Engine and gearbox
The previous generation Polo GTI was only available with a DSG gearbox, and when paired with the 1.4-litre twincharged TSI engine it was far from an inspiring hot hatch package.
For the new Polo GTI VW has ditched the smaller engine, instead opting for a downsized version of the 2-litre unit found in the Golf GTI and R and the Polo GTI’s close rival Audi’s S1. The result is a grown up sounding engine but one that ultimately lacks the punch expected of it.
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With 189bhp on offer the Polo GTI’s new engine is on par with its rivals, such as the Fiesta ST, but that is where the similarities end. Where the Ford is full of effervescence the VW engine feels flat with no genuine enthusiasm to be revved or driven hard like the most exciting of hot hatches do.
The Polo GTI’s new engine does rev smoothly and cleanly however, the throttle response is crisp and sharp, and encourages heel and toe downshifts, responding with an enthusiastic flare of revs with every blip of the throttle. But that’s where the excitement ends.
Unlike its predecessor, the new Polo GTI can be had with a six-speed manual gearbox, with a seven-speed DSG now a cost option as opposed to being your only choice. The manual ‘box is nice to use with a clean shift around the gate, but the ratios don’t feel perfectly matched to the engine mapping, with the first two gears too short, third to fifth pretty much spot on and sixth almost an overdrive gear. It can make for frustrating progress on tight and technical B roads, with second often too short a gear and third too long to deliver the punch you expect out of slower turns.