Volkswagen Polo GTI hatchback
Price £19,095 - £20,970
- Quick & powerful
- Everyday usability
- Comfortable and refined
- Is pricey next to competitors
- Some will find it too grown up
- Lacks the fun factor of some rivals
At a glance
“The Volkswagen Polo GTI is very much at the sensible end of the hot hatchback class. It’s quick and decent to drive, but rivals are much more fun.”
As a hot hatchback, the Volkswagen Polo GTI has always stood somewhat in the shadow of its bigger brother – the Volkswagen Golf GTI. This is something of a shame, because despite some shortcomings, the hot Polo still has plenty to recommend it.
In terms of rivals, the Polo GTI is a small hot hatchback, which puts it up against cars such as the fantastic Ford Fiesta ST, the Renault Clio Renaultsport, the Vauxhall Corsa VXR and the SEAT Ibiza Cupra. Out of these, the Polo is definitely the most grown-up – especially when compared to the fairly frenetic (but still great fun) Vauxhall and Ford.
It's here where the Polo does fall down slightly. Despite its strong engine and very well sorted handling, it feels almost too assured compared to the Fiesta ST. The Polo is comfortable and quiet, but at the same time just a little removed from the overall process of driving, whereas the Fiesta immerses you in the experience.
The Polo just about edges the Fiesta when it comes to outright performance – it’ll do 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds, while the Fiesta will takes 6.9 seconds. You can also have it with either a manual or a dual-clutch automatic gearbox, whereas the Fiesta is manual-only and the Renault is only available with automatic transmission. The Polo is also one of the few hot hatchbacks offered in both three or a five-door bodystyles.
One area where the VW trumps most of its rivals is running costs. It only emits 129g/km of CO2, which means an annual road-tax bill of £110, while the claimed 50.4mpg average fuel economy is impressive for such a powerful car.
The Polo produces 189bhp from its turbocharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. It's smooth, strong and makes the Polo feel properly quick. While the car isn’t particularly good fun in corners, it's very stable, controlled and predictable.
This grown-up feel is mirrored by the Polo's price – the entry-level three-door model costs the same as the top-spec Fiesta ST and comes with a similar amount of equipment. This means you get Bluetooth phone connectivity, DAB digital radio and cruise control. Disappointingly, however, you have to pay extra for things like climate control and sat nav – both of which you’d expect to comes as standard at this price.
Other than these, the only other two choices you’ll have to make are between a three or five-door body and a manual or automatic gearbox. Given that the auto costs a lot more than the manual, and further removes you from the driving experience, we’d recommend changing gears yourself.
The GTI gets all the same safety kit as the standard Polo, so Euro NCAP's five-star crash-safety rating still applies.
The Volkswagen Polo GTI is reasonably cheap to run, but expensive to buy
The Volkswagen Polo GTI provides plenty of power and grip, but rivals are more fun to drive
The high-quality interior is a stand-out feature of the Volkswagen Polo GTI, if a little conservative
Despite the performance on offer, the Volkswagen Polo GTI is practical for small families
The Volkswagen Polo GTI has a so-so reliability rating, but this is offset by good safety credentials