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Volkswagen Polo GTI review – interior and tech

Solid and functional; GTI elements brighten up the cabin, but it lacks the niceties of some rivals

Evo rating
Price
from £28,905
  • Torquey, flexible and efficient powertrain
  • No life to the chassis; tough damping brings little benefit

Little if anything has changed with the Polo’s update, which isn't a bad thing. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its faults, however, as VW seems to be obsessed with capacitive controls for every part of a car’s function, which broadly speaking just don’t work very well. Of note here are the steering wheel and climate controls, which are similar to those found across the Golf and Tiguan, and both of which are frustrating to use and pointlessly complex compared to the old units.

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The digital interfaces are still based on those of the previous car, though, so while you have to put up with the ancient-looking menu screens and irritating complexity, they’re not quite as frustrating to use as the system in a Mk8 Golf.

The interior otherwise feels well screwed together, even if the cabin’s materials really are the bare minimum of acceptable. The GTI bits are crucial to lifting its ambiance, as the tartan seats and red stitching, augmented with elements such as the giant slab of red plastic stretched across the dashboard, help lift the interior.

> Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk8 2023 review – still the quintessential hot hatch?

The seats are offer a reasonable level of lateral support without resorting to restrictive, supersized bolsters, but we'd like to be able to sit lower. While your experience may vary, I also experienced some lower back discomfort on longer drives, with not quite enough support in certain areas. When optioning yours, avoid the micro-suede option, as these seats are swapped out for the basic chairs found in other Polo models. 

It would be nice to have some more substantial paddleshifters behind the wheel, but they feel reasonably solid and are an acceptable trade-off for their quick-witted responses compared to similar offerings in other dual-clutch supermini hot hatches.

While hardly a deal breaker, a lack of certain niceties such as wireless phone charging and a heated steering wheel does put the GTI a step behind the i20 N. Certain interior elements also don't appear to have been developed with the care we'd expect, with wireless Apple CarPlay repeatedly losing signal during our time with the car, and the sound system lacklustre, especially considering its Beats branding. 

In typical VW style, though, all the touchpoints are almost perfect. The driving position is good overall, with plenty of adjustment in the steering. The high-mounted infotainment system is also placed in exactly the right position, close to the driver’s eyeline and without looking like an afterthought, as is the case with most floating screens. 

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