The Volkswagen Polo has grown over the years and is now much bigger than the original Golf MK I.
At over 4m, the 6th generation Polo is a full 362mm longer than that first Golf. With the extra size the platform provides, there is oodles of extra space.
A roomy cabin is lavished with technology we have come to expect but was once only found on expensive luxury cars.
The new Polo has a crisp clean exterior devoid of bumps and bends that distract the eye.
There are only a few simple lines along the doors, and a gentle scoop along the bottom of the doors.
The GTI scores 17” Milton Keynes wheels and Volkswagen added LED lighting, but the fancy headlights are part of an optional upgrade pack. Otherwise, you make do with Halogens up front.
Red highlights are synonymous with go-quick hatches, and the Polo is no different.
The GTI Badge is red and is underlined by a flash of red which extends along the lower grille and into the headlights.
The bonnet’s muscular folds start at the headlights and continue up towards the windscreen, and along under the side windows.
It makes a smallish car look squat and slightly angry.
The lower bumper has a hex-pattern fill with a set of driving lights for a sporty touch. Whether or not they ever get used is a moot point.
Around the back, there is striking LED tail lights and the patented VW badge which doubles as a door handle and reversing camera cover.
It keeps dirt and water off the lens which you only really appreciate in foul weather.
Clarke tartan returns as the signature interior highlight. You can option a slightly more luxurious fabric as part of a pack adding a nicer feel to the seats, but the trade-off is the sports seats are lost, which is a shame.
Surprisingly, even rear leg room is generous. Boot space is okay, at 305L with the seats up or 1079L with them down.
There is more than enough room for a couple, their dog, and a couple of bags for a weekend away.
Across the dash, a large matte-red “velvet red” insert looks great but was easily marked with oily fingers.
LED interior lighting includes reading, ambient, and glove box illumination. It adds brighter light, and longer life, replacing old fashioned incandescent bulbs.
GTI has a flat-bottomed leather clad steering wheel with gear paddles. Auxiliary controls work well with those on the 8” touch screen at the top of the centre stack.
Radar cruise control (optional) has distance setting on the wheel, along with audio functions.
The optional 2nd generation Active Information display places a configurable LCD screen where the speedo/tacho would normally be. The driver selects which information is displayed, and where it is displayed.
You can even reduce speedo and RPM to small readouts while having a full screen map right there in front of you. That leaves the 8” screen free for your passenger to select some tunes.
Standard features such as drive mode selection, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and dual zone climate control make the Polo feel far more premium than previous models. Cruise control comes with a speed limiter.
Rear view cameras are clear, but only come with static guide lines, so lining yourself up in a parking spot still comes down to skill.
Emergency braking has 3 modes: high speed (up to 210kph), city speeds (including pedestrian detection), and parking speeds. Our GTI jammed on the anchors when it thought we were getting too close to a shrubbery.
GTI has a space saver spare wheel while other Polos have a full-size wheel.
There are 3 option packs: the Luxury Pack $3,900 (inc. 18” alloys, heated seats, panoramic sunroof), Driver Assistance $1,400 (inc. adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitor, park assist) and Sound and Vision $1,900 (inc. 10.25″ digital instrument colour display screen, 8.0” colour capacitive touch screen display and premium audio system.
Drive and Engine
The Volkwagen Polo GTI has been given a power boost with a turbo-2.0 petrol 4-cylinder output rising to 147kw/320Nm.
A 0-100kph of 6.7 seconds is brisk for a small entry level city car, and a relaxed driving style should give you around 6.1L/100km.
As always, this figure climbs substantially in sports mode, and even further if you plant your foot often.
Left in eco mode on a longer trip, you can expect 5.1L/100km.
Our drive covered the obligatory twists and bends, as well as some city and highway stints.
Parts of the road were choppy making the rear end quite lively if bumps were encountered mid-corner.
Directional changes were executed instantly with good feel to the steering.
Electric power steering can be a bit hit and miss, because the computer is turning the wheels.
The suspension set up at the back can make the Volkswagen Polo feel a bit less planted in spirited corners.
Drive modes allow a sportier feel to the steering too. It makes a huge difference as you turn in to a sharp high-speed bend.
Left in normal mode, it leans towards over-steer but switching to sports mode sorts all that out.
Sports mode also sets the six-speed dual-clutch to sports mode which holds gears longer. It also makes it kick down sooner and uses car placement to predict changes. The throttle is more responsive because that turbo is kept in the sweet spot.
Sports mode also bring a pleasing (if fake) engine rasp too. The twin exhaust burps as the engine blips between changes. It is entertaining for a while, but would get a bit tiresome around town.
The dual-clutch wasn’t as responsive as I would normally expect. Even when using the manual paddles or floor gear selector, changes seemed fairly leisurely, and by no means instant.
Safety includes a 3-mode AEB which operates from parking speeds to highway speeds up to 210kph.
Should a crash be detected, seat belts tighten, and windows close, leaving a small air gap. Closed windows give more support to curtain airbags. High speed mode will reduce engine power to prevent crashes, and apply braking if needed.
Parking speeds will try to prevent GTI from hitting anything while manoeuvring in tight spaces.
The rigid safety cell has front and rear crumple zones. Doors include anti-intrusion bars. Hill start assist uses the ABS to hold the car on slopes after the foot brake is released.
- Cute exterior
- Silk engine with heaps of pull
- Decent ride for a sports car
Not So Good Bits
- Red dash insert showed finger marks
- Dual-clutch felt slightly slow
- Too many add-ons that should be standard
Facts and Figures: 2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI
- Engine: 2.0L four-cylinder turbo petrol producing 147kW/320Nm
- Transmission: Six-speed sports automatic dual-clutch
- Warranty: 3 years/ unlimited km
- Safety: Five stars
- Origin: South Africa