Anyone who truly loves driving can appreciate a good Hot Hatch – a small car with big power (relatively speaking, of course) that is built with “enjoyment” being its sole purpose in life. So, of course, we here at OVERSTEER love them…
While the current breed of traditional Hot Hatches have all grown in size, power and price (Golf, Focus, Megane, etc), happily their smaller siblings have proven more than capable of stepping into the vacancy left by that growth. The Ford Fiesta ST that we recently revisited being the perfect example of that.
And so it goes over at Volkswagen – while the Golf GTi continues to get more powerful, more expensive and more awesome all the time, the cheery little Polo – a car more known for its ability as a shopping basket – has proven quite capable at filling the “inexpensive” part of what was the Hot Hatch job description.
Now we have a week with the latest incarnation of the littlest GTi – now packing a 140kW 1.8-litre turbo engine! We are expecting very good things indeed…
Likes: The Polo is a handsome little beast to begin with, the subtle GTi additions make it even better. Looks like a baby Golf, but is still distinctive from it. Wheels look great.
Dislikes: Red isn’t the Polo’s strongest colour. Subtle GTi additions perhaps a little too subtle.
Likes: Comfortable, high quality Volkswagen interior is expected, while the tartan fabric is simply brilliant. Seats are nicely comfortable, while the stereo has excellent sound quality and the touchscreen is fantastic. the chunky little flat-bottomed steering wheel is another highlight.
Dislikes: The armrest in between the front seats is annoying in different ways, regardless of what position it is folded into. Front seats are surprising a little too wide, but still look great.
Under the bonnet
Likes: The 1.8-litre turbo engine is simply brilliant – powerful and eager to rev, it not only brings big power to the tiny Polo, but also a remarkably grown-up big car demeanour. Seven-speed DSG transmission is equally brilliant and remarkably fast and smooth.
Dislikes: For all its power it is possibly a little too refined. A bit more mongrel (if only in noise) would be nice. While the DSG is brilliant (and far easier to live with for most of the time) a manual would be awesome…
On the road
Likes: The Polo GTi continues to mimic its big brother Golf GTi with its on-road behaviour – serious performance married to a fantastically capable and razor sharp chassis that, despite the power on tap, remains remarkably comfortable and incredibly capable at all time. Very little flusters the Polo, while the ride is remarkably compliant for such a sporty, great handling little Hot Hatch. Turn in is remarkable accurate and utterly smile-inducing as the little Polo darts into corners.
Dislikes: While the steering is wonderfully sharp, it is ever-so-slightly lacking in the ultimate communication.
The ever-increasing performance of the Hot Hatch segment continues to be utterly staggering. Previously cars like the Golf GTi were quick and nimble, but barely worried family sedans in terms of acceleration. Now the Golf destroys supercars of a decade ago, while the smaller Polo GTi has stepped in to the void – and then some.
The polish and capabilities of the Polo GTi are remarkable, particularly for the money, and given that it offers some seriously good performance as well is just remarkable.
But possibly the most remarkable aspect of the Polo is the refinement, comfort and fluid ride it provides in what is traditionally a fairly firm and uncompromising segment. It easily has the performance and handling to challenge our segment favourite Ford Fiesta ST, but is incredibly more refined and comfortable around town.
Like the ST, the Polo is simply incredibly fun on a winding back road, but quite unlike the ST, the Polo is comfortable, compliant and relaxed around town. So does this mean we have a new favourite baby Hot Hatch in the Polo GTi?
- PRICE (incl. GST/excl. on road costs): $35,990
- PRICE AS TESTED: $37,400
- ENGINE: 1.8-litre inline 4-cylinder petrol turbo
- TRANSMISSION: 7-speed DSG
- PERFORMANCE: 140kW/250Nm, o to 100km/h – 6.7 seconds
- FUEL ECONOMY: 5.6L/100km