Volkswagen Polo GTI hatchback
Price £16,230 - £20,775
- Stylish interior
- Powerful engine
- Balance of comfort and speed
- Feels too grown-up for some
- Not as much fun as a Fiesta ST
At a glance
“You can think of the Volkswagen Polo GTI as a mini-Golf GTI. It’s well built and good to drive, but lacks the fun factor of the Ford Fiesta ST.”
While the Volkswagen Golf GTI has cemented itself in the hearts of hot-hatch aficionados, the Volkswagen Polo GTI has never really repeated that feat. That's a shame, because the smaller Polo offers plenty of appeal.
The VW Polo GTI is a small hot hatch, in a similar vein to the Ford Fiesta ST and Renault Clio Renaultsport. But of the three, the Polo feels the most mature: it has more restrained styling and is the most refined on the move.
It's fun to drive, too, but the Fiesta ST edges it for all-round driver appeal. That model feels sharper and more alert, making it more fun to drive.
The Polo GTI is fractionally faster than the Ford – the VW's 0-62mph time of 6.7 seconds plays 6.9 for the Fiesta. And unlike the Fiesta and Clio, the Polo is available with both manual and automatic gearboxes – the Fiesta is manual-only, while the Clio is exclusively available as an automatic.
The Polo is also the only one of the three that can be bought in either three- or five-door form – the Clio is five-door only and the Fiesta is three-door only.
Where the Polo beats the Ford hands-down is for running costs. The three-door Polo GTI is a little more expensive than the range-topping Fiesta ST-3, but thanks to CO2 emissions of 129g/km, you’ll save £20 a year in road tax and the Polo will manage 50.4mpg fuel economy – better than the Fiesta.
Under the bonnet sits a 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine that produces 189bhp, and there's a wide range of electronic systems to ensure the Polo GTI can corner quickly while remaining impressively stable.
The styling certainly gives credence to the Polo's mini-Golf GTI claims. It shares similar red pinstriping on the front grille and wears an elegantly sporty bodykit and big wheels. Inside, there's red-and-black tartan upholstery – a trademark of all VW's GTI models.
The Polo GTI is more expensive than most of its rivals – only the equivalent Audi A1 and Alfa Romeo MiTo cost more. Standard equipment is similar to what you’ll find in a Fiesta ST-3, with Bluetooth phone connectivity, a DAB digital radio, a touchscreen infotainment controller, electric heated door mirrors and cruise control as standard. Sadly, climate control and sat-nav are options, costing £400 and £700 respectively.
There's only one GTI trim, so the only decision you’ll need to make is between the excellent DSG automatic gearbox and the standard six-speed manual transmission. We’d choose the manual, as it's more involving to drive and costs £1,250 less. Whether you want the three or five-door is more down to personal taste.
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