VW Polo GTI’s blast of nostalgia

Gemma Senington gets hot-hatach nostalgia after driving the fastest, most-focused, performance Polo.

You must have seen the 'like a Golf… but not a Golf' advert from Volkswagen? The one where a variety of hatchbacks and their positive attributes are described as being just 'like a Golf'.

Ironically that advert sums up its new Polo GTI because it sounds like a Golf, handles like a Golf and, er, looks like a Golf. Yes, everything, from the red honeycomb grille to the tartan seats all scream Golf.

Resemblances though, do not just come from the most recent generation and that is no bad thing.

VW says that the new Polo GTI harks back to the original G40 performance Polo, but actually it is more like a reincarnation of the older, less-refined but much-loved Golf GTI Mark II.


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As well as being almost identical in size to its older stablemat, the new Polo GTI has taken on the essence of the Mark II in its solid-but-chuckable character.

And that's all down to the Polo GTI's lightweight but well-built chassis which is propelled along by a turbocharged and supercharged 177bhp 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine. It's a German fire-cracker and one that will reignite your passion for VW.

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At last VW has given the baby of the family some credit, some life and some spirit by making this the fastest, most-focused, performance Polo yet.

The engine has a lovely rorty sound with a deep note in the mid-range and a lovely induction noise when you put your foot down.

You could say that this mini VW has a bit of a Napoleon Complex about it. Like a small but snappy Jack Russell, what it lacks in size it makes up for in plenty of character, energy and bite.

In slow-moving traffic the Polo GTI can feel frustrated, pulling and snapping at its chain. It wants to be let off the leash so that it can nip at the heels of rivals the Fabia VRS and Seat Ibiza Cupra which have the same engine, gearbox and chassis.

Although it is pint-sized and a bit of a giggle, the Polo GTI is actually very serious underneath. Its little 1.4 heart beats strong and can propel the car from 0-62 mph in 6.9 seconds and a top speed of 142mph.

The TSI engine really does deserve some praise. Supercharged and turbocharged, this clever little four- cylinder feels like a much bigger unit than it actually is. It can produce 177bhp and 184lb ft of torque from 2,000 to 4,500rpm.

Despite being performance driven, it can deliver 47mpg on the combined cycle while emitting just 139g/km of CO2.

The Polo GTI also manages to please those enthusiastic drivers who are being forced to give up their sportier cars in order to downsize.

The ride is on the firm side but you can live with that because the chassis feels nimble and responsive. This latest Polo is fitted with new springs and dampers and it has the same great XDS electronic differential system as, dare I say its name again, the Golf GTI.

This electronic cross-axle traction control system is for improved traction and handling which the Polo demonstrates by gripping the road with steely determination. The brakes are also precise and the car always feels sure-footed and safe.

Gear changes are also smooth and efficient thanks to the seven-speed, twin-clutch DSG automatic gearbox.

Inside there's substantial space front and back, although tall rear-seat passengers may desire more legroom. The boot is a decent size and a low lip makes loading and unloading easy.

Practical but not boring, the Polo GTI still manages to look sporty with its flat-bottomed steering wheel, aluminium pedals and red stitching. Outside the sporty theme carries on with 17in wheels complete with red brake callipers.

The only thing lacking in the Polo GTI really is some more involvement and with that the car really would be the clone of the Mark II Golf GTI.

Unfortunately, there is no manual gearbox – a shame because manual lovers could end up looking elsewhere for some hot-hatch fun.

The biggest sting in the tail though is the fairly high price tag which starts at �19,410. Becoming a Polo GTI owner all depends on whether you are ruled by your head or your heart then because nostalgia is never far away in this lovable VW.

VOLKSWAGEN POLO GTI

Price: �19,410 (five-door)

Engine: 1.4-litre, 177bhp four-cylinder petrol with supercharger and turbocharger

Transmission: Seven-speed DSG automatic driving front wheels

Performance: 0-62mph 6.9 seconds; top speed 142mph

Economy: 47mpg combined

C02 emissions: 139g/km

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