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First drive: Volkswagen Polo GTI. Image by Volkswagen.

First drive: Volkswagen Polo GTI
Volkswagen’s Polo GTI is well-polished, but lacks that essential hot hatch fizz to make it an icon.


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Volkswagen Polo GTI

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Volkswagen Polo GTI+
Price: £22,645; starts at £21,145
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: seven-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
Combined economy: 47.8mpg
Top speed: 147mph
0-62mph: 6.7 seconds
Power: 200hp at 4,400-6,000rpm
Torque: 320Nm at 1,500-4,350rpm

What's this?

We'd forgive people for confusing the new Volkswagen Polo with its senior Golf sibling. Not only is the Polo larger than before, but it has a more mature look. The similarities carry across to the GTI versions, with common design touches such as the bold red stripe running through the front grille and headlights. But you won't mistake the GTI version for a regular Polo thanks to the additional touches, like GTI badging on the wings, black sill extensions, a subtle boot spoiler and twin-tip exhaust.

The interior, just like the regular Polo, is tastefully finished, and several of the usual GTI features are included, such as tartan seat inserts and generous lashings of red trim. From a quality perspective, this latest generation Polo ranks highly, while the inclusion of the 10.5-inch Active Info Display on GTI+ models and the 8.0-inch 'Composition Media' infotainment system contribute to the car's modern feel. The seats provide more side support than in a regular Polo, but aren't as figure-hugging as some that feature in rival cars. You're not going to be sliding around in them, but nor are they so tight as to diminish comfort over longer journeys.

How does it drive?

Just like its relatively subtle styling, there's some deceptiveness to how the Polo GTI drives. Compare it to its rivals, namely the new Fiesta ST, and it isn't as raucous in how it performs. Yes, there is some engine tone channelled into the cabin, but it remains one of the more mature hot hatches on the market. That said, point-to-point it can keep up and, in the right hands, beat some of the others in the segment. It carries out its job efficiently and without fuss. Some buyers may like that about the Polo. Heck, de-badge one and, other than the red stripe running through the grille and the subtly brawnier styling, most other road users will think it's 'just another Polo'.

With a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine delivering 200hp via its front wheels and a weight of 1,355kg, the Polo GTI is a tidy package. Undoubtedly there will be some drivers that won't like the DSG-only transmission, but it's hard to fault. Left in its standard mode, it shifts through gears with that dual clutch quickness we've come to know. Switch up to Sport, work the engine harder, and the transmission responds well. Only sometimes will it refuse to give you a gear when you pull on the downshift paddle, which can become frustrating, but it's best just leaving it in full auto mode.

Longer runs highlight the healthy dose of torque that the engine produces. Its 320Nm peak is generously spread over a broad section of the rev range, rolling in from 1,500rpm. Volkswagen has decent form when it comes to giving a more natural feel to the current crop of electric power steering systems and it adds a weightier feel in Sport mode that doesn't feel unnatural; if anything, it could do with a touch more resistance to give the driver a greater sensation of that competent front-end biting harder. You have to try valiantly to unsettle the mid-sized GTI.


There's no doubting the performance credentials of this latest Polo GTI, but despite its swift pace, it lacks the excitement and sense of reward that others offer in the same class. In one sense Volkswagen has made the Polo almost too refined; we'd happily forego some sound insulation for a more neck-hair-raising engine note, live with a stiffer ride and relish a bit more bite from the steering. However, if you're in the market for a classy, polished hatchback that laps up the daily slog as easily as it clips along a good B-road, the Volkswagen comes close to being all things for all people.

3 3 3 3 3 Exterior Design

3 3 3 3 3 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

3 3 3 3 3 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain

Dave Humphreys - 20 Apr 2018    - Volkswagen road tests
- Volkswagen news
- Polo images

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI. Image by Volkswagen.2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI. Image by Volkswagen.2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI. Image by Volkswagen.2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI. Image by Volkswagen.2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI. Image by Volkswagen.

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI. Image by Volkswagen.2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI. Image by Volkswagen.2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI. Image by Volkswagen.2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI. Image by Volkswagen.2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI. Image by Volkswagen.


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