Volkswagen Polo GTI (2018) Review

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Volkswagen Polo GTI (2018) At A Glance

3/5
Honest John Overall Rating
Cars like the Polo GTI are a dying breed – people seem to prefer performance crossovers in 2020. The Fiesta ST remains the default choice if you’re after a fun size hot hatchback, but the mature Polo GTI has a slow-burner appeal that you’ll grow to love.

+A terrific all-rounder, great looking with a fantastic interior, punchy performance from Golf GTI engine.

-Expensive to buy new, lacks the drama and excitement of the Fiesta ST, relatively high running costs.

The Volkswagen Polo GTI isn’t quite the fun-size Golf GTI we hoped it would be. It’s also unable to reach the dizzy heights of the Ford Fiesta ST, which is arguably the greatest affordable hot hatch of the new millennium. Instead, it’s a more mature take on the hot hatchback recipe, with classy looks, superb build quality and a fair amount of poke. You can thank the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine for that – it’s the same unit that’s used to power the contemporary Volkswagen Golf GTI. That means 200PS and plenty of bragging rights in the office car park.

Looking for a Volkswagen Polo GTI (2018 on)?
Register your interest for later or request to be contacted by a dealer to talk through your options now.

This is an easy car to like but a hard car to love. It’s the most powerful production Polo ever, with Volkswagen borrowing the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine from the fabled Golf GTI to give the Polo GTI some serious poke. Yes, it has been detuned to 200PS, but that’s a big number for a small car. The engine puts the super in supermini.

Its chief rival is the Ford Fiesta ST, another hot hatchback with 200PS to its name, albeit sourced from a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine.

Ultimately, the Polo GTI can’t match the Fiesta ST for outright thrills, but if the Ford is too frenetic for you, the more mature Volkswagen could be a welcome tonic. More red wine than Red Bull.

Then there’s the styling. The Polo GTI certainly looks the part – bystanders would have to look twice to check you’re not driving a Golf GTI. Hardly surprising, when you consider that the overall dimensions of the five-door only Polo GTI are nearly identical to the Mk5 Golf GTI. Haven’t you grown, etc?

The 17-inch alloy wheels fill the arches, while the twin exhausts and red pinstripe give the Polo GTI a sense of purpose. This continues on the inside, where you’ll find trademark tartan-trimmed seats, red stitching and a GTI badge on the leather-trimmed steering. You could buy the Polo GTI on the strength of its aesthetics and be very happy with your purchase.

It’s not as practical as the regular Volkswagen Polo. The battery has been moved to the boot to accommodate the 2.0-litre engine, so there’s a small penalty in terms of boot space. Elsewhere, there’s enough room in the cabin for five adults, although the middle seat is a bit tight.

While the cabin looks the part, and we have no complaints about the space, some of the plastics used feel a little low-rent in a car of this price. The details and quality of the seats, steering wheel and infotainment system go some way to counterbalancing these issues, but we’d expect better from a Volkswagen.

We’d also expect more fun from a Volkswagen wearing a GTI badge. It’s quick, but it lacks the fizz of the Fiesta ST. The 0-62mph time is polished off in just 6.7 seconds, but there’s a remoteness to the driving experience that seems to remove the sense of excitement. Maybe this is part of its appeal. For long-legged comfort and joy, the Polo GTI is hard to beat. Swift rather than explosive. Fast rather than fun.

That said, it’s certainly the best Volkswagen Polo GTI to date. Stylish and tech-laden, especially in GTI+ guise. We also adore the look of the cabin and the strong image associated with the badge.

What does a Volkswagen Polo GTI (2018) cost?