Volkswagen Polo GTI

October 2006

picture of car from the front

Honeycomb grille is inherited from the Golf GTI

Ratings

Overall Rating 7Overall rating

Value for money Rating 7Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 6Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 7Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 8Controls and display

Comfort Rating 7Comfort

Security Rating 8Car security

Safety Rating 8Car safety


Likes

  • GTI styling improves the Polo shape
  • Five door option welcome in this class
  • Solid build quality is reassuring
  • Strong GTI image boosts appeal

Gripes

  • Handling is secure but not as entertaining as rivals
  • Dark interior is not saved by checked seats
  • Stereo system with sat nav is complicated
  • Engine is powerful enough but lacks sparkle

Volkswagen has added its most iconic badge to its supermini to create the most desirable Polo yet in the form of the GTI. With dynamic, mechanical and cosmetic changes designed to ensure it lives up to the legend, can it be a true baby brother to the Golf GTI?

Following the introduction of the revised Polo range in late 2005, Volkswagen has crowned the range with an all-new GTI. Like previous Polo GTIs and other Volkswagen models, this version aims to combine the comfort and usability of the regular car while adding a new dimension of performance and handling, making it the most desirable Polo and to compete with a range of performance superminis.

From the outside the Polo has clearly taken a number of cues from its dynamic bigger brother, the Golf GTI. The distinguishing features are the honeycomb grille, spoked alloy wheels, twin tail pipes, red brake callipers and discreet GTI badging, all of which also appear on the Golf.

Mechanically there are significant changes too. For the first time, the Polo GTI uses a turbocharged engine, a 1.8-litre unit found elsewhere in the VW Group range of cars. In this installation it is tuned to provide a competitive power output and a wide torque curve to maximise acceleration. Other changes include the uprated braking system and suspension revisions.

Inside there are subtle changes to distinguish the GTI from lesser Polos, including checked sports seats which hark back to earlier GTI models from Volkswagen, plus a chunky three spoke steering wheel which also shows influence from the larger Golf.

Our verdict on the Volkswagen Polo GTI

The Polo GTI builds on the qualities of the regular car, adding improved styling, performance and desirability, but as a hot supermini it falls a little behind the leaders of the pack. As an ownership prospect it is likely to be very satisfying, but ultimately it is not as fun to drive as its rivals, nor its bigger brother.

Costs
Costs rating 6

Variable servicing dependent on vehicle use means those covering lower mileages will benefit from even lower running costs, and the GTI requires no extra maintenance. Insurance and fuel costs will be higher however, and enthusiastic drivers may find themselves replacing front tyres more often.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 7

Inside the Polo provides a respectable amount of room, with decent headroom even with the high seating position. Front seat passengers also have plenty of legroom. In the rear, headroom is also good, and although there is less legroom for back seat passengers, only those sat behind very tall passengers will suffer. The boot is well shaped with a low loading lip and minimal intrusion from the rear lights, and with a 270 litre capacity with the seats up it will be enough for most needs. Inside there are many storage areas of various shapes and sizes, including a fair sized glovebox.

picture of car from the rear

Twin tailpipes are another GTI symbol

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 8

The simple design of the dashboard with clear markings makes it easy to use, with most of the controls grouped in the centre console. The instrument dials are smart, with attractive red needles and illumination.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 7

To be a true GTI the Polo needs to combine B-road entertainment with urban comfort, and to a certain degree it succeeds. Although the ride is firmer than regular models it rarely becomes crashy or uncomfortable. This sharpens the handling noticeably, and although it resists roll well it is not as sharp as some of its rivals. The 1.8-litre engine has enough power to move the Polo along sharply, but it never feels as quick as it could do, and the noise is uninspiring.

Car security
Security Rating 8

The standard fitment of an engine immobiliser and central locking are reassuring, and it is also fitted with an anti-hijack system. All the standard fitment stereo units are double sized to make fitment impossible in other vehicles, and are security coded.

Car safety
Safety Rating 8

Safety features include twin front airbags as standard, with the option of curtain and side airbags. All models have ABS fitted as standard, while ESP is fitted on the GTI, and available on other models as an option.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 6

To be a true GTI the Polo needs to combine B-road entertainment with urban comfort, and to a certain degree it succeeds. Although the ride is firmer than regular models it rarely becomes crashy or uncomfortable. This sharpens the handling noticeably, and although it resists roll well it is not as sharp as some of its rivals. The 1.8-litre engine has enough power to move the Polo along sharply, but it never feels as quick as it could do, and the noise is uninspiring.

picture of car interior

Checked seats and chunky steering wheel improve interior

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 8

In five-door form the Polo would make an excellent family car, although a family with more than four members might find it too small for their needs. Two Isofix mountings are fitted as standard, with the option of an integrated child seat and deactivation of the passenger side and front airbags.

First car appeal
First car Rating 6

Although the Polo is usually a good first car, the increased costs and performance of the GTI version make it less suitable for the inexperienced.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 8

This is one area where the Polo excels against its rivals. Although the Polo sets a high standard of quality in its own right, the image of its bigger sister models like the Golf and Passat filter down, making it a default choice for some buyers. The Polo's image borrows heavily from that of the Golf GTI, and is therefore likely to have a greater appeal than the regular Polo models.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

With a high roofline and solid, chunky door handles, gaining entry to the Polo is effortless. Rear seat passengers are also well catered for, although the amount of space in the footwell is relatively restricted.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

Upgraded from the previous model, the Polo's standard fitment stereo system is a radio and CD player with eight speakers. Well-labelled buttons and a reasonably sized display make it easy to use, while the sound quality is of a good standard. A sat-nav unit is also available as an option, although this leads to many buttons on a relatively small unit and the monochrome display can be hard to read.

picture of car in detail

1.8 turbo engine is powerful but lacks character

Colours and trim

The quality of the Polo's interior appears to be good, although some components do feel relatively cheap to touch. Despite this, the interior is well constructed and would stand up to many miles of hard use. The abundance of grey inside is a downside, although the striped seat trim unique to the GTI model is a welcome improvement.

Parking

A short rear overhang makes reversing into spaces straightforward, with a clear view around the car from all the interior mirrors. Parking sensors are an option on all models.

Spare wheel

Tyre inflation kit fitted beneath the boot floor.

 

Range information

Five engine options with a choice of power outputs - 1.2-litre petrol (54bhp and 63bhp); 1.4-litre petrol (74bhp, 85bhp FSI and 99bhp); 1.8-litre petrol (150bhp); 1.4-litre TDI (69bhp and 79bhp) and 1.9-litre TDI (99bhp and 128bhp). All are fitted with five-speed manual gearbox except the 128bhp TDI that has a six-speed manual as standard. An automatic gearbox is available on the 1.4-litre 7bhp petrol model. Trim designations start at E, then S, SE, Sport and GTI.

 

Alternative cars

Ford Fiesta ST Sparkling chassis, but dated interior and mediocre engine

Renault Clio Renaultsport 197 More expensive, but excellent dynamics make a superb drive

Seat Ibiza Cupra More than a match on performance, firm ride and dark cabin

Skoda Fabia vRS Diesel only hot hatch is a performance bargain



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October 2006