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DRIVEN: VW's hottest Polo GTI yet gets a taste of Franschhoek Pass

2018-06-08 14:26

Janine Van der Post

Image: Quickpic

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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!

Volkswagen has unleashed its hottest Polo GTI yet, and thanks to local production at its Uitenhage plant, the new model is even more affordable than the outgoing version.

The new hot hatch, priced at R375 900, is the first Polo GT to feature the 2.0-litre turbocharged TSI engine, capable of 147kW/320Nm and mated to a 6-speed dual-clutch DSG gearbox. The vehicle is built on the MQB platform, has a sports  suspension and XDS differential lock.

GALLERY: 2018 VW Polo GTI

So, some readers might be thinking "R375 900 for a Polo?". Judging by the success of the new Polo and Polo Vivo range in SA, consistently being the best-selling passenger car month in and month out, the fastest and hottest Polo yet, will likely sell like hotcakes locally. 


Even if the new model was not R11 600 cheaper than the model it replaces, it still would not hurt its sales. For 2018, its huge selling point is that you can own a 'local is lekker' Polo GTI built in SA, with a delectable 2.0-litre TSI engine for the first time with Golf 5 GTI power credentials.

READ: More Vrr-Pha for your VW Polo - Hot 147kW GTI arrives in SA!

And, let's not forget about the torque that makes this burly, little hot hatch even more enticing, all 70Nm more of it than its predecessor at 250Nm. 

VWSA says: "In recent times the GTI has always been powered by high torque turbocharged engines. Like the Golf GTI, the new Polo GTI will be represented in the 2.0-litre turbo class for the first time."

The automaker claims the Polo GTI goes from zero to 100km/h in 6.7 seconds, with a claimed top speed of 237km/h. But, despite some pretty impressive power figures for a little pocket rocket, its combined fuel consumption is on point at a frugal 5.9 litres/100km.

And, with today's record-high fuel prices in SA, those kinds of figures are indispensable when you want a car that's economical and a bucket of fun at the same time. In all honesty, it's having your bread buttered on both sides...

                                                                            Image: Quickpic

But how does it drive?

It's akin to to going for a last ride on the Cobra the day of Cape Town's Ratunga Junction's closing, over and over again like you're trapped in Groundhog Day. Except instead of an existential crisis, the GTI delivers a thrill every second of the  way. That 2.0-litre engine gives the Polo GTI a lot more street cred than it already has and a newfound boisterous attitude. Its sound is not unruly, but there is enough ebullient grunt mostly notable in sport mode. 

It's a car that is an exceptionally comfortable daily drive, and can flip into beast mode (read: sport mode), and using the paddle shifts for manual gear changes, or the lever if you prefer.

As is the nature of VW's premier automatic gearbox, the dual-clutch DSG naturally tries to preempt your changes before you really want it to, especially during a spirited ride through some of Franschhoek's jaunty sweeps.

I would have wanted to take the needle a bit closer to the red before shifting up, but even when using the paddles, the DSG beats you to it. Despite that, it's still a hoot whether you have your foot flat or cruising with some awesome tunes.

Interior and optional goodies

The only other element which I just could not get used to are the red interior inserts on the dash and facia (called Velvet Red). It works well in white or black-bodied vehicles, but had I been driving a red car on the launch, the interior would have been too much for my liking.

Perhaps it's because the red inserts flow to the surrounds of the handles on the door panels and it just catches my peripheral view, but that's just my fussy opinion and I'm sure everyone will love it. And, if red is not your flavour, you can also go for the Deep Iron Metallic option - yes, please!

With all of that said, even with the cheaper price tag, it is still pricey for a Polo GTI (yes, the latest Golf GTI is close to R600K). And that's not even fully kitted with niceties. Fancy 18" Brescia alloys will set you back another R5 550, for satnav another R12 150, active info display R8 650, R3 150 for park distance control, R12 450 for LED headlights, R10 550 for the panoramic sunroof and R9 850 for leather sports seats with heatable seats. 

There are also four body colours to choose from Red, Blue, White and Black.

Nitty gritty stuff

The automaker says the vehicle is offered with two different running gear configurations. It is based on a sport suspension; while the optional 'Sport Select' suspension with active dampers is available as an option. It also comes with electromechanical power steering and Electronic Stability Control (ESC), along with XDS differential lock, which further refines traction when cornering quickly, according to VWSA.

Furthermore, it features front-wheel drive, has coil spring struts and lower wishbones with a track-stabilising scrub radius. The front-running gear additionally features an anti-roll bar, says its maker. The front suspension consists of coil springs with telescopic gas-filled dampers; the elements are integrated in the spring struts.

The rear running gear consists of a semi-independent twist-beam suspension with an integrated anti-roll bar.

Gas-filled dampers and separate springs provide optimal suspension at the rear.

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