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First drive: VW’s pocket rocket Polo
Volkswagen follows Golf strategy with keenly priced Polo GTI hot hatch contender
29 Nov 2010
WITH the Golf GTI well-established in the small car arena, Volkswagen is now planning light-car hot hatch domination with $27,790 pricing for the second-generation Polo GTI.
While this is an $800 increase over its five-year old predecessor, the all-new A05 supermini gains extra standard features and introduces new technology innovations to the class.
These include ‘Twincharge’ turbo and supercharged induction, a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission and an extended electronic differential lock (XDL) as first seen on the current A6 Golf GTI.
The upshot is a 22kW more power and 30Nm more torque (cutting some 1.3 seconds off the 0-100 kilometre sprint time), while reducing fuel consumption (down 1.9L/100km) and carbon dioxide emissions (down 48g/km).
A five-door model is also available, taking the price to $28,990 plus on-roads.
Volkswagen’s product and value strategy for the new Polo GTI mirrors that of the Golf GTI, which has ruled the hot hatch roost since the previous-gen A5 version arrived in May 2005.
The new Polo GTI significantly undercuts rivals such as the (more powerful) Renault Clio RS 200 ($36,490) and Mini Cooper S ($40,500), while the Citroen DS3 costs about $8000 more in potent DSport guise. Sadly, one-time segment pioneer Peugeot seems to have thrown in the towel, having discontinued the 207 GTi.
Replacing the previous Audi-sourced 110kW/210Nm 1.8-litre 20-valve turbocharged four-cylinder under the Polo GTI’s bonnet is the 1.4-litre TSI Twincharge engine found in the Golf 118TSI, but retuned and uprated to deliver 132kW at 6200rpm and 250Nm from 2000 to 4500rpm.
Unusually, Volkswagen does not offer a manual Polo GTI, so the seven-speed DSG (seemingly at its limit with a maximum torque load rating of 250Nm) is the only transmission offering.
The new GTI hits 100km/h in 6.9 seconds against 8.2s for the old model, while its 229km/h top speed is 13km/h faster.
The latest Polo performance flagship pumps out only 142g/km of CO2 and uses 6.1L/100km of fuel – although it needs to be the expensive 98 RON premium unleaded variety.
Helping to contain the performance increase is the XDL device that works electronically with the ESC stability control system (also standard) to counteract understeer by distributing torque to whichever front wheel needs it more while applying the brakes appropriately.
There is also a Hill Start Assist function that briefly holds the car on the brakes to halt unintentional movement at take-off.
Volkswagen makes much of the GTI’s iconic visual branding on the Polo with red piping, a honeycomb design for the grille and bumper air intakes, body-coloured mudguard flares and rear spoiler, circular alloys revealing red brake callipers, and a rear diffuser donning dual chromed tail-pipes.
Inside, the sports seats are covered in tartan, while ‘sporty black’ trim swathes the pillar trim, sun visors and other cabin bits, gloss black bathes some of the dashboard, and brushed chrome features on the air vents, gear lever, door handles, park brake and control knobs.
The GTI-specific leather-clad steering wheel has the obligatory flat bottom as well as a thicker grip.
Volkswagen dropped the ride height 15mm, stiffer dampers have been fitted to lower the angles of body roll, the 17-inch alloys wear 215/40 R17 87V low-profile tyres and standard-issue tyre pressure monitors keep the driver informed of their pressures.
Brakes are discs all round – 288mm vented up front and 232mm solid items out back – assisted by ABS with EBD and brake assist, along with the ESC, traction control and electronic limited slip differential devices.
As with the standard Mk5 Polo, the front suspension consists of MacPherson struts and coil springs, while a torsion beam axle with trailing arms and coil springs are used in the rear.
The Polo GTI has a five-star ENCAP crash test rating.
Among the fresh options are bi-Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights ($1600) to complement the LED daytime driving lights, Alcantara and leather upholstery ($1900), an audio package upgrade ($770), alarm system ($600) and metallic paint ($500).
Volkswagen Australia will not talk sales projections, but the GTI is expected to account for at least 20 per cent of overall Polo volume – up from 15 per cent on the previous model – while at least three out of four buyers are expected to choose the new five-door option.
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