I WELL remember a very long time ago testing the very first Golf GTi and being blown away by what was a total game changer in the hot hatch market.
In fact many people attribute the Golf as being the very first proper hot hatch… well now comes an upgrade for its little brother as the Mk4 Polo GTi is launched.
However, when I say little the 2019 performance Polo is actually bigger than that first Mk1 Golf – quite literally a growing trend in car design.
Look at a 1960s Mini and marvel at how five people were supposed to be able to squeeze inside. And go even further back and take a look at the Austin Seven – which now looks more like it should be on a child’s amusement park ride rather than the road.
The other thing that has, inevitably, grown is the price of a ‘small’ performance VW – our test 2.0-litre 200 PS six speed auto model is £20,660 on the road.
Yes – that’s right, AUTOMATIC. Normally not a word that goes with small performance hatchbacks but in this case it is a marriage made in petrolhead heaven.
As the Polo is light-ish (1,355kg) and has a relatively big 2-litre turbocharged engine it can compensate for the inevitable loss of power an auto brings. Plant the throttle in sport mode and this little flyer makes a great noise as it shoots you towards 62mph in just 6.7 seconds on your way to a 147mph top speed.
There’s quite a lot that’s new and about the latest VW GTi. The Mk1 in 2000 had just 123bhp from its 1.6 non-turbo engine; 18 years later and we are up to 197bhp and almost 2sec quicker from 0-62mph than the original. And that 2-litre power plant from the Golf GTi is the biggest yet for a hot Polo.
The car is available in five-door and front-wheel drive only. It has a six-speed twin-clutch DSG automatic gearbox or six-speed manual.
There are four drive modes from eco through normal, sport and individual, which allows manual settings for steering, drive and engine sound as well as ‘Sport Select’ adjustable suspension.
In eco VW claim the GTi will do a shade under 47mpg – not bad for a 2-litre petrol engine and a figure which seems perfectly achievable as I used the little flyer for a 400-mile round trip to a motoring event near Slough, only having to add £20 worth to the tank on the way back.
The Polo proved comfortable at motorway cruising and once on the twisty B roads putting it into Sport proved most rewarding – plenty of power, great handling and even a few little pops from the turbo on over-run via those twin rear pipes.
The standard kit list is impressive and includes a new Active Info Display which has high-end infotainment and driver assistance systems.
Also on board is a great selectable digital dash pod which can show regular dials or at the flick of a switch turn into a full screen sat nav – just like its Audi siblings.
The standard assistance systems in all Polos include Front Assist, Blind Spot Detection, Adaptive Cruise Control and a Stop & Go function – a first for a car with a manual handbrake
And our car also boasted Front Assist, a radar sensor controlled distance monitoring system; City emergency braking system and Predictive Pedestrian Protection, Driver Alert system, parking sensors, front and rear, auto wipers and headlights plus battery regeneration (energy recovery during braking).
There’s a GTi pack with different bumpers and front grille, rear spoiler, flared sills, chrome twin exhaust tailpipes, red brake callipers and GTi badging.
So it looks good and is a hoot to drive quickly – add to that the fact that residual values are expected to outperform all of its rivals over three years and you have a compelling case to put this little flyer on your driveway.
More information at www.vw.co.uk
By Motoring Editor Steve Howarth