We drive the Volkswagen Polo GTI

The Volkswagen Polo GTI is sporty and fun but great for every day driving too…

We recently had the opportunity to spend a fun-filled week road tripping in the Eastern Cape with the very exciting new Volkswagen Polo GTI…

What’s new about the new Polo GTI?

The new Volkswagen Polo GTI launched locally in June this year (2018) to introduce added dynamism to the small compact car segment, along with its increased safety and comfort. This means that although the new Polo GTI is known for its sporty character and performance, it’s now become much more suitable to every day driving.

Its 2.0-litre TSI engine offers power delivery of 147kW of power and 320 Nm of torque, while it is also the first Polo GTI to feature this many driver assistance systems.

Styling upgrades over the normal Polo include the usual GTI detailing, such as GTI badging and its iconic red line across the grille which runs into the headlights, as well as a honeycomb grille and a deeper, sportier front bumper and twin chrome exhaust pipes at the rear.


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Plett with the Polo! All the fun you need. @volkswagensouthafrica #newPoloGti

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Classy, with a touch of sporty

Inside, the Polo GTI’s sports seats are comfortable and supportive (especially around corners) and they look great too. Red stitching in the cabin can be found on the steering wheel, gear stick and sports seats, reminding you of its GTI status. It’s classy with a touch of sportiness. We love the Polo GTI’s new cockpit environment that introduces the latest generation of infotainment systems and the Composition Media (8.0-inch radio-infotainment with CD player) which comes as standard. It’s touchscreen infotainment system is one of my favourite out there – it’s crystal clear and super easy to use.

Driving the new Polo GTI

Now for the fun stuff! Driving from Plettenberg Bay to Port Elizabeth didn’t just involve beautiful scenery. Road conditions during the trip allowed for some great performance testing too, and while the Polo GTI is known for its strong engine, it’s also loads of fun (but supportive) on twisty roads. Steering is natural and progressive – point and go! It darts to exactly where you intend for it to go in no time, and really inspires one’s level of confidence.

It also has a proper handbrake (as opposed to the electronic handbrakes we’ve been seeing a lot of lately) so hooligans can enjoy some playtime – only when it’s safe to do so of course!

Also read: We drive the new Volkswagen Polo Vivo GT

Four driving modes are available: Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual. During my test drive I alternated between Normal (on the open road) and Sport mode (when things got fun and playful). In Sport Mode, things firm up and get sportier, but not too much so that you feel uncomfortable. It’s the right amount of engagement and sportiness.

The Polo GTI’s 6-speed dual clutch gearbox is quick-shifting and responsive and doesn’t seem to hinder performance or make you wish there was a manual option, while the GTI accelerates to 100 km/h in 6.7 seconds and despite its power output, it can still be driven very economically thanks to efficient drive technology.

Is it safer?

With this much fun, everyone will want to know what safety features Volkswagen has added to the Polo GTI, and it’s all good news because there’s an array of assistance systems to take note of:

Blind Spot Monitor. This system can play a role in preventing serious accidents. The Blind Spot Monitor utilises an LED symbol in the outer area of the exterior mirrors to alert the driver to vehicles located in the blind spot alongside the Polo GTI and to vehicles approaching from the rear. As soon as a vehicle is detected, the symbol lights up. If the driver activates the turn indicator in the direction of the detected vehicle the symbol flashes as an additional warning level. Moreover, in this case the system generates a steering pulse that makes it harder to change lanes, thereby reducing the risk of a hazardous lane-changing incident. The system, which is automatically activated from a speed of 30 km/h, uses radar sensors to monitor an area of roughly 20 metres around the vehicle. When the Blind Spot Monitor is ordered, it automatically comes with Rear Traffic Alert, which makes reversing out of parking spaces much safer. Optional as part of the Advanced Safety Package (which includes Parallel Park Assist, Park Distance Control, Rear View camera, Blind Spot Detection and Electric Folding mirrors).

Rear Traffic Alert. Rear Traffic Alert is offered in combination with the Blind Spot Monitor. Rear Traffic Alert takes much of the risk out of reversing from driveways and parking spaces that are at right angles to the road. The system not only ‘recognises’ stationary or moving vehicles directly behind the Polo GTI, but also vehicles approaching from the side which are not visible to the driver. The radar-based sensor module even detects objects at distances of up to 40 metres and recognises objects moving at speeds of 4 km/h or faster. If a collision is imminent, the system produces an audible warning. If the driver or other road user does not take action to avert the danger, or if there is a risk of immediate collision, the Rear Traffic Alert system automatically activates the car’s brakes.

Driver Alert System. If the Driver Alert System detects waning concentration of the driver, it outputs an audible warning for a duration of five seconds and displays a message in the instrument cluster recommending a break from driving. If the driver does not take a break within the next 15 minutes, the warning is repeated once.

Automatic Post-Collision Braking System. Around one-quarter of all accidents that result in personal injury involve multiple collisions. The Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, which is included as standard in the new Polo GTI, can help to avoid secondary collisions or reduce their severity. After an initial collision, the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System initiates a braking action – within system limits – even before the driver can react. This can reduce the severity of the accident and ideally prevent secondary collisions.

Driving Profile Selection. In the driving profile selection, the driver can choose from a total of four programs: Eco, Sport, Normal and Individual. In the Eco driving mode engine management, the air conditioning unit and other auxiliary systems are regulated for optimal fuel efficiency. In addition, in vehicles with DSG, a coasting function can be used in Eco mode. If the driver releases the accelerator pedal – on downhill stretches, for example – the DSG disengages and the engine idles. This enables optimal utilisation of the Polo GTI’s kinetic energy. In Sport mode, on the other hand, damping of the active dampers is increased (with the Sport Select suspension), while engine response and DSG shift points are configured to be more dynamic.

Park Assist. Park Assist automatically guides the Polo GTI into parallel or perpendicular parking spaces, and it can also reverse out of parallel parking spaces. The system is activated by pressing a button on the centre console. Using the indicators, the driver selects the side on which the car is to be parked. If Park Assist finds a sufficiently large parking space (40 cm of manoeuvring room, front and rear, suffices), assisted parking can begin. The driver engages reverse gear and only needs to accelerate and brake (an automatic braking function assists in case of insufficient space). The car handles the steering. Optional as part of the Advanced Safety Package (which includes Parallel Park Assist, Park Distrance Control, Rear View camera, Blind Spot Detection and Electric Folding mirrors).

Tyre Pressure Loss Indicator. The Tyre Pressure Loss Indicator utilises the wheel speed sensors of the anti-lock brake system (ABS). In case of tyre pressure loss, the rolling radius of the affected wheel decreases, and the wheel turns faster at the same vehicle speed. This allows the system to detect insufficient air pressure, and it warns the driver. However, the Tyre Pressure Loss Indicator does not relieve the driver of the obligation to check tyre pressures.

Conclusion and pricing

The new Volkswagen Polo GTI, albeit sporty and performance enhancing, still manages to suit everyday driving, which means that it will appeal to a broader range of customers. While there are a number of hot hatches available in the market to offer fun and fast driving experiences, not all of them manage to blend into regular driving environments – like in traffic for example. The Polo GTI does a great job at behaving when you need it to and with added comfort and safety systems in place, the whole family can enjoy it.

New Polo GTI price (VAT and emissions tax included)

2.0 TSI 147kW DSG                 R375 900

The new Polo GTI comes standard with a 3 year/120 000km warranty, 3year/ 45 000km Volkswagen Service and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty. Service interval is 15 000km.