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Driven: GTI to accelerate VW Polo sales

It's back: The latest Volkswagen Polo GTI is on offer with a manual and an automatic matched to its 141kw turbocharged 1.8-litre engine.

Volkswagen's Polo GTI back with more power as a manual returns to the range

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Volkswagen logo16 Apr 2015

By STUART MARTIN

CLUTCH pedals are not dead yet for those in the market for a rapid small hatchback as Volkswagen's Polo GTI returns to the Australian market with manual – not seen here since 2010 – and auto drivelines.

Available only in dual-clutch automatic (DSG) guise in the outgoing model, Volkswagen has again given performance Polo buyers the choice, at a price of $27,490, plus on-road costs, for the manual and $29,990 for the DSG, up from $29,540 in the previous incarnation.

There are few competitors in the light hot-hatch segment, but Ford's Fiesta ST from $25,990, the Peugeot 208 GTi from $29,990 and the hardcore Renault Clio RS200 from $29,290 are all likely contenders.

The range is five-door only, following the demise of the three-door version at the start of 2014, and is expected to be 80 per cent DSG once the initial 'enthusiast' surge in demand for the manual subsides.

Total Polo sales in 2014 hit 6607 units – 6.4 per cent of the light car segment – up from 5582 (a 5.1 per cent share) in 2013, but its 2015 performance so far has it with a 7.2 per cent chunk of the segment (2029 sales) and running 25 per cent ahead of its 2014 performance to the same point.

Additional units wearing GTI badges should have it more than just snapping at the Amarok's heels for the number two spot behind Golf in Volkswagen’s arsenal.

The powerplant is from the same family as the 2.0-litre Golf GTI/R engine, but dropping to 1.8 litres in capacity – the bore remains unchanged over the 2.0-litre but the stroke has been shortened.

The third incarnation of the turbocharged engine uses variable valve timing, port and direct injection to produce 141kW (up 9kW over the superseded model's twin-charged 1.4) and 320Nm when teamed with a six-speed manual, up from the outgoing DSG-only model's 250Nm.

Opting for the seven-speed double-clutch transmission drops the torque to 250Nm but VW says the sprint to 100km/h is identical – 6.7 seconds – with a top speed around 230km/h, claims which the German car-maker says are not far shy of the WRC special edition Polo R which is not part of the Australian offering.

Fuel consumption for the manual matches the 6.1 litres per 100 kilometres figure of the predecessor, while the DSG consumes 5.7L/100km from the 45 litres tank that requires 95RON fuel.

Key among the additions that come with the GTI badge over the mainstream Polo variants include an alarm, front fog-lights with a static cornering function, automatic headlights, darkened rear tail-lights, dual exhaust tips, a bodykit comprising lower front splitter, red and chrome highlights on the radiator grille, a rear diffuser, brake callipers and rear lip spoiler.

The cabin is trimmed in the GTI-specific ‘Clark’ tartan cloth, aluminium and gloss black trim additions, sill trims with GTI logos, alloy pedals, red stitching and edging on seats, mats and the leather-wrapped sports steering wheel, as well as a touchscreen-controlled six-speaker sound system with Bluetooth and USB.

The GTI rides 10mm lower and the front, 15mm lower at the rear and sits on 17-inch alloy wheels, with a space-saver spare and a low tyre pressure warning system to herald its impending use.

Other safety features include an auto-dimming centre rear-vision mirror, rain-sensing wipers, six airbags, stability and traction control (with a sport mode) but parking sensors and a reversing camera are surprisingly left on the options list, packaged in with a satellite navigation upgrade to the infotainment system and driver fatigue detection for an extra $1700.

The fourth-generation Polo GTI also brings with it the extended electronic differential lock from its Golf sibling, which brakes an inside spinning front wheel to improve cornering grip but does not include the torque-vectoring function only seen in the Golf GTI Performance.

The GTI can be further optioned with a Luxury pack, which ups the seat trim to suede and leather (but changes from sport to comfort-style seats), adds front seat heaters, LED low- and high-beam headlights (a first-time offering for the model) and a sunroof for an additional $3300.

Absent from the Australian edition for now is the optional Sport Select suspension, which features electronically adjustable dampers, which was not deemed cost-effective for the Australian features list, even as an option as it is in Europe.

2015 Volkswagen Polo GTI pricing*
GTI $27,490
GTI (a) $29,990
*Excludes on-road costs.

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