Volkswagen Polo GTI road test review
PONIES, chukkas, corporate tents and free-flowing European beverages.
Polo isn't typically associated with good value. A ridiculously expensive sport where those attending seem more concerns about fashion, fine wine and salmon sandwiches, it's not quite fitting that the bargain of Volkswagen's range wears this moniker.
This GTI derivative is at least the range-topper, yet even the automatic version has a very affordable sub-$30,000 price tag.
That may well sound like a reasonable premium for a compact hatch. But we discovered it's money well spent, in a car that balances sporting performance with daily duties.
Fun beckons at the first introduction. With the GTI lineage highlighted by tartan cloth trim, a chunky flat-bottom steering wheel with red stitching, aluminium pedals and figure-hugging seats there is no doubting its pleasure machine intentions.
Those extra highlights raise the ambiance within a neat and practical cabin.
The driver has unblemished view of the instruments, with sharp analogue gauges taking pride of place within the binnacle. There is also a digital speedo available within a range of trip information, and you can toggle through various modes depending on your preference for information, from phone contacts through to radio stations.
Interior space is actually good for an offering in this pint-size segment.
Three adults across the rear bench will stretch friendships or perhaps encourage new ones, but we managed an adult and two children (one in a booster seat) without issue.
On the road
Sure-footed stickiness combined with beefy power delivery ensures regular thrills.
The beat within that hairy chest comes from a 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, which pumps out a decent 141 kilowatts.
Yet for those who can handle shifting gears themselves there is ample reward - 70 additional Newton metres of torque. That's some handy shunt, and when you punch your right foot it's traditionally accompanied by a wry smile from the driver.
Composure and adept cornering is assured no matter which transmission choice. The steering is beautifully weighted for open countryside flings but is also easy work for negotiating car parks and u-turns in tight city streets.
One of the best things about the Polo GTI is you don't have to be on the track to enjoy its ability.
A quick squirt of the throttle, rip into a bend without lifting the accelerator or dart out into traffic with confidence, it's a wonderfully adept hatch.
What do you get?
The basic equipment list includes 17-inch alloys, climate controlled air con, auto headlights, rain sensing wipers, auto dimming rear-view mirror, alarm system, touch-screen sound system and the expected GTI trinkets of a flat-bottom steering wheel along with sports seats.
You do have to fork out an additional $1700 for the Driver Assistance Package, which incorporates sat nav, park distance sensors front and rear plus rear view camera.
Those wanting luxury can opt for a $3300 collection which features Alcantara/leatherette seats, LED lights and a panoramic glass sunroof.
Primary competition comes from the Ford Fiesta ST ($25,990), but also the Peugeot 208 GTI ($29,990), Renault Clio RS 200 EDC ($28,790) and the Skoda Fabia RS ($27,990).
True to Volkswagen's promise, the automatic proved thriftier. With the DIY gearbox we managed about 7.5 litres for every 100km, while the self-shifter was about one litre better.
Servicing can be slightly higher than industry average, but capped price maintenance is available for the first 90,000km.
Boot space is compact, and those seeking to fit the extra junk in their trunk would be better suited to the bigger brother Golf.
With an ability to drop the rear seat backs 60-40 we still managed to fit an adult bike with one wheel removed.
There are two cup holders in the front, albeit close to the gear shifter (not an issue in the auto), while the USB, 12-volt plug and auxiliary port are also nearby alongside a handy nook perfect for phones and audio players.
Doors have space for bottles, and while there is a fold-down arm-rest for those up front it does get in the way of shifting for those who opt for the three-pedal GTI version.
The Polo GTI was one of our most enjoyable drives this year.
Undertaking family duties it excelled, all while offering engaging performance.
Its sporting ability doesn't require you to be breaking the speed limit, rather its engaging with confident cornering with a lovely burst of power available when summonsed.
What matters most
What we liked: Feels rock-solid, combines family duties with fun, manual option with extra torque punch.
What we'd like to see: Reversing camera standard, more attitude from the exhaust.
Warranty and servicing: Three years unlimited kilometre warranty and roadside assist. Capped price servicing for each calendar year, with services due every 15,000km at an average of $489 each service for the first 90,000km.
Model: 2015 Volkswagen Polo GTI.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive hot hatch.
Engine: 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 141kW @ 4300rpm and 320Nm @ 1450rpm (manual version) or 141kW @ 5400rpm and 250Nm @ 1250rpm (auto).
Transmission: Six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic.
Performance: 0-100kmh in 6.7 seconds.
Consumption: 6.1 litres/100km (combined average, manual) and 5.7 litres/100km (auto).
CO2: 142g/km (manual) or 132g/km (DSG).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $27,490 (manual) and $29,990 (auto).
Driving experience 18/20
Features and equipment 17/20
Functionality and comfort 16/20
Value for money 19/20
Style and design 17/20