New Polo VI 2G (Typ AW) GTI+ 2.0 TSI (200 PS) 6-speed DSG The new Polo GTI is attractively styled, with excellent performance and fuel economy from its powerful 2.0-litreTSI engine and 6-speed DSG transmission. Along with agile handling and good ride quality, it offers virtually all the assets and comfort of the full-sized Golf GTI, at considerably less cost…
NEW POLO GTI 2.0 TSI FULL ROAD TEST
We’ll happily refer to this as the new Polo GTI, but it’s worth reminding ourselves that the concept of a Polo GTI actually dates back some 20 years now, and that there was a high-performance version, the supercharged G40, even before then. As Richard Gooding has pointed out in his model history elsewhere in this issue, it was in 1999 that Volkswagen applied the famous GTI badge to the newly revised Mk 3 (6N2) Polo, which came to the UK in 2000. In fact our road test of that model was featured in, and on the cover of, the very first issue of Volkswagen Driver, the June edition published in mid-May 2000.
Since then it has progressed through several incarnations, from that high-revving 125 PS 1.6 16V engine, to the 150 PS turbocharged 1.8T in the 9N3 (2006-2009) and 180 PS twin-charged (supercharged and turbocharged) 1.4 TSI in the 6R (2010-2014) to the most recent 192 PS 1.8 TSI in the 6C model from2014 to 2017.
It has to be said that, although all Polo GTIs have lived up to their name – especially when you consider that several versions of the Golf GTI have been somewhat less than fully worthy of the term ‘hot hatch’ – the model in general has never been regarded with quite the same reverence. It has generally been considered somewhat more of a car for the ‘younger brother’, maybe even the sister, rather than for the serious fully mature GTI owner.
The latest model, though, looks set to change all that. Now only available with a five-door bodyshell, the new Mk 6 Polo GTI builds upon the features pioneered on the fully redesigned Polo that was introduced early last year, based on the new MQB A0 platform that is also used for the SEAT Ibiza and the new Audi A1. A slightly scaled-down version of the platform used for the Mk 7 Golf since 2013, it offers a number of physical and equipment advantages, including most of the driver assistance and infotainment technology usually associated with the larger models in the Volkswagen range.
Indeed, the new car is significantly bigger than the previous Polo and it is actually larger than the Mk 4 Golf in every dimension apart from length, and even that only slightly, at 4067mmcompared with 4149mm – the Polo just 82mm (3.2 inches) shorter.
Especially when endowed with all the traditional GTI styling features, such is its size that the new Polo GTI could easily be mistaken for a Mk 7 Golf GTI when seen briefly from a distance, especially from its frontal appearance. Look more closely and the most evident differences are that the Polo employs a body-coloured bar that forms the upper part of the grille. It’s not dissimilar in concept to the bonnet trims, known as grille spoilers, that used to be so popular as accessories on the earlier Golfs to fill in the ungainly gap between the bonnet and the top of the grille. The GTI is also differentiated from the less powerful Polo versions by C-shaped black high-gloss panels in the bottom part of the bumper.
Seen in profile, the most obvious difference is that the new Polo has a distinctive dimensional feature known as a ‘tornado line’, running along the upper flanks from the front wings to the rear C-pillar. Not just a single crease line, as is so often employed to break up the slab-sided appearance of most modern cars, this is actually a raised strip, at first glance looking almost like a stuck-on door protector but which is actually formed into the bodywork. Culminating in an arrowhead shape on the front wings, it also mounts the now mandatory dagger-shaped GTI inscriptions.
At the rear the Polo is more clearly differentiated by the fact that the LED tail light clusters remain apart from the tailgate, similar to the previous generation Polo, and of course it has a twin talipipe arrangement on the left-hand side rather than the two separate tailpipes on either side that are employed by the Mk 7 Golf GTI.
But the main improvement for the new Polo GTI is found under the bonnet, where it now has a version of the 2.0-litre 16-valve turbo TSI engine used in the Golf GTI.
Although a lower-powered version, with its 200 PS only a slight improvement on the previous Polo GTI’s 192 PS 1.8 TSI unit, the torque figure is much more healthy for the 2.0 TSI, producing 320 Nm compared with 250 for the previous Polo GTI with the 7-speed DSG transmission. The fact that it is produced over a narrower range of engine speeds also makes the new Polo GTI feel rather more punchy than before, but without seriously undermining its flexibility and tractability.
Its strong response is particularly noticeable when the Driver Profile Selection (DPS) function, engaged by using the button on the centre console next to the gear-shifter, is in the Sport mode. Not only does it sharpen up the throttle response, as well as add weight to the steering and suspension, but it also generates a more sporting engine noise within the cabin by means of a sound generator.
The new Polo is a little heavier than before and although its nominal power to weight ratio is in fact slightly inferior, that higher mid-range torque maintains its real-world performance, producing almost identical figures to the 1.8 TSI. We recorded a best 0-60 mph time of 6.45 seconds, as usual somewhat better than Volkswagen’s official figure for 0-100 kph (0-62mph) of 6.7 seconds. It’s also interesting to note that the power to weight ratio and outright performance of the new Polo GTI is virtually the same as that of the Mk 5 GTI with the 6-speed DSG transmission which we tested back in March 2005. Its performance is also not very far behind the current entry-level Mk 7.5 Golf GTI with 230 PS / 350 Nm that we tested in June 2017.
The new Polo GTI only comes with the 6-speed DSG transmission, although it has been suggested that a 6-speed manual option will follow later in the year. This is another indication of the high-torque nature of the new 2.0 TSI engine as the 6-speed DSG is a wet clutch unit, capable of handling higher torque than the dry clutch 7-speed unit that was used previously in the Polo GTI 1.8 TSI.
It is front-wheel drive, of course, and without the benefit of the special VAQ front differential used on the Golf GTI Performance the Polo GTI relies on the combination of EDL / ASR traction control and the electronic XDS system to keep wheel-spin under control and modulate the handling in tight corners. Nevertheless, the Polo GTI still feels quite lively when accelerating strongly in a straight line and while you could never accuse it of serious torque steer it pays to keep a firm hand on the steering wheel when using full power away from a standstill.
As impressive as its performance is, perhaps even more of a surprise was the excellent fuel economy achieved by this engine. Despite some fairly brisk driving, consistent with its inherent character, and the sort of full-bore performance testing that few owners will ever subject their cars to, unless they take part in drag strip events, we still recorded a very healthy 41 mpg between refills.
This was stretched even further, to 58 mpg with a very deliberate maximum economy drive while using the Eco setting on the DPS and cruising at around 60-65 mph on a long motorway journey. Volkswagen’s own figures suggest a combined figure of 47.9 mpg and extra-urban of 57.6mpg, now recorded using the new – more realistic – WLTP test regime, which may now actually be achievable with careful normal driving.
Admittedly, ambient conditions were really good for most of the test period, with warm dry road conditions throughout, but these mpg figures are still quite amazing for a 200 PS 2.0-litre turbocharged 16-valve petrol engine which is capable of such strong performance. Indeed, only a decade or so ago, you’d have been happy with those sort of mpg figures from a 1.9-litre TDI diesel engine.
Also worth noting is that, despite its 11.65:1 compression ratio and turbocharging, the Polo GTI can run happily on ordinary 95 RON premium fuel, although most enthusiasts will probably want to run on a high-quality high octane petrol like Shell V-Power or BP Ultimate, particularly in hot summer conditions. Even with the relatively small 40-litre tank capacity you should easily achieve over 300miles between refills. The good news is that the Polo GTI also has the dynamic ability to make good use of all that performance. There’s nothing revolutionary in its basic suspension setup, with conventional MacPherson strut coil-spring front suspension and torsion beam at the rear, along with uprated anti-roll bars and with a ride height 15mmlower than the standard car.
An important point here, because while some might have wished that the new MQB-based Polo had the four-link rear suspension, and the technical information in the small print of the brochure says that it has, the Polo GTI definitely has the torsion beam rear, and we’ve even taken the pictures to prove it!
Indeed, it could also be argued that the Polo GTI is probably better off with the simpler rear suspension set-up, given some of the problems with alignment and maintenance that can often occur with multi-link setups.
While it might seem like a retrograde step, there is really no deficiency at all with regards to the handling. In fact, it would take a skilled racing driver to be able to distinguish between the handling characteristics, to the extent that – if a driver didn’t know any better – they wouldn’t actually question which type of suspension was fitted.
The key to its superior ability is that the chassis development and dynamic handling was honed by none other than Karsten Schebsdat, the man responsible for the setup of the Mk 1 Ford Focus, Mk 5 Golf GTI and Porsche 911 GT2 as well as the GTI Clubsport S that took the lap record at the Nürburgring, assisted by development driver and TCR racer Benny Leuchter. It is quite clear as soon as you drive it that the Polo GTI offers a combination of agility and balance way beyond what you might expect of such a simple recipe.
Clearly, a high level of fine tuning and various tweaks, including substantially stiffer anti-roll bar bushes and a torsion beam rear axle that is 60 per cent stiffer than that of the standard Polo, have all combined to produce excellent handling while also retaining a good ride quality for a car of this size.
An important factor here is that, for the UK market, the Polo GTI comes with the two-stage switchable sports suspension as standard. This was formerly an optional extra on the previous Polo. Not to be confused with the fully adaptive Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) that is used on the Golf GTI, the Polo’s system simply has two fixed modes, Normal and Sport, which are instigated through the aforementined Driver Profile Selection (DPS) system.
The Sport setting is instantly firmer, with the damping rate enhanced to provide a much tighter suspension and much more immediate handling response although, inevitably, at the expense of a stiffer ride quality – not uncomfortable as such, just unecessary for normal driving. But at least you now have the choice.
The Polo GTI comes as standard with 7.5 x 17-inch alloy wheels, in a style called ‘Parker’ with 215/45 R17 tyres, with Continental SportContact5 fitted on our test car. There is an upgrade to 18-inch ‘Brescia’ alloy wheels with 215/40 R18 tyres, for a modest £350, but – tempting as it might be – we’d advise against it on the basis that both the wheels and tyres will be more vulnerable to damage and punctures, and the ride quality certainly won’t be improved in the process. The saving grace is that the Polo GTI does at least come with a space saver spare wheel and tyre, mounted on top of the battery which is located under the boot floor panel.
Another function of the larger sized Polo is that it does have a decent boot volume, with the added advantage of a variable height boot floor arrangement, with a standard capacity of 305 litres increasing to 1079 litres when the 60:40 split-folding rear seat is laid down. A word here about that rear seat arrangement, though, because while it provides three seat belt positions there is currently an issue with the left-rear seatbelt, such that it can unfasten unexpectedly, leaving a passenger unrestrained. If all three seats are occupied, the buckle for the middle seatbelt can foul the buckle for the outer, left-side seatbelt, releasing it without notice. A rare scenario, perhaps, since few people actually use that uncomfortable central rear seat position, but for the time being Volkswagen is advising owners not to use that central position and there is a warning sticker to that effect on the dashboard.
In all other respects the cabin environment is a major step up from previous Polos, with a general ambience almost on a par with that of the current Golf GTI, with a completely revised positioning of the infotainment screen, now predominantly touchscreen operation, arranged on a single visual axis for optimum visibility and ease of operation. Digital interfaces for smartphones also make it easier to bring the phones’ apps and various online services on board.
The Polo is the first GTI to have the latest generation of Active Info Display, with exclusive GTI graphics in a red-white-black design named ‘Sport’. This 10.5-inch high-resolution digital instrument cluster (standard on GTI+ models and a £325 option on others) features improved resolution and brightness and, along with the £650 Discover Navigation System, it allows full-screen display of maps, although it can’t show the map simultaneously on the infotainment screen.
Using a ‘View button’ on the multifunction steering wheel, the Info Display screen can be switched between three basic layouts: A view with instrument dials for engine rpm and vehicle speed, or a digital view without dials, and a digital view without dials with supplemental information which can be configured using the infotainment system. The infotainment unit with its 8.0-inch display also features a unique ‘GTI welcome’ screen. Apple Car Play is now standard, allowing an iPhone to be used safely while driving, for calls, messages, directions and to listen to music, while Siri voice control can also be operated using buttons on the steering wheel or the infotainment unit.
The Polo version features all the typical GTI styling features, with heavily bolstered front sports seats with adjustable head restraints trimmed in the familiar ‘Jacara red’ tartan style upholstery as standard, along with red contrast stitching, although a plain ‘Art Velours’ fabric, featuring Alcantara-style microfleece inserts and including heat seating, is available for £1000. Manual air-conditioning is standard, with dual-zone climate control available as a £415 option.
With a choice of colour scheme for the full width dashpad, the standard colour for this is Velvet red, which seems to have a somewhat ‘Marmite’ effect – while some seem to quite like it, this particular author has trouble in seeing beyond the colour and effect of the red oxide primer that formed such a strong part of his early motoring career. Fortunately, an alternative Deep Iron gloss finish is available as an alternative, at no extra cost.
It is worth noting here that the Polo GTI comes with two trim levels. In addition to the fairly comprehensive specification of the standard GTI, the GTI+ that we’ve tested here also comes with 65 per cent tinted windows from the B-pillar backwards, the Light and Sight pack, LED headlights, the aforementioned Active Info Display, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and keyless entry with start-stop button. As is increasingly the case, there is also a bewildering array of optional driver assistance systems and a wide range of optional extras, including the availability of the largest panoramic sunroof in its class, as fitted to our test car.
All things considered, with the standard model priced at £21,520 and even this GTI+ at £23,020, the new Polo GTI makes a very good case for itself. Attractively styled, without being too overt, and providing an excellent combination of performance and fuel economy from its powerful 2.0-litre TSI engine and 6-speed DSG transmission. Along with agile handling and good ride quality, it offers virtually all the assets and comfort of the full-sized Golf GTI, at considerably less cost, both in terms of initial purchase and subsequent running expenses. You’d have to pay £30,535 for the 5-door Golf GTI 2.0 TSI (230 PS) 6-speed DSG, and £31,755 for the Golf GTI Performance 5-door 2.0 TSI (245 PS) 6-speed DSG.
DIMENSIONS & WEIGHTS
Overall length/width/height (inches) 160.2/70.0/77.4
Overall length/width/height (mm) 4067/1751/1964+/1438
Wheelbase 100.4 in, 2549mm
Track, front/rear 59.9/58.9in, 1522/1496mm
Turning circle 34.8 ft, 10.6m
Unladen weight 2987 lb, 1355 kg
Total permitted weight 3924 lb, 1780 kg
Permitted trailer load; with brakes 2645 Ib, 1200 kg
Permitted trailer load; without brakes 1477 Ib, 670 kg
Luggage capacity, seat up/folded 305/1079 litres
Wheels and tyres 7.5 x 17 alloys 215/45 R17
UK insurance group 28E
‘Seen in profile, the most obvious difference is that the New Polo has a distinctive dimensional feature known as a ‘tornado line’, running along the upper flanks…’
‘The new Polo GTI only Comes with the 6-speed DSG transmission, Although it has been suggested that a 6-speed manual option will follow later in the year’
‘The Polo GTI definitely has the torsion beam rear, and we’ve even taken the pictures to prove it!’
‘The Polo is the first GTI to have the latest generation of Active Info Display, with exclusive GTI graphics in a red-white-black design named ‘Sport’
Facts and figures: Polo GTI+2.0 TSI (200PS) 6-speed DSG
ENGINE / FUEL ECONOMY/ACCELERATION
Displacement 1984 cc
Bore and stroke 82.5 x 92.8mm
Power output* 200 PS (147kW) @ 4400-6000 rpm
Maximum torque* 236 lb.ft. (320 Nm) @ 1500-4400 rpm
Compression ratio 11.65 :1
Valves per cylinder 2 inlet, 2 exhaust
Overall test value 41.2 mpg, 6.8 l/100km
Economical driving 58.2 mpg, 4.8 l/100km
Urban cycle 36.7 mpg, 7.7 l/100km
Extra urban cycle 57.6 mpg, 4.9 l/100km
Total 47.9 mpg, 5.9 l/100km
Fuel required Unleaded 95 RON
Fuel tank capacity 8.7 gallons, 40 litres
CO2 emission 134g/km
Maximum speed 147mph237 kph
0–50 mph 5.0 sec
0–60 mph 6.5 sec
0–70 mph 8.3 sec
0–80 mph 10.5 sec
30–50 mph (3rd gear) 2.4 sec
30–50 mph (4th gear) –
50–70 mph (3rd gear) 3.2 sec
50–70 mph (4th gear) –
50–70 mph (5th gear) –
50–70 mph (6th gear)
Acceleration figures recorded using VI Monitor. For more information visit the website at: www.vi-performance.com
|Model||Polo GTI 2.0 TSI 6-spd DSG||Polo GTI 1.8 TSI 7-spd DSG||Polo GTI
1.8 T 5-spd
|Power output, PS/kW||200/147||192/141||180/132||150/110||200/147||230/169|
|Maximum torque, lb.ft./Nm||236/320||184/250||184/250||162/220||207/280||258/350|
|Maximum speed, mph||147/237||146/236||142/229||134/216||145/233||155/250|
|30–50mph (third gear), sec||24||25||32||38||23||24|
|30–50mph (fourth gear), sec||–||–||–||55||–||–|
|50–70mph (third gear), sec||32||34||35||37||34||27|
|50-70 mph (fourth gear) sec||–||–||–||51||–||–|
|50–70mph (ﬁfth gear), sec||–||–||–||75||–||–|
|50–70mph (sixth gear), sec||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|Overall fuel consumption, mpg / l/100km||41.2/6.8||35.6/7.9||38.6/7.3||31.4/9.0||26.7/10.6||34.6/8.1|
|Unladen weight, lb/kg||2987/1355||2822/1280||2979/1269||2828/1283||2987/1355||3055/1386|
|Power/weight ratio, PS/ton||150/148||152/150||144/142||119/117||150/148||168/166|
|Test publication date||Oct ‘17||Apr ‘17||Mar ‘11||Jul ‘06||Mar ‘05||Jun ‘17|
…the main improvement for the new Polo GTI is that it now has aversion of the 2.0-litre 16-valve Turbo TSI engine, developing 200 PS and320 Nm, Which makes it feel rather more punchy than before, capable of a 0-60mph time of 6.45 seconds and a very healthy average of 41 mpg between refills, stretching even further to 58mpgona very deliberate maximum economy drive…’