We drove the Polo GTI…the sporting legend lives on.

There are cars where even the initials evoke a modern day legend. VW succeeded in doing this with the letters GTI. They created a car which had it all: a Golf a 1,6 lite four cilinder developing a healthy 110 hp. This first Golf had not only an elegant design, it was also light and compact. So 110 hp meant exhilarating performance, certainly in the days and age it was born. But sheer power was not all. The VW engineers also took great care to give the car a superb handling. They also added a few sporting touches to the interior which quickly became iconic, and the recipe for success was made.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Over the years, VW continued the tradition. The GTI remained the top end, sporting Golf with above average performance and handling.

But with the Golf growing bigger and heavier, there was room in the model range to continue the original concept of nimbleness with extra power. The Polo proved to be an excellent base for this.

Despite its move to fully fledged EV’s, the VW group has of course excellent combustion engines (still) in store, and so it shoehorned its formidable 2 litre four cylinder 200 hp engine into the car, and coupled it to an equally efficient 7 speed auto box. Most pleasant is the pulling power of this engine, with 320 Nm torque being available over a very wide rev range between 1500 and 4350 rpm.

The fun starts as soon as you push the starting knob, and the engine comes to life with a beautiful and very promising growl. Subdued of course, but very pleasing to the sporting ear nonetheless.

Despite all its eagerness, one immediately also feels the mechanical perfection and uncanny docility of it all. This is a well honed and perfected drivetrain, refined despite all its sportiness.

There are different driving modes at your fingertips, and the sports mode will surely inspire you most, but let it be said that the engine power is so abundant that this is a very fast and nimble machine under all circumstances.

The performance figures speak for themselves. The Polo sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 6,7 seconds and hurtles to a top speed of not less than 238 km/h. The engine emits a pleasant growl, but as said, remains refined and also the chassis takes all this very well in its stride.

Consumption is very much dependent on your personal driving style, but let’s say that the relatively low weight of the Polo helps here. We achieved an average consumption of 6,4 liters. Consumption is typically rather more – between 7,5 and 8,5 liters – when runnign at very high speeds on German Autobahnen…

Sporting touches…

This Polo breathes also the unique aura of the original “Ur” Golf GTI, and is found in details such as the patterns of the seat upholstery, combined with more modern touches such as the contrasting red stitching on the steering wheel amongst others.

The digital instrumentation offers also many possibilities to put you in a very sporting mood. You can measure your lap times for instance, or you can check on the so-called power monitor the oil temperature, turbo boost pressure, engine power in kW or g-force(s).

The layout of the dashboard is good, and one has much appreciated manual controls via a round knob for volume (left) and choosing a menu item on the central touchscreen. The high gloss surface of this touchscreen shows of course every possible fingerprint, which makes frequent use of a microfibre cloth necessary…

Ever so practical

Our test car came with a DAB+ radio and AppleCarPlay, Google Auto and Mirror link, so we could hook up our Samsung S22 and enjoy it all.

On the practical front, the Polo scores. It’s a hatchback, this means you can load up to a good 600 liters of luggage with the rear seat folded down and with luggage height up to the waistline. The Polo is roomy enough to seat four tall adults too.

The truth of a sports car lies in its suspension fine-tuning and handling…

This proverb is again well proven by this Polo GTI. Of course, when one knows that this Polo platform plays a central role in the vast VW group strategy, one can only expect the very best, and indeed, the Polo delivers here. Our test car came with the optional “sport select” suspension, which offers in the “Normal” mode still quite decent comfort at slow urban speeds. This comfort improves the faster you drive, and indeed, when moved with spirit this Polo feels “just right” and puts a smile on the face of its passengers.

The handling of the GTI Polo is also top notch. Straight line stability is excellent, and on curvy roads one can steer with utmost precision. At the limit, the rear wheels start to drift, but are caught reliably by the ESP. Body roll is negligible. All this inspires confidence and gives you indeed tons of driving pleasure. The GTI comes standard with an electronic limited slip differential XDS, which controls the braking pressure of the inner front wheel in curves, which of course adds to the overall agility.

The steering servo is strong at slow speeds, when things go faster, this diminishes so the proper steering “feel” is retained. The brakes have also excellent stamina and are quite powerful indeed. Noblesse oblige…


For those who enjoy powerful and well handling petrol engined cars, the Polo GTI is the one to have and cherish. It will give you tons of driving pleasure, whilst remaining the well built and practical everyday car. Still sensible, but then offering close to supercar panache and punch.

Of course, it doesn’t come exactly cheap. Remember however, this is a well honed performance car, engineered and built to top standards. And given the pleasure it offers to you every day for years to come, its cost – last but not least in driving it – is very reasonable indeed…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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