Volkswagen Polo GTI hatchback
- First-class cabin
- Balance of comfort and speed
- Impressively powerful TSI engine
- Expensive to buy
- Too grown-up for some
- Not as much fun to drive as a Renaultsport Clio
"It's VW's most successful attempt yet at producing a down-sized Golf GTI."
Climb inside the Volkswagen Polo GTI and you could easily mistake it for a Golf GTI, such is the upmarket feel of the cabin. Build quality is exceptionally high for a supermini and the cockpit is loaded with technology. Two paddles mounted on the back of the steering wheel operate the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and VW's clever traction-control system sorts out the handling in sharp corners.
The Polo GTI is a very desirable supermini, but shares many parts with the cheaper Skoda Fabia vRS and SEAT Ibiza Cupra. Under the bonnet, the Polo GTI has a 1.4-litre TSI litre petrol engine which is both supercharged and turbocharged, so it's impressively quick yet also reasonably economical. Producing 178bhp, it catapults the Polo GTI from 0-62mph in a brisk 6.9 seconds.
MPG, running costs & CO2
This is one hot hatch that doesn't cost the earth to run
The Polo GTI's fuel economy is one of its most impressive traits. Capable of 47.9mpg, it also emits just 139g/km of CO2, resulting in an annual road-tax bill of just £115. Also, as it's a VW, it'll also hold its value very well compared to the competition.
Engines, drive & performance
A very grown-up little GTI, at home on B-roads and motorways
Although not as naturally capable in corners as the Ford Fiesta, the VW Polo GTI is fitted with stiffer suspension than other Polos, and as a result still provides plenty of smiles per mile. Body lean is almost non-existent and whilst it feels firm, the nippy GTI soaks up the bumps in a very grown-up manner. It possesses an uncanny ability to enterain you on back roads and relax you on motorways – a feat very few cars can manage.
The steering wheel-mounted paddles provide smooth gearchanges and the combination of plenty of power from low speeds with a seven-speed gearbox means there's always power to draw on for overtakes – or simply for the fun of it. As capable as it is, however, the GTI feels a bit disconnected from the road compared to older performance-focused Volkswagens.
Interior & comfort
Strikes the right balance between hot hatch and daily driver
The Polo GTI manages to be both comfortable and sporty, which is probably its trump card. A combination of peerless build quality and fresh interior design encourages passengers to relax, even if the driver is enjoying a twisty back road. Out on the open road or faced with the monotony of a long motorway journey, the GTI settles down and simply gets on with the job in hand. Road noise is well supressed, the engine is quiet in higher gears and the seats provide all the support you need. It all adds up to a very impressive piece of engineering that's also brilliantly packaged.
Practicality & boot space
Very practical considering its sporty credentials
The GTI has exactly the same level of practicality as the standard Polo. Both the three and five-door versions provide enough space for passengers, with the latter being slightly easier to climb in and out of. An easily accessible, good sized-boot with false floor and secure storage areas makes shopping trips a breeze, and the glovebox is also well designed and of a decent size.
Reliability & safety
All the usual VW running gear translates to good reliability
There have been no problems or recalls with Volkswagen's latest Polo and the 1.4-litre TSI engine has proven to be trouble-free, so buyers can purchase with confidence. A five-star score in the Euro NCAP crash test is another plus point.
Price, value for money & options
Similar price to a MINI Cooper S, but cabin does feel special
The Polo GTI's asking price does seem a lot when comapred with the rest of the range but the Polo GTI feels special and is a hoot to drive – either on a twisty back road or on longer journeys. Standard equipment isn't very impressive, but classy touches such as the tartan seats and flat-bottom steering wheel make the Polo feel like an upmarket product.