VW Polo mint on all fronts


Every now and then you jump into a car and instantly know that it is the right car for the time. The VW Polo GTi is one of those cars.

In an era when we are all looking at getting into smaller cars that are easier to park and easier on the pocket when we visit the petrol station, small cars now account for nearly 40 per cent of all new car sales.

The Polo is one of the new breed of small car that enables you to downsize without having to make any compromises when it comes to features, quality, comfort or safety.

And if you opt for the top-of-the-range GTi, which was supplied for this test, you get the added bonus of a car that is an absolute joy to drive.

With a 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine that has both a supercharger and turbocharger, it is the hottest Polo ever made by the German car maker.

The unit delivers 132kW and 250 Newton metres of torque from only 2000rpm, so there's plenty of urge at low revs, while the transition from supercharged thrust to high-rev turbo punch is very smooth.

And with power delivered to the front wheels via the standard seven-speed DSG, it matches its bigger Golf sibling in acceleration, taking 6.9secs to complete the 0-100km/h sprint.

Neat steering wheel-mounted paddles also allow you to change gears smoothly and quickly if you feel the need to take away control from the dual-clutch transmission.

When the road gets twisty, VW's XDS traction control system electronically mimics a limited-slip differential to brake the wheel with the least grip and enables the Polo GTi to corner safely and without loss of traction.

The steering is also well weighted and offers good feedback and body roll is virtually non-existent, thanks to firmer springs and dampers.

But all these superb driving dynamics do not come at the expense of ride comfort. The GTi soaks up imperfections in the road extremely well.

What this means is that the Polo is equally at home cruising on the freeway or a country road.

Under these conditions, it provides more of a big-car feel thanks to its comfortable seating, well put together interior and smooth, quiet ride.

And, for me, it is this ability to fulfil the role of suburban transporter, comfortable tourer or sporty hot hatch that makes the Polo GTi a stand-out car.

Despite its performance capabilities, the official fuel consumption for the GTi is 6.1L/100km. During the test period, I used 7.8L/100km with mostly urban driving.

Sitting in the driver's seat, it is easy to find the right driving position and the sports seats are both supportive and comfortable, though the tartan inserts are starting to date a little.

Rear seating is reasonably good for a car in this class with enough leg and knee room for most adult passengers. Up the back, boot space is pretty much on par with its competitors but it loses some of the nifty underfloor storage found in other Polo models thanks to the placement of the car's battery.

The spacesaver spare is also located beneath the cargo compartment floor.

The cabin is packed with soft-touch materials and solid switchgear and neat white backlit instruments that flank a multi-function display complete with detailed trip computer.

Like all versions of the model series, the GTi comes standard with electronic stability control with Hill Start Assist, six airbags - including front, front side and curtain airbags - belt tensioners, belt force limiters, front head restraints designed to avoid whiplash trauma and three rear head restraints.

In addition, convenience features include a single-CD tuner with steering-wheel remote controls, cruise control, remote central locking, power windows and mirrors plus air-conditioning.

And with a price tag of $28,990 (plus on-road costs) for the five-door model that was provided for the test, it is a car that is within the reach of most.

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