So what do we have here?
Well, this isnâ€™t an all-new car. The Polo GTI in Mk5 form has been with us since 2011, but given how much Volkswagen have changed on this, the facelift version, it may as well be all-new.
Gone is the 1.4TSI engine that was both supercharged and turbocharged, we now have a much more grown up 1.8TSI motor with 192PS, 12 more than the old car had. It serves up 236lb- ft of toque too, a huge gain on the 180lb ft the old engine offered. Gone too is the DSG gearbox, yes you can still spec it, but a six-speed manual now comes as standard.
So the big question then, does this new Polo live up to its name, is it a proper GTI?
Well itâ€™s quick enoughâ€¦ 0-62mph is dealt with in 6.7 seconds, and the Polo will tramp on to a top speed of 146mph. Off the line it doesnâ€™t actually feel that fast, probably down to the slightly portly 1272kg kerb weight, but once itâ€™s on the move, itâ€™s a very rapid little car with acceleration from 40mph hardly relenting as it approaches three figures.
Itâ€™s great as well when the road gets twisty. The standard fit XDS+ front differential helps to keep understeer and wheel spin to a minimum, meaning you can pitch the Polo into a corner with extreme confidence. The steering is light and doesnâ€™t give much feedback, but with so much grip on offer, itâ€™s very easy to jump into this car and drive it quickly, right from the off.
Despite the kerb weight, it doesnâ€™t feel like a heavy car to drive. It changes direction quickly and with a high level of control, and it seems to â€˜skipâ€™ down the road. Whereas my Golf R feels sure-footed and planted, the Polo feels so much cheekier, like itâ€™s ready to have fun at any time.
It will let you have fun tooâ€¦ One press of the traction button disables the ASR which mainly results in a lot more wheel spin, especially when pulling away from junctions. Press and hold the traction button and not only is the ASR disabled, but the ESC is also put into Sport Mode (but not actually disabled), and with the ESC in Sport you can have a lot of fun. Approach a corner fast, flick the steering and back-off the throttle and the Polo GTI will thrill you with a big helping of lift-off over steer. Itâ€™s a very rewarding chassis, if set up slightly on the safer side of fun, but 99% of the time, that is in truth where you want it to be.
What about that new engine then? Well, honestly, it is a masterpiece. This is the engine the Polo GTI should have had back in 2011. It manages to pull off a great trick in that it doesnâ€™t feel turbocharged. Traditionally, turbo engines deliver a massive slug of power after a moment of lag, and then run out of puff higher up the rev range. The 1.8TSI unit in this Polo pulls smoothly all through the rev range with no noticeable peaks and troughs, and itâ€™ll keenly chase on right up to the rev limiter. It sounds pretty good too, although if Iâ€™m being picky, I think it could do with a slightly rortier exhaust note, the cabin on the Polo is so well insulated you can barely hear the twin tail pipes.
Inside, itâ€™s unmistakably a GTI. The tartan cloth seats offer great support and really look the part harking back to the original Mk1 Golf, and the leather trimmed GTI steering wheel with its red stitching feels like an extremely classy fixture. The rest of the interior is very Volkswagen, simple, clear and well crafted, with some nice touches.
The Polo GTI doesnâ€™t come with overwhelming levels of standard kit, but itâ€™s got everything you need. Thereâ€™s manual air conditioning, a colour centre touch screen with DAB radio, Bluetooth, steering wheel controls for the stereo and on board computer, and the centre console houses a USB socket for connecting your phone or music device. The standard fit LED headlamps are great at night, and help inspire confidence on dark country lanes.
Of course, you can take to the options list and add in climate control, cruise control, sat nav, folding mirrors, a sun roof, and just about anything else you fancy. Thereâ€™s a Sport Performance Kit too which includes Dynamic Chassis Control at Â£245, but in reality, the standard setup is fine, so save your Â£245 for a few tanks full of petrol. If youâ€™re going to spec the 7-speed DSG gearbox though, you will also need the Sport Kit, as this liberates the full 236lb-ft of torque from the engine, otherwise DSG cars have to make do with 184lb-ft.
Personally, aside from the Winter Pack at Â£360 (which includes heated seats) I donâ€™t think I would add anythingâ€¦ this is a purists GTI, it is best enjoyed straight up, as it comes.
Now then, time to get serious. During the five days I had this car for, I received a number of messages from car folk asking the big question... â€œIs it the new MK1 GTI?â€
Well, no, itâ€™s not. The truth being that as good as this Polo GTI is, no modern cars with power steering, huge levels of safety kit affecting kerb weights, and modern emissions regulations to meet will get close to those 80s hatch backs in terms of raw feel.
What this Polo GTI does show though is that the old GTI formula still works. 1.8 litre engine, compact dimensions, simple manual gearbox, focus on driving appeal rather than gadgets, and the end result canâ€™t fail.
At the end of my five days, I was sad to see the Polo go.
I had let it get under my skinâ€¦ it is a proper GTI.
We'd like to thank Peter Cooper Volkswagen for the loan of their Polo GTI demonstrator for our road test, and in particular Andy Gray for his help.
Peter Cooper Volkswagen are an independently-owned group of Volkswagen dealerships serving the South Coast, they are located in Southampton, Portsmouth, Hedge End and Chichester.
You can find out more, and contact your nearest Peter Cooper dealership through their website: http://www.petercoopergroup.co.uk/