You know the saying “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Well, this is one perfect scenario but in a good way. What you see may look like normal Volkswagen Polo and to some extent, it is. But then you start seeing the differences. It has only three doors instead of five; the headlamps look different and there’s a GTI badge in the front grille. And just when you realise this maybe a different car, it will leave you in its wake. All hail the Volkswagen Polo GTI, India’s hottest hatch ever.
Bragging too much? We are and it is. So, what makes the Polo GTI the hottest hatch? Two things—power and price. And both are exhilarating. The Polo GTI gets the same 1.8-litre engine that powers the Skoda Octavia and Superb, much heavier cars than the one we are talking about here. 189 hp (192 PS) output and the 0 to 100 km/h time of 7.2 seconds—these figures on a 1.2 tonne hatchback are mind-boggling. Then there’s the price—Rs 25.99 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). Now, I can see what you are thinking. 26 lakh for a hatchback? We rejected the first-gen Honda Jazz, when it was first introduced at Rs 8 lakh.
Now, both these factors are because of not how the car looks but the way it performs. The 1.8-litre TSI engine is a gem of an engine and it shines better in these surroundings. All the 189 horses are sent to front wheels through the sleek 7-speed DSG gearbox in the most entertaining manner. Slot the gear lever into the S mode, slam dunk the accelerator and wait for the magic to happen. With just a split-second delay, the Polo GTI lurches forward with the eagerness of a tightly pulled arrow. The engine is rev-happy across the range and feels agile even in the low range, without any misfires. The DSG gearbox slots the gears at the right time, keeping the gear till the red line exerting maximum performance from the engine. Using the paddle shift brings out more dynamism from the transmission and makes the drive more engaging. Though the power delivery is linear, there is always more power to bite into.
We all know that the Polo is a great handler and the GTI badge furthers the fact with a stiffer suspension and a flat-bottomed sports steering. Not just a straight-line sprinter, the GTI holds its sway around the corners very well. Put its nose in the direction you want and the car obeys without any hesitation or error. The steering adds weight nicely with the feedback good enough to keep the car in control always. The Polo GTI remains unruffled with anything you throw at it and grips the tarmac like a pro. Disc brakes all around offer great bite and adequate stopping power.
Inside too, it’s identical to the regular Polo with a similar dashboard but the GTI gets a larger touch screen infotainment system and a slightly tweaked instrument cluster. The seats are big and snug with side bolsters and get retro-style chequered upholstery. Things at the rear are also comfortable for adults and getting there is not a problem either. The build quality is typical VW without any compromise but the GTI misses out on features like keyless entry and start/stop button. These may not be a deal breaker for those who buy GTI for different reasons but being Indians, we would expect these features and then some more for a Rs 26-lakh hatchback.
And that brings us to the question—is the price justified for the Polo GTI? Well, we think it is. Considering the fact that Volkswagen is bringing the Polo GTI via the CBU route and the amount of taxes it attracts, the price tag is not shocking. But what you get in return is a true blue hot hatch that offers a whole new driving experience. Hence, GTI.