Volkswagen Polo GTI (2010 – 2018) Review

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Volkswagen Polo GTI (2010 – 2018) At A Glance

4/5

+Vastly improved from 2015. Snappy manual gearbox. Fun handling. Easy to live with. Three or five-door.

-Old 1.4 twin-charged model is poor. Suspension a little too firm for poorly surfaced roads.

Insurance Groups are between 29–30
On average it achieves 78% of the official MPG figure

Volkswagen more or less invented the hot hatch with the original Golf GTI, so it has a wealth of experience to build on. Sadly the latest generation of Polo GTI was beset by problems from its launch in 2010 – but from 2015 things have changed for the better. There have been numerous major tweaks and revisions, raising the Polo GTI from a fairly poor hot hatch to one of the best. 

The biggest change is the engine. Volkswagen has thrown out the old Polo GTI's 1.4-litre twin-charged engine and replaced it with a 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol. Power is up from 180PS to 192PS and peak torque is up from 250Nm to 320Nm. Plus there is now a manual transmission as standard in place of the old car’s seven-speed DSG – though you can still specify the auto as an option.  

Inevitably the Polo must be compared to the Ford Fiesta ST - a car that is both cheaper and more fun on the right road - but the Polo GTI has a different character from the hyperactive Fiesta. It's more mature and easier to live with, thanks to a quiet engine and easy controls at low speeds. Around town or at a cruise it's barely any different to a regular Polo. 

It’s fairly subtle in style with bumpers and a spoiler that are much less ‘in your face’ than the oversized add-ons you get with a Vauxhall Corsa VXR. It’s still noticeably different from a lesser Polo, though, with a red grille surround and GTI-specific alloy wheels the most noticeable features. Those in the know will recognise this as a GTI, but your neighbours will see it as just another small car.

It might look relatively subdued, but it is an impressive performer. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 6.7 seconds and, thanks to that meaty peak torque figure, there’s always performance on tap when you want it. Overtaking is effortless and on a country lane there’s a lot of fun to be had, plus the engine makes a meaningful growl at higher revs.

However there are problems – notably with the suspension. It’s a little too stiff on very poor roads, causing the car to jitter and jiggle. That’s not particularly confidence inspiring if you want to put your foot down and have some fun, but on a wider road with a better surface the Polo GTI is great, thanks to good grip levels, nicely weighted, nimble steering and a snappy gear change.

If out-and-out enjoyment is top of your list the Ford Fiesta ST is still king of the current crop of hot hatches. However, for someone who really wants the fun of a hot hatch and isn’t in favour of bright paint and oversized styling kits, the Polo GTI is ideal. It is a little more expensive than its rivals from Ford and Vauxhall, but it is more practical thanks to a five-door option, plus it feels like a more mature, better-made car. 

Volkswagen Polo GTI 1.8 Road Test

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Real MPG average for a Volkswagen Polo GTI (2010 – 2018)

RealMPG

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance

78%

Real MPG

28–46 mpg

MPGs submitted

125

Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

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Ask Honest John

Is my car clever enough to recognise that most of my driving is around town and remap its engine management accordingly?
"Is my Polo GTI clever enough to recognise that most of my driving is around town and remap its engine management accordingly? If so, how can I get out of this mode when I want to return to using maximum performance on the open road?"
Yes, the ECU will understand the relatively low revs and stop/start nature of driving in traffic. If there is sufficient charge in the battery it will also cut the engine when stationary. However, get out onto an open road and, as long as you are using 99RON Super petrol, it will deliver peak performance. (On 95RON petrol, performance will be 5%-10% down.)
Answered by Honest John
Are there any small hot estates?
"I am currently driving a Skoda Fabia 62-plate 1.4 TSI vRS Estate with the CTHE engine that I have had for about a year. It has done about 30k miles from new. I am looking to replace it with something that has similar engine size and performance and I cannot find anything to match it in today's market (sub £15k). Do you have any recommendations with similar performance, preferably an estate?"
My recommendation about this car is to get shot of it as fast as you can before the engine fails. Replace with a Fiesta ST or the not-quite-as-good Polo 1.8 GTi. No hot little estates.
Answered by Honest John
What should I replace my Renault Twingo with?
"I have had my RenaultSport Twingo for five years and am looking at replacing it after 94,000 miles. It has always been a big enough car for me, but I'm looking for something nearly new that is small and sporty. I like the look of the Abarth 595, Volkswagen Polo GT/GTI, Citroen DS3 and Peugeot 208. I have between £13,000 - £15,000 to spend and will do a mixture of town and motorway driving. I will be covering under 15,000 miles a year. Which car would you go for and why?"
The DS3 1.6 THP 155 was good fun but has had a few engine problems. See the car by car entry: http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/ds/ds3-2010/ Better a plain 500 Abarth on 16-inch wheels than the fancy versions on 17-inch wheels that are robbed of steering feel. Polo 1.8GTI ol. Polo 1.4 GTI Twincharger an absolute disaster. Peugeot 208 GTI nothing like as good as a Fiesta ST.
Answered by Honest John

What does a Volkswagen Polo GTI (2010 – 2018) cost?