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Quick review: 2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI

2018-09-01 09:39

Sean Parker


Image: Sean Parker


147kW/320Nm, sport suspension, differential lock... Volkswagen adds Vrr-pah to its Polo range with the addition of its new GTI hot hatch in South Africa. Curiously, it's cheaper than the model it replaces!

Priced less than R376 000, the new Polo GTI is not only cheaper than the previous model but also boasts a bigger engine, more power and an electronic differential lock. 

Sean Parker drives the newest hot hatch built right here at Volkswagen’s Uitenhage plant in the Eastern Cape. 

So, what do we have here? 

VW’s freshest Polo GTI was launched in June amid much fanfare. It now sports a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine delivering 147Kw and 320Nm, it feels more powerful. Like most GTIs. 

There’s only one gearbox available: a six-speed dual-clutch. A 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.7 seconds is quoted and the GTI will run out of puff at 237km/h. 

It tips the scales at 1355kg and VW says the standard sports suspension automatically sees the car sit 15mm lower to the ground over regular models.  

The springs, auxiliary springs, shock absorbers and anti-roll bars have all been tweaked to ensure a sportier ride. It’s those incremental changes that can be felt when ‘sport’ mode is activated via a button next to the gear lever. 

What’s it like to drive? 

Now that you know what’s under the skin, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of what it’s like to drive. Even though most buyers will probably buy the GTI for its space, badge, social capital and vrrphaa more than perhaps its handling characteristics. 

Nevertheless, the GTI sports a rorty exhaust note in sport mode and the active dampers and weightier steering. 

A couple of blasts along my favourite roads in the Western Cape illustrated how sorted the chassis is (it can handle more power, Polo R maybe?). 

The gearbox comes into its own when driving briskly. There’s a tangible difference in sport mode, as the electronic front diff which uses torque vectoring to brake the inside wheel don twisty tarmac and sending power to the outside wheel. 

It’s a capable car to drive fast but perhaps lacks the fizz and intensity of a Renault Clio RS. 

But then it comes down to preference and with the hectic lives people live, the Polo is where you’d put your hard-earned money and to have the best of both worlds. 

It can handle a family of four with no fuss, has a 351-litre boot and is incredibly well made. 


In 2005 the Mk 5 GTI cost R240 000, 13 years later the Polo GTI continues that lineage of democratising the hot hatch. The new Polo GTI is perfectly at home outside the Saxon hotel but also at a chesa nyama

The new GTI is a locally-built car that we should be proud and with the price of a Golf GTI close to R555 000, some fans veedub fans might see the value of the smaller car. 

Wheels24 intern Khaya Dondolo on why the Polo GTI is so popular in SA: 

GTI is seen as a symbol of success for South African youth not only because of its curvy looks or its fast pace.

But because of respect and class that comes with driving the car, the social status and of course the (relatively affordable) price tag.

"Driving a car that not just anyone can afford but with less dignity” GTI is one of the first cars that fits perfect in the line between class and sport.   You can drive it to a business meeting or to a local chesa nyama (braai).


Image: Quickpic 

Read more on:    volkswagen  |  sean parker  |  south africa  |  new models

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