Volkswagen Polo 2019 gti
Owner Review

2019 Volkswagen Polo GTI review

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Well this review for the Polo GTI may be a little different to most as it's all from my perspective. Firstly to get the performance stats out of the way, it has a maximum speed of 237km/h (250 with a little help from the gradient and if the launch control is used), 0-100km/h in 6.15 seconds, 400 metres in 14.5 seconds, and if the hammer is kept down it will change into 6th gear at 200km/h. I know all this because I've read the tests and watched YouTube, so of course it must be true.

And this has no relevance to me.

We are probably not your typical GTI buyers, being in our late and mid 70's. The decision to downsize was after driving and being impressed by a family member's Kia Rio. In an urban environment it was so zippy and manoeuvrable, but it couldn't hack it out of the city limits in maintaining speeds on undulating roads.

Enter the Polo. We came across our example priced in the mid $30,000's with all three option packs and 500km.

Now for the part where we may offend some GTI fans. It will never ever go to a track, it will never fang around the twisties on a weekend morning nor will its acceleration times be tested. Launch control will remain unused, nor will the lap timer and power and turbo boost gauges. It will never be red lined (I understand the ECU won't allow it anyway), in fact the tacho will probably never go past the vertical (4000rpm). And just for a little salt in the wound we drive exclusively in Eco mode.

Why buy a GTI then? Effortless low engine speed torque is the answer. It's very satisfying to leave the lights on a very light throttle, short-shifting up to 3rd or 4th gear before the intersection is crossed, listening to the lovely baritone exhaust note getting gruff with each gear change and still keeping up with the pack. I can't see a situation where maximum throttle would be needed. It's antisocial in the city and unnecessary elsewhere.

The Luxury pack our car came with is not one I would have ordered - the sunroof will never be used, except the blind may be rolled back on a cold sunny morning. Heated seats feel nice under the thighs and up your back but we are close to the Queensland border so this feature is another one that will also not be used. The pity is the lovely characterful tartan seats are swapped out for this.

I think the LED DLR's and LED headlights also come with this package, but we don't drive at night. Also for some reason the rear of the car is given darker tinted windows too. The one part I do like is the rather ordinary 17-inch rims are replaced with some very good looking 18-inch rims. Tick.

The sound and vision package is one I would have ordered, mainly for the inbuilt navigation. The digital screen and dash look epic with the ability to configure the screen and dash to suit yourself. The map can be swapped from the screen to between the two main instruments, and as a party trick it can be expanded to cover the whole of the instrument panel. I leave it on the 8-inch screen and have the next route instruction in the instrument panel.

Unfortunately the mapping is years out of date and also offers some rather strange and dubious instructions. My old stick-on-the-window Navman is much better and easier to use. Also with this package is a rather good sound system which seems to have good clarity and bass, but loud music and heavy bass is frowned upon, so it's background music only.

The last package is the Driver Assist, which I think all should have. I've long maintained that cruise control must be one of the best car inventions but adaptive cruise takes it to a whole new level. Having said that, it is just an aid and one must be aware they are not foolproof. Picture a long sweeping uphill bend, coming up behind a car with a closing speed of probably 20km/h and expecting the system to do the normal thing, smoothly falling in behind to match speed - except the system sometimes never detects the vehicle, which then forces the driver to intervene.

Two other tricks are that it won't pass a vehicle on the left and if you are following a car that moves into a slip lane in preparation to turning left, the cruise remains locked on and will slow down almost to a stop if you don't intervene.

Front and rear parking sensors, combined with cross traffic alert mean it can get quite musical if parked in a confined space. The cross traffic buzzer seems to detect vehicles up to about 40-50 metres away. The auto park sorcery will remain unused, but blind-spot monitoring could be helpful.

Now, the automatic stop-start is a pest. It must be disabled upon each start instead of the other way around. I thought the auto wiper was a pointless gimmick, but they actually work very well.

The woman that lives in the dashboard somewhere can be a pest, telling me to switch on my lights even though it's 4pm on a sunny day. Trouble is she never gives up and has a message on the instrument panel right where the next route instruction is. She is also good at throwing up safety messages onto the screen which won't go away until you acknowledge them.

The thing is that I love it to bits even with it's little foibles, such as (twice now) it has somehow selected Sport mode over night and startled me next morning.

The transmission. I once saw it described as "grumpy" at low speeds. That sort of sums it up. It's not as syrupy as a torque converter gearbox but no worse than a manual gearbox. The pay off is those lightning quick shifts and the accompanying exhaust note.

One thing that swung us to the Polo was that it has passenger seat height adjustment; a must-have for my petite wife and almost impossible to find on small cars. But VW make you pay for that by having no grab handles, and no adjustable air vents in the back. I say adjustable because there are some pipes that dump air into the footwell beneath the front seats. There's also no rear centre armrest.

I would like it to be a little more refined, perhaps more sound deadening on the floor, but having said that it is a very relaxed cruiser, never needing to go over 2500rpm. 100km/h is less than 2000rpm, and 110km/h is a whisker over 2000rpm.

Summing up, it's that big hand of torque that scoops you up and pushes you forward that is so appealing. The go-getters have to wait for a track day or the weekend fang for their kicks, but I get mine every trip to the shops. Would I change it for the slightly larger Golf GTI with more refinement and grab handles and rear vents? I think saying goodbye to that gorgeous frosted facia would be a step too far.