Volkswagen Polo GTI review - minature GTI has the power but can it deliver fun? - Ride and handling

Capable rather than captivating

Evo rating
Price
from £19,235
  • VW build quality, GTI detailing
  • Doesn’t live up to the GTI name

Ride and handling

The core of the Polo GTI’s chassis consists of coil springs with fixed rate dampers but it can be specified with VW’s optional Sports Select Suspension that allows you to adjust the damper setting (and the throttle mapping if you also specify the Sport Performance Kit). 

Left in their standard setting the dampers are too soft and offer little in the way of the body control you expect of today’s best hot hatches. At up to 80 percent of the car’s performance you’ll want for little from the baby GTI, but when you push for that last 20 percent the body control begins to ebb away as your pace increases. The result is you never feel the Polo GTI is truly holding it together beneath you and you back off as a consequence.

Switch to the stiffer, sportier damper setting and initially you welcome the improved body control. But the increase in ride stiffness is more of a hindrance and if you find yourself on a sequence of undulations and tough surfaces the GTI’s chassis soon runs out of ideas and you feel you’re reaching the limit of the dampers' travel sooner than you hoped. The flip side of this inconsistent chassis when at the limit is that the Polo GTI, when left in its normal chassis setting, is an excellent long distance car, but that’s not why we buy a hot hatch. Is it?

Unlike many of its rivals, the Polo GTI doesn’t come fitted with high performance tyres (Peugeot’s 208 GTI 30th Anniversary and the new Vauxhall Corsa VXR both come equipped with Michelin’s Super Sport tyre, for example) and it shows when you begin to explore its limits. Understeer sets in early compared to its rivals, although it remains consistent. This does restrict how early you can get back on the throttle at the exit; too early and the electric diff has its work cut out trying to keep the unloaded inside wheel from spinning. In the wet, the Polo GTI is best driven with less pace and more precision to avoid further frustration. 

Like its engine, the Polo GTI’s chassis is more luke warm than scorching hot, never truly coming alive or involving you in the process of enjoying the experience.

evo Comment

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)

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