It’s fair to say Volkswagen’s 5th generation Polo GTI has been well received since its launch in 2010. Consecutive ‘Bang-For-Your-Buck’ awards from Motor Magazine and a sharp sticker price sent initial waiting lists on the longer side of 12 months. Add to the formula mini-me Golf looks, a turbo/supercharged engine combination and capable on road manners, the Polo GTI has consistently outsold its now discontinued (and less loved) VW cousin, the Skoda Fabia RS.
Fast forward to 2015 and this year brings a refresh to the Polo GTI to help fight off any mid model cycle wrinkles against newer and talented rivals. In which there are many; Ford’s Fiesta ST, Peugeot’s 208 GTI, Renault’s Clio RS, Fiat’s Abarth Essesse just to name a few.
Having said that, only the Clio RS is available in 5 doors and a self-shifting box, the rest are strictly manual and/or 3 door propositions. My daily chariot is a pre-facelift MY13 5 door coupled with the 7 speed DSG and (optional) bi-xenon lights.
Under the bonnet houses the twin-charged 1.4 which generates 132kw and 250nm. And it’s a gem of an engine, with punchy strong response from down low right through to the end of its rev range, belying its small capacity.
The decisive DSG no doubt plays a role in delivering its linearity, upshifting crisply via the wheel-mounted paddle shifters. If the sound of flatulence is your thing, then you’ll also appreciate the accompanying ‘farts’ that the gear changes provide.
Call on for spirited driving and the Polo remains a tractable and neutral companion as its decently weighted steering offers enough feedback through its tiller. It’s not a precision corner carving instrument, but an effective and fun point-and-shooter through the twisties, thanks to decent grip and standard fitment of the XDL (extended diff lock) technology.
Around town, the Polo rides firmly as our crappy Australian roads makes its handling-over-comfort bias known, fidgeting over bumps and potholes. It’s a trade-off I’ve come to accept; if you’re looking for a plush Golf-like ride, you won’t find it here.
Around town is also where my daily commute to work does little to help me achieve its claimed consumption, with my average consistently hovering around the 8L/100km mark. Long highway stints do see low 6’s, but anything below that would seem as though it was achieved in a laboratory under controlled conditions…
Inside, you’ll find plenty of Golf GTI hand-me-down details, which is no bad thing as I personally think it remains a benchmark in its class for quality and presentation. A chunky leather wrapped wheel, obligatory red stitching and the kilt-like tartan trim remain highlights of an already practical Polo interior. Under seat drawers and a proper armrest are thoughtful touches, whilst the fully flat folding rear seats please the rational purchasing part of the brain.
Standard features include cruise control, tyre pressure monitoring, climate control, Bluetooth phone/streaming and a handy trip which houses the digital speedo.
A basic 6.5” touch screen takes care of audio functions and whilst it’s simple to use, its low resolution and limited functionality detract a little from the infotainment experience. Another sore point is the aftermarket looking Bluetooth module which looks tacked onto the dash.
VW’s standard 3 year/unlimited kilometre warranty (combined with capped price servicing) isn’t class leading but the 15,000km/1 year service intervals do offset the slightly higher servicing costs.
Niggling issues over time have included a few rattles and rattles (fixed under warranty) and also complying with Volkswagen’s voluntary mass DSG recall.
Hence, these minor blemishes mean I mark the Polo a ‘B+’ on its ownership report card; not a trouble child but not a star performer either.
Overall, the Polo is an accomplished hot hatch that delivers solid, if not class leading dynamics against its peers. Whilst it may not steer as well as a Fiesta or offer the latest tech of the 208 GTI, it offers a breadth of talent across a range of key areas.
Even after two years of ownership, it’s the Polo’s combination of drivetrain, on road manners, slick cabin and all-round practicality that continue to impress.