The GTI’s temperament over the years has always been more about flirting with the big names in the automotive fold than just being committed to daily mobility. Think of a Volkswagen Golf GTI versus, let’s say a Mercedes-AMG C63 S at the Sunday night drag racing meetups…
Yeah, sure, there is nothing wrong with that except for that one issue; it is probably illegal drag racing so can’t condone it. Well, on the legal side of things, the GTI nameplate forms part and parcel of any motoring discussion and if you’ve ever paid attention to that, you’ll know it’s pretty much the case with every GTI brought to the shores. Kudos to the 1976 VW Golf GTI Mk1 that instigated this.
When talking about the GTI insignia, the refreshed Polo GTI is the recent wearer of it and it has been in the surgeon's room for a much-needed nip and tuck and it’s up for a promising start.
With the refresh, the new Polo GTI hasn’t lost its essence, it still comes fitted with the signature GTI insignia, a red strip that runs across the grille to the headlights, the honeycomb structure of the air intake grille as well as red brake callipers. There is nothing out of the norm here, really, except for the light strip on the front radiator grille and IQ. Light LED matrix headlights that have become synonymous with the brand’s latest models.
Although the new Polo GTI doesn’t go large on extroverted styling, it rides on 18” Faro alloy wheels, it has new front and rear bumpers plus reworked rear and front LED lights.
If you look at the revived VW Polo GTI’s interior, it doesn’t holler ‘sporty’ from the get-go and if we were, to be honest, it doesn’t look that different from the standard edition. It is though an adequately furnished Polo with bits and pieces that give it a distinctly sportier feel.
The overall build quality remains on the absolute right with almost everything placed where it should be. It follows the same digital recipe as its bigger brother, the Golf 8 GTI, with few physical buttons and we laud VW for the reintroduction of the volume knob…
In the case of our test unit, the Polo GTI is fitted with every option available such as the Composition Media system with inductive mobile charging, panoramic roof, deep iron grey dashboard trim, Discover Media System with ‘Beats’ sound system, leather seat package, and a rear-view camera.
Speaking of the seats’ usability, they’re all supportive and comfortable with the driver’s seat offering a higher seating position that helps with a stellar driving position and excellent all-around visibility.
As a matter of fact, the new Polo GTI combats in the same power territory where the Golf 5 GTI was once monarch with its 147 kW and 280 Nm. Although at that time, the power figures sent shudders down your spine, well, on paper at least, as it positioned the Golf 5 GTI in a whole stable of stonking performance hatchery.
Now, the new Polo GTI wields almost the same power outputs of 147 kW and 320 Nm, thanks to a 2.0-litre TSI engine paired with a 6-speed DSG transmission driving the front wheels. While we can never fault the Polo GTI when it comes to performance, it has matured as a hot-hatch for your everyday needs.
Its zeal to gobble the tarmac ahead remains outstanding and that was apparent during the stint to Bushbuckridge. It doesn’t have the best-refined suspension but remains tight and ordered even when thrown into the tightest of corners. The Polo GTI takes off with little drama thanks to a suspension architecture that works. There is a bit of wind and tyre noise coming into the cabin at cruising speeds but not enough to really warrant a complaint.
The new Volkswagen Polo GTI’s recent makeover has given it a fresh new start in the slowly fading hot supermini segment. It is essentially the only model left as other manufacturers shift to focus on what works for them. Yes, the Polo GTI seems to be working for the local VW brand and our country being the sole exporter of it further ascertains that it is here to stay.
As impressive as it is, it comes at a price of R489,400. The price tag is sure to increase as you add more options. Take my word for it, you don’t want a ‘boring’ base Polo GTI… The Polo GTI is one of those steeds that are difficult to drive economically and even with that, we managed to average 7.5l/100 km.
It is backed up by a standard three-year/120,000 km Warranty, a three-year/45,000 km EasyDrive Service Plan and a 12-year Anti-Corrosion Warranty. The service interval is 15,000 km.
With the declining competition in the B-segment hot-hatch fold, the Volkswagen Polo GTI still stands as an offering of note and it persists to do so as a warmed-up and glorified supermini. It has been made better and it makes a strong case for itself as a genuine performance product.