Volkswagen Polo GTI review - can it compete with the Fiesta ST?

Stuart Gallagher
30 Jun 2016

Capable rather than captivating

Evo Rating: 
VW build quality, GTI detailing
Doesn’t live up to the GTi name.

evo Verdict

Volkswagen’s new Polo GTi is a big step up from the car it replaces, and not just because it is no longer hampered by the 1.4-litre twincharged engine and DSG-only gearbox. However, the bar wasn’t exactly set that high to start with and ultimately the new Polo GTi is a good Polo rather than an exceptional hot hatch. 

It’s biggest failing is that it doesn’t feel genuinely quick, with a flat performance delivery and a chassis that is capable rather than captivating. If VW could hand the Polo GTi over to the same engineers responsible for the Golf R then the baby GTi may finally be in a position to challenge the class leaders.

evo Comment

There have been three generations of Polo GTI before and, before that, the borderline bonkers supercharged G40 - but none has guarded its Golf GTI-aping calibrations quite so preciously as this one.

Volkswagen must be hoping that attention to detail pays off because, up to now, its 'baby' GTI hasn't been a hit with British drivers, accounting for roughly two percent of Polo sales in the UK, whereast the full-size GTI currently ratchets up a much healthier 15 percent of Golf purchases. By aligning the pair more closely, this hotter Polo GTI's share of sales should improve.

By cloning the Golf GTI and resizing it with the subtlest of iPad finger swipes, Volkswagen has turned the Polo GTI into a very good car, but a Fiesta ST is still a more engaging hot hatch - David Vivian, contributing editor (evo 206)

evo Tip

The Sport Performance Kit is worth the investment as it can add a bit of extra spark to the less than exciting engine. It's also worth upgrading to the Discover Pro sat nav on the options sheet, as it's very good indeed.

Performance and 0-62 time > On paper, the Polo GTI is amongst the fastest hot hatches. But on the road it lacks any sense of urgency. Read all about the Volkswagen Polo GTI performance here

Ride and handling > The Polo is planted, offering ample grip with no sharp surprises. But this solid handling also restricts fun, as the Polo would rather hold its line than dance around underneath you. Read all about the Polo GTI's ride and handling here

Engine and gearbox > The engine's lack of urgency translates into a fairly tame feeling powertrain. Though acceleration is strong, the way power delivery peaks through the mid-range ensures the Polo GTI feels like a standard hatch with poke rather than an out-and-out hot hatch. Read all about the engine and gearbox on the Polo GTI here

Prices, specs and rivals > Many rivals undercut the GTI for price, but the VW's build quality is second-to-none. Read all about the Polo GTI's prices, specs and rivals here 

Interior and tech > The car's touchscreen is also amongst the very best in class, though screen graphics look a little dated. Read all about the Volkswagen Polo GTI's interior and tech here

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