2020 Volkswagen Polo GTI Review
Car Tested:2020 Volkswagen Polo GTI 2.0 TSI DSG 5dr; Road Test No. 1181; Test Location: Nürburgring
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 25 lakhs (est.)
Superb dynamics and a peppy engine make the Volkswagen Polo GTI one of the most practical and fun hot hatches
Volkswagen recently celebrated 10 years of Polo in India which made little sense as the new-generation model went on sale globally more than a couple of years back, yet there are no signs of it coming here anytime soon (instead VW will focus on SUVs and maybe the next generation model might be launched here, not before 2021 though). The Polo has a huge fan following in Indian among car enthusiasts and thus we decided to review the top-of-the-line Polo GTI at one of the best race tracks in the world, the 'Green Hell', better known as the Nurburgring.
Motor Quest: The ‘Polo’ name is synonymous with Volkswagen for many in the car world. Since the start of production back in 1975, the badge has seen itself representing 6 generations of the model. Right from the introduction of the limited edition Mk3 Polo GTI in 1995, VW has enjoyed good success with their hot hatch. They now look to build on the enthusiasm the GTI version has garnered.
Exteriors - Walk up to the new Polo GTI, and you will be greeted with a sense of familiarity. Everything looks different, yet quite similar. Talking about the exterior of this car does very much mean talking about the exterior of the Polo facelift that is being sold internationally. That is to say that the designers have done a very decent job in making the car look quite distinct, but understated at the same time.
In its latest avatar, the Volkswagen Polo has not only grown in size but also looks sleeker yet understated as ever
Compared to the Indian model, the headlamps have been slimmed and dragged a bit on the sides, and the tail lights have also seen a similar treatment applied to them. The car has also dimensionally grown, and that is very much visible. The side has one sharp character line that curves up along with the shape of the GTI badge on the side. The car also has dual exhausts, which are very much the real deal.
Speaking of the GTI badge, the car gets distinct red stripes up front that very neatly flow into the headlamp assembly. Unfortunately, that is about where the differences end. Unlike the previous version, this car is a 5-door only, and hence to the average person’s eye, this car might as well be a normal Polo. While the facelift is indeed a big leap over the Indian model, the GTI version’s red brake callipers and the aforementioned GTI badges are the only differentiators over the outgoing Polo facelift from the outside.
Interiors - Open the solid-feeling doors and step in to be greeted by a sea of red. The new Volkswagen Polo GTI gets quite a bit of cosmetic elements that differentiate it from the normal version. There is a flat-bottomed steering wheel right in front of the digital driver’s display. Arguably the biggest change in the Polo facelift is the technology in it. The digital driver’s display is very intuitive to use and is quite customizable. The infotainment system is quite large, and easy to use, and comes with Android Auto and Apple Carplay.
Volkswagen has gone overboard with sporty elements inside the cabin to make you feel unique and special
The seats look very much like the old GTI’s seats. They are quite unique as compared to the existing lineup of the Polo. The seats also offer nice support and cushioning and would be comfortable on long journeys, and corners. With all the distinction inside the car, it looks like Volkswagen wants you, the driver, to know that you are driving a Polo GTI with 200 HP more than anyone else. Quality of the cabin is quite top-notch and the touchpoints are lined with soft-touch materials. The cabin is practical, certainly more practical than the previous GTI as it has more doors.
Performance - The new Polo GTI drops the 1.8 TSI motor in lieu of the 2.0-litre TSI that outputs an impressive 200 PS (an uptick of 8 PS) and 320 Nm of torque at just 1500 RPM. The turbocharged mill has little lag to contend with and takes off in a jiffy, doing the sprint to the ton in just 6.7 seconds, top speed being 237 km/hr. There is a good amount of grunt and a lot of enthusiasm from the engine to catapult forward with no hesitation but it's the tall gearing which robs some speed from the GTI. Refinement levels are great but once you hit the mid-range, it becomes quite vocal, emitting a very loud roar near the 6500 RPM redline - more sound than thrust for sure.
Turbocharged petrol motor has a lot of punch throughout along with a loud exhaust note as you near the redline
This car doesn't hesitate at all till 200 km/hr post which progress dulls a bit. The Polo GTI comes with a 6-speed gearbox - manual and automatic, we drove the latter whose DSG unit showed its Achilles' heel once again of not revving high enough on get-go (there is launch control though to circumvent this problem) and upshifting a tad bit earlier when you near the redline. Fuel economy is decent by hot-hatch standards at 8-10 km/l with a 40-litre fuel tank.
Driving Dynamics - The new-generation Volkswagen Polo is underpinned by the MQB platform with a slew of changes for the GTI like optional active dampers, XDS differential lock, anti-roll bars, 15 mm lowered body and optional Normal and Sport drive modes. The Polo GTI isn't as sharp-edge as you would expect, instead, VW has focussed on the balance between ride and handling which this hot-hatch beautifully exudes. The suspension isn't as stiff as it should be and thus there is some vertical movement but that also translates into a ride quality which is praise-worthy.
Excellent ride and handling balance along with a feedback-rich steering inspire a lot of confidence around corners
The steering offers good feel and feedback but doesn't carry the most weight, similarly, body roll is well contained but there is some roll when you push it hard and of course some understeer too as you close in on the limit of the chassis. But the Polo GTI has good balance and grip, it feels composed and inspires a ton of confidence too. Volkswagen doesn't let you turn off ESP completely but in Sport mode, it isn't as aggressive to intervene, letting you play around quite a bit as there is ample amount of grip on offer. The brakes are very strong and surefooted, offering great feel and bite.
Safety and After Sales Service - The Polo GTI does not suffer any structural changes, unlike the previous version which missed a B-pillar. This means that the crash test reports of the facelifted Polo will be sufficient for buyers. The Polo has scored outstanding results in terms of safety and will not disappoint even the most conservative hot-hatch buyers. The car comes with a 5-star NCAP rating and has a 96% adult occupant rating. There are also a plethora of safety systems in place. Overall this car is pretty safe to be in and should not be a point of worry or a factor of reconsideration for potential customers. The crash test results and a comprehensive report on the car can be seen from Euro NCAP’s website.
Verdict - The new Volkswagen Polo is a big leap over its predecessor (the one we still get in India). Improvements aren't just limited to the styling, interior, space, ride, handling and performance but also in terms of equipment and tech. The GTI is a completely different ballgame though because it brings all of the above along with stellar fun to drive feel to the package. While the new Polo might not be heading here anytime soon, Volkswagen could give us a taste of hot-hatch madness by bringing a few units to India via the CBU route. Keeping in mind that there is no homologation required for under 2500 units, a price tag of Rs. 20 lakhs sounds just right and tempting!
* Smart and sporty looks
* Feature loaded cabin with decent space
* Punchy petrol engine
* Superb ride and handling balance
* Comes with a 5-star safety rating
What's Not So Cool
* Steering doesn't weigh up at high speeds
* Price in India could be high
Alternatives: - Mini Countryman Cooper S JCW, Mini Cooper JCW, Fiat Abarth Punto
2020 Volkswagen Polo GTI Specifications
* Engine: 1984cc, 4-Cyl, Petrol
* Power: 200 PS
* Torque: 320 Nm
* Top Speed: 237 km/hr
* 0-100 km/hr: 6.7 seconds
* Transmission: 6-Speed DSG
* Fuel Consumption: 8-10 km/l
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Tyre Size: 215/40/18 (Front & Rear)
* Suspension: McPherson Strut (Front), Torsion Beam (Rear)
* Brakes: Disc (Front & Rear)
* Safety: 6 Airbags, ABS with EBD, ESP
2020 Volkswagen Polo GTI Dimensions
* Overall length x width x height: 4067 mm X 1751 mm X 1438 mm
* Wheelbase: 2560 mm
* Ground Clearance: 143 mm
* Turning Radius: 5.3-metres
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 40-litres
* Kerb Weight: 1285 kgs
Further Reading -
2020 Volkswagen Polo GTI
2020 Volkswagen Polo GTI Review
The VW Polo GTI is a true hot hatch in the sense that it has been made to please the driver. It has oodles of power on tap and a 2.0-litre TSI engine in such a compact car is just bonkers. Comes loaded with a lot more technology than the older version, the Polo GTI is something that you can’t go wrong with.