away somewhat (for me) from the driving engagement offered from GTI models. You're more likely to see me driving a MK7.5 Golf GTI than a Golf R, purely because I find the driving experience more engaging and entirely rewarding.
What would you say then if I told you the Polo GTI was effectively a Golf GTI... but smaller?Realistically they have a similar power output (thanks to the same engine between them), however the Polo benefits from a smaller chassis (making it a bit more nimble) and also gets the slightly older 6-speed DSG box. DSG 'farts' are still a possibility, don't worry.
The exterior aesthetic is typically VW, and that's a good thing!
Over the last few years, the design language within the VAG group has changed somewhat. Volkswagen have moved away from the rounder design to a much sleeker and somewhat sharper finish. In turn, they've made me go from liking the designs to... loving them.
The front is unquestionably VW, with strong lines and a GTI 'band' letting those in front of you know what you're driving. Side on the Polo GTI also gives sweeping lines, a strong sports aesthetic and finishes off with brilliant designed diamond-cut alloys. Truly then, even that side profile shouts GTI. When you get to the back, you're met by a mix of Golf and Polo'ness, it is also where those 'flowing lines' finish. The back end is truly good looking and offers good proportions - unlike some competitor mini-hot-hatches.
For anyone who missed the GTI badge on the boot lid, they might spot the exhaust - the final shout of 'look at me, I'm a GTI'.
Interior wise, you get technology and comfort - all as standard
Thanks to the ever progressing VAG technologies, even a baby GTI gets bundled with technology and safety as standard. The virtual cockpit offers condensed information, with the infotainment being easy to navigate - paired with good standard audio quality. Visibility wise, you have no issues in keeping an eye on absolutely everything.
The seats hold you well, whilst not actually being 'performance' seats themselves. The 'Jacara' cloth is a lovely touch and actually means in the winter you don't freeze - in the summer you don't stick to them either. Everything is within a reasonable reach - as you'd expect for such a small car. Rear legroom is decent for the segment, but won't be winning any awards. Nor will the boot space, acceptable but not extensive. Getting out of the car with a bad back isn't an issue though, I can vouch - it's not so low you need a crane to get in and out.
The performance is surprisingly good!
Anything as small a Polo with a 2.0 petrol pushing 200PS / 320Nm is going to be fun, so thankfully VW nailed that. The exhilaration you get when throwing the Polo GTI around back roads can only be compared to Golf GTI's of years gone by. Responsive, savagely fun, grin enticing. At no point do you get bored of the loud pedal and at all times the Polo remains composed and seriously fun.
Steering wise you're met with a good and balanced feedback...oh and a sharp turn-in. The pedal feel is engaging and responsive - offering instant throttle response and brakes to put you through the windscreen. Where I feel the Polo GTI let the buyer down was with the DSG box, the old 6-speed from Golf of an era gone by. From what I've been told by numerous dealers, the manual currently is only available in LHD, as such the UK gets the older DSG box. Whilst not terrible, it makes you feel slightly less connected with the car than you'd ideally like. Really that's the only place the Polo doesn't exceed expectation, because in pretty much every other way it does exceed.
"Is it the best GTI ever made then?"
No, not even close. However I think it's almost the best GTI currently on sale. If it had a manual option for UK sellers, it would be 'the best' currently available. Simply, it's nimble and composed, frugal, decently spacious and looks great - what more could you want? In the hot-hatch segment it's also a nice alternative, not something you'll see loads of but something people will equally know. The Polo GTI gave me a driving feel I've not felt for many generations of GTI - whilst not taking away from the awesomeness of the Golf GTI, the Polo is something even more fun.