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First Drive: New locally built Polo GTI gets cheaper

In a world where everything gets more expensive it’s unusual to pay less for more. But that’s exactly the deal you get with VW’s latest South African market hot hatch.

If you can’t quite stretch your budget past the R500k barrier for that desirable Golf7 GTI, there is another way. Something smaller and cheaper, but equally rewarding. Enter VW’s new Polo GTI and quite unbelievably, it retails for less than the car it replaces.

VW’s local manufacturing expertise has allowed Uitenhage to assemble all available current generation Polos and as such the GTI is no longer imported. That means you get it at R375 900, which is R11 600 cheaper than if you tried to buy one a few months ago.

The reduction in prize has not meant lessened anything. Engine capacity is up from 1.8- to 2-litres, which means you get 147kW and 320Nm, gains of 6kW and 70Nm respectively. The increase in torque makes for a notably more driveable hot hatch and has much to do with the 0-100kph sprint time of 6.7 seconds.

In terms of appearance the reshaped front bumper, red GTI detailing and 17-inch alloys distinguish this Polo GTI from its more sedate siblings. Optional 18-inch wheels add to the appearance and inside you can order a host of red inserts to enliven the cabin – but only if the exterior car colour isn’t scarlet.

New Polo GTI looks the business and with the additional urge it’s a much more credible hot hatch. Tidy around corners too, especially if you are using all 320Nm available, thanks to the XDS modulated front axle, which uses ABS electronics to enact a locking differential on the wheels. VW claims the Polo GTI’s XDS is worth 0.2g of additional lateral loading through corners, which makes for a much more agile car.

A car perhaps unfairly ignored due to the cachet of its larger GTI sibling, the quick Polo GTI has finally matured into something credible all on its own. The mechanical upgrades have delivered a car which can truly claim to be a junior GTI. And all of it coming to customers at a discounted price. What a deal.

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