Volkswagen Polo GTI hatchback (2010-2017) - Engines, drive & performance

The Volkswagen Polo GTI provides plenty of power and grip, but rivals are more fun to drive

Carbuyer Rating

3.8 out of 5

Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.0 out of 5

The Volkswagen Polo GTI feels more grown-up than most of its rivals. Where cars like the Ford Fiesta ST and Renault Clio Renaultsport wear their hard-edged driving experience on their sleeves, with firm suspension and loud exhausts, the Polo is far more restrained.

That makes it an interesting prospect for drivers who are happy to sacrifice the last few drops of driver engagement for something that’s a little more comfortable from day to day.

We say ‘a little’ more comfortable, because the Polo GTI is still a hot hatch, meaning that its target buyers expect a more sporty drive than the basic Volkswagen Polo. The GTI features lower and firmer suspension and a clever XDS electronic differential, which can brake the inside front wheel when cornering at speed to improve grip and stability. It’s a system borrowed from the Volkswagen Golf GTI and works very well, allowing the car to catapult out of corners.

There’s an optional sport pack available, which allows the driver to alter the suspension’s firmness, add weight to the steering and improve the accelerator pedal’s response. It certainly makes the car feel more alert, but the suspension could prove too firm for UK roads. We think it’s best to stick with the standard setup.

Volkswagen Polo GTI petrol engine

There’s only one engine available in the Polo GTI range – a 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol that develops 189bhp. All that power in a small car means that performance is brisk, with 0-62mph covered in 6.7 seconds and a 139mph top speed possible.

The engine is smooth and quiet at a motorway cruise, with a sporty rasp evident when the car is at tickover or being pushed hard. The way the car produces its power means that overtaking is easy and safe.

There’s also the choice of a six-speed manual gearbox (fitted as standard) or a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission for an additional £1,250. The automatic features shift paddles on the steering wheel, but still works well if you leave it in drive and let it change gear itself. It makes fast, decisive shifts, and as an added bonus, the exhaust rasps when you change up a gear at speed.

The automatic is far better than that offered in the Renault Clio Renaultsport, meaning the Polo GTI is the top choice for buyers seeking a two-pedal hot hatch. But for all its clever technology, we still prefer the six-speed manual transmission, as it suits the character of a car like this a bit better.

Recommended

Volkswagen Polo vs Ford Fiesta vs Vauxhall Corsa
Volkswagen Polo vs Ford Fiesta vs Vauxhall Corsa header
Superminis
8 Sep 2021

Volkswagen Polo vs Ford Fiesta vs Vauxhall Corsa

Hot new Volkswagen Polo GTI unveiled
2021 Volkswagen Polo GTI
Volkswagen Polo GTI hatchback
30 Jun 2021

Hot new Volkswagen Polo GTI unveiled

Most Popular

Top 10 best hybrid cars 2021
Hyundai Tucson SUV review
Best cars
22 Oct 2021

Top 10 best hybrid cars 2021

Genesis GV80 SUV review
Genesis GV80 SUV
Genesis GV80
19 Oct 2021

Genesis GV80 SUV review

What is AdBlue?
What is adblue?
Tips and advice
18 Oct 2021

What is AdBlue?

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
10 Aug 2021

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Electric car charging station
Tips and advice
3 Jun 2021

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Tips and advice
29 Sep 2021

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
23 Jul 2021

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Top 10 best car interiors 2021
Peugeot 208 hatchback
Best cars
25 Jun 2021

Top 10 best car interiors 2021

Top 10 best electric cars 2021
Ioniq 5
Best cars
20 Oct 2021

Top 10 best electric cars 2021

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2021
Toyota Prius front 3/4 cornering
Best cars
10 Jun 2021

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2021

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks
Mercedes AMG A45 - rear
Hot hatches
25 Jun 2021

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks