The all-new sixth generation Volkswagen Polo was revealed to the world last week, along with an enhanced GTI model. Yet certain things have left ESM feeling slightly bittersweet about it all.
With a life spent living in the shadow of the bigger Golf GTI, it’s unprecedented for Volkswagen to announce a new Polo GTI at the same time as the regular supermini. In fact Polo GTI models have often felt like something on an afterthought, tacked on partway through a lifecycle. Not so with the new sixth-generation Polo, which will be available in cooking GTI specification from the outset.
The biggest news is under the bonnet, where the 1.8-litre TSI engine found in the current 6C Polo GTI is dispensed with, and in comes a new 2.0-litre unit. In world where everything seems to be about downsizing, there is something refreshing about a manufacturer upscaling an engine instead. Power raises slightly to 197hp, marking a minor increase of 8hp over the outgoing model, whilst gearbox choices remain as a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG dual-clutch. With an increase in size of the new car, we would imagine performance things to be pretty much on par with the existing Polo GTI.
What has clearly changed are the dimensions, with the new Polo substantially bigger by almost every marker compared to the fifth-generation. The new model is so big that Volkswagen have actually chosen to compare it to the Mk4 Golf – a measure of the expansion in supermini scale over the past two decades. Greater interior and luggage space is the reasoning for this, and it does make you wonder just how people even managed to fit inside cars from the 1990s, let alone even be comfortable within them…
What has also changed, ostensibly in the name of practicality, is the adoption of a five-door only bodyshell. The new Polo GTI, and all new Polos, will be offered in solely five-aperture format. This is sad news for ESM’s editor and his staunch anti-five doors policy. Whilst it surely will serve to make life easier for backseat passengers, the primary motivation for the single body is cost saving. With the three-door version accounting for around only 10% of sales, it makes economic sense to offer a solution 90% of buyers will be happy with. Volkswagen is not a democracy – you’ll get what you’re given and be happy with it. Plus, they have to pay for those enormous dieselgate fines somehow.
Austerity bodyshell aside the new Polo GTI does look rather tidy, maintaining the now traditional accoutrements that we expect from a Volkswagen hot hatch. Honeycomb mesh grilles, red stripes, red brake calipers, and twin exhaust tailpipes are all present and correct. Wolfsburg is keen to point out that whilst 17″ wheels are standard, 18″ versions are optional for the first time on a Polo GTI.
Don’t think Volkswagen has forgotten the trademarked GTI elements inside the car either. The “Clark’ tartan seat trim is there again, as is a red-stitched steering wheel wrapped in leather, and black roof lining. The interior of the sixth-generation Polo does mark a noticeable step forward from the current car, with a 6.5” colour infotainment screen standard across the range. A version of Audi’s excellent ‘Virtual Cockpit’ also appears as an option, bringing a fully digital dashboard to the party.
Overall, the new Polo is clearly a big leap forward and not just in size. Given the plaudits already won by the new SEAT Ibiza, that uses the same MQB A0 platform, we can expect a more refined and mature driving experience. Sales are set to begin by the end of the 2017, and prices should be relatively close to the existing version. The adoption of a 2.0-litre engine for the GTI version is clearly a good thing, but still bittersweet in knowing that as part of the 10% this one may not be for us.