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Volkswagen Polo GTI 1.4 TSI 5-door

Click to view picture gallery“Downsizers just wanna have fun!
  And what better way than in the new
  GTI version of
VW’s latest Polo —
  it more than makes up for its small
  footprint with big (as in 142mph!)

THE UPSIDE TO DOWNSIZING is how car manufacturers have made their engines smaller in capacity yet they now produce more power, deliver better economy and lower CO2 emissions and go faster!

And it doesn't stop there the downsized cars might be less bulky but they're packed with all the equipment and technologies of larger cars. And can be just as rewarding to drive.

A particularly good example of quality downsizing is the supermini-sized Volkswagen Polo which, although outsold by its Golf big brother, is proving to be really popular over 45,000 UK sales last year and, in the first five months of this year, nearly 20,000 sold.

0-62mph in 6.9 and
a possible 47.9
mpg —

Volkswagen style!
The Polo GTI uses a revised 1.4-litre TSI twincharged (supercharger and turbocharger) 178bhp four-cylinder petrol engine that's 29bhp more powerful than the previous generation's unit. Just to prove that smaller stature doesn't cramp performance, the Polo GTI has a top speed of a quite mind-boggling 142mph! And it's quick off the line, too zero to 62mph takes a sharp 6.9 seconds.

But it's not all top-end power: the GTI's supercharger eliminates turbocharger lag and provides a high 184lb ft of torque from 2,000rpm.

Neither is this impressive performance achieved at the expense of fuel economy or high tailpipe emissions; the latest version is 25 per cent more fuel-efficient: the official combined cycle figure is 47.9mpg (33.4mpg on a brief test drive on country roads). And with CO2 emissions of 139g/km, road tax comes in at a not-so-bad 115 a year.

The new Polo GTI is available in three- and five-door hatchback bodystyles with prices starting at 18,795 for the three-door and 19,415 for the five-door.

The GTI's 178bhp TSI engine is mated to a compact seven-speed, twin-clutch DSG gearbox that transmits drive to the front wheels. Greater traction and less torque-steer are assured in all conditions thanks to the standard XDS electronic cross-axle traction control system, which is brilliant.

Powerful, go-faster small cars can be a real handful with unpredictable front-end grip and extreme torque-steer, especially during fast cornering, even on dry roads. The Polo GTI's XDS system irons out these traits without, thankfully, dulling the performance or driving enjoyment.

“The Polo 1.4 GTI
is a brilliant package —
a miniature Golf GTI
that goes just as fast,
drinks less fuel,
is cheaper for taxes,
costs much less to buy
and is of the same
high build quality...”
It is the balance of the Polo in general, and the GTI in particular, that impresses. Naturally the GTI features substantial revisions over the standard car, including unique gear ratios and the relocation of the battery from the engine bay to the boot in order to improve weight distribution.

New springs and dampers are fitted to sharpen responses and also give the GTI a 15mm lower ride height than the conventional Polo. The GTI also has slightly narrower front and rear tracks (1,443mm and 1,437mm respectively; a reduction of 20mm and 19mm) than the standard Polo a trait shared between the conventional Golf and the Golf GTI.

Talking of which, the Polo GTI's exterior styling cues are carried over from the Golf GTI, with a new front bumper featuring a deep airdam joined by a honeycomb grille element with horizontal red strips and a simple GTI badge; subtle sill extensions wrap around the lower edge of the body while at the back a new rear bumper features a small diffuser and a pair of chrome-tipped exhausts. 17-inch 'Monza' alloy wheels and uprated brakes with red callipers complete the 'GTI' look.

Inside, sports seats are finished in red-and-black tartan material, plus there's a flat-bottomed, red-stitched GTI steering wheel complete with gearshift paddles. Other GTI spec kit includes air conditioning, front and rear power windows, electric door mirrors, fully compatible sound system and split folding 60:40 rear seatbacks.

The Polo 1.4 GTI is a brilliant package a miniature Golf GTI that goes just as fast, drinks less fuel, is cheaper for taxes, costs much less to buy and is of the same high build quality. Anyone downsizing from, say, a Golf 2.0 GTI, will suffer no hardship whatsoever. Because the performance is virtually the same, the only real difference is the extra 6,215 the Golf GTI costs along with its lower fuel economy and higher road and company car taxes. — David Miles

Volkswagen Polo GTI 1.4 TSI 5-door | 19,415
Maximum speed: 142mph | 0-62mph: 6.9 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 33.4mpg
Power: 178bhp | Torque: 184lb ft | CO2 139g/km