Volkswagen Polo GTI (2010 – 2018) Review

Volkswagen Polo GTI (2010 – 2018) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
The Volkswagen Polo GTI was intended as a junior Golf GTI, but it only really hit the mark when it gained a 1.8-litre turbo engine in 2015.

+Vastly improved from 2015 with 1.8 turbo engine. Snappy manual gearbox. Fun handling. Easy to live with. Three or five-door.

-Older 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 77% of the official MPG figure

With the Volkswagen Golf GTI a huge success, a smaller hot hatch would be just as big an earner – that was the thinking behind the original Volkswagen Polo GTI. But it has never worked out that way, with the car often too sensible and slow to rival the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST, storming Renault Clio Renaultsport, or even the Vauxhall Corsa VXR. However, this generation is worthy of the hot hatch name. Read on for our full Volkswagen Polo GTI review.

The German brand more or less invented the hot hatch with the original Volkswagen Golf GTI, so it has a wealth of experience to build on.

Sadly, this generation of Volkswagen Polo GTI was beset by problems from its launch in 2010, although from 2015 things changed for the better.

There were numerous major tweaks and revisions, raising the model from a fairly poor hot hatch to one of the best. 

The biggest change was the engine. Out went the old Volkswagen Polo GTI’s 1.4-litre twin-charged engine that used a supercharger and turbocharger, and in came a 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol.

Power went up from 180PS to 192PS and peak torque from 250Nm to 320Nm. Plus there was now a manual transmission as standard in place of the old car’s seven-speed DSG – although you could still specify the auto as an option.  

Inevitably, the Volkswagen Polo GTI must be compared to the Ford Fiesta ST – a car that is more fun on the right road – but in reality it has a different character.

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 Volkswagen Polo or many other small cars

It’s fairly subtle in style, too, 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 variant, 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 may 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 (down from 6.9 with the old 1.4 motor) 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 Volkswagen 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 the one to have from this era. However, for someone who really wants the fun of a fast hatch and isn’t in favour of bright paint and oversized styling kits, a used Volkswagen Polo GTI is ideal.

It is a little more practical thanks to a five-door option, plus it feels like a more mature, better-made car.

Fancy a new Volkswagen Polo GTI? Read our review here.

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: 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
More Questions

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