1999 6N2 Polo GTI

Back Catalogue | Volkswagen Polo GTI

With a new Volkswagen Polo GTI announced, we’ve taken a look back at the previous versions of Wolfsburg’s supermini that have worn the fabled hot hatch badge. And not just because ESM’s editor has owned two of them…

VW Polo GT

Ok, maybe the ownership history plays a small part in it, but there’s also the motivation to raise the profile of the Polo GTI and its ancestors. Having spent some 19 years living in the shadow of the bigger Golf GTI, we think it’s only fair that the Polo gets some attention. There were fast Polos before the GTI, but here we’ve stuck with the six that were given the GTI badge.

1998 – 6N Polo GTI

Until 1998, the most powerful version of the third-generation 6N Polo was the 1.4-litre 16V model with 100hp. Things changed in 1998, with the introduction of a limited edition GTI, boasting a 1.6-litre engine producing 120hp. Suspension lowered by 15mm, a set of 15″ BBS RXII alloy wheels, uprated brakes, and a standard Electronic Differential Lock were the other mechanical changes.

Inside was a leather-wrapped steering wheel, with sports seats and red-edged floors mats also part of the package. Only 3,000 cars were produced, and all in left-hand drive, meaning the UK would have to wait slightly longer for a Polo GTI.


1999 to 2002 – 6N2 Polo GTI

1999 6N2 Polo GTI

ESM’s editor had one. He still talks about it now. A lot…

As part of a comprehensive mid-life facelift, Volkswagen made the Polo GTI a permanent fixture on the 6N2 price list. Much was carried over from the 6N GTI including the same 1.6-litre engine, but with power boosted to 125hp. This drove the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox, which gained a reputation for failure at high mileage. Something the 6N2 GTI owned by ESM’s editor fortunately managed to avoid. 0-62mph needed 8.7 seconds, with a top speed of 127mph, meaning performance was more warm than boiling.


Editorial – Have you got fuel economy OCD?

Motorway cruising has got our editor thinking about just how far do you need to go in the pursuit of fuel economy, especially when it’s probably an impossible task.

Editorial12052014Driving down the A1(M) in the Polo R-Line the other day, sulking whippet in the boot, something struck me about the traffic that was being generated. Usually on the A1(M) any kind of tailback tends to be caused by lorries overtaking each other – that soul-sapping display of watching one HGV ease past another with a 0.0005 mph speed differential, played out over several miles. But there was something else which caught my eye today too; cars sat in the wake of lorries in front of them, travelling at 50 mph.

I understand that we have no minimum speed limit, so cars can essentially travel at whatever speed they want on our motorway network. Obviously that’s so long as they’re not causing an obstruction, or contravening any relative road traffic legislation. But it did leave me wondering why on earth you’d want to sit there chugging along, whilst HGVs, caravans and everything else has to venture into the outside lane to get by.

But then something else became apparent. A lot of these cars doing the half-ton were rather new; as in less than 3-4 years old. Whilst I know down at the bottom of the automotive food chain there’s still some very slow cars on sale, at least 99% of them are still capable of more than 50 mph. Looking closer still,  the badges on the boot of these cars said ‘ECOnetic’, ‘Bluemotion’ or ‘EcoMotive’. Now it made sense; these were people desperate to get somewhere near the claimed official MPG figure for their car.


2014 SEAT Leon Cupra – Something of a bargain

We like the new SEAT Leon Cupra here at EngageSportMode. We like it even more when SEAT UK announces keenly priced finance options, that match the power output of their car’s 2.0 TSI engine.

2014 SEAT Leon Cupra 02

Call us OCD, but having a Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) finance deal that lets you drive a 265 PS SEAT Leon Cupra SC for £265 a month makes us a little bit happy. Oh, and that’s with a £1,000 deposit contribution from SEAT UK and an interest rate of 4.9% on a 36 month deal. SEAT haven’t provided any worked finance examples to accompany this news, so there may be hefty deposit contribution lurking behind that headline figure. But regardless, we admire the marketing work there SEAT, and it makes for an attractive payment to get behind the wheel of something which will do 0-62 mph in 5.9 seconds.

2014 SEAT Leon Cupra 003

If you’re unsure what exactly a PCP scheme entails, then have a read through our previous car buying deliberations here. Also, if you’re serious about buying a 265 PS Spanish hot hatch, ESM would suggest visiting the SEAT website or getting yourself down to your local dealership. They can provide financial advice; we can’t!

200th Post Special – Volkswagen Polo R-Line 8,000 Mile Review

It seems hard to believe that a year has now passed since ESM picked up a very shiny Volkswagen Polo R-Line on a chilly January afternoon. So 365 days and 8,000 miles later, just what has life with the R-Line been like for the past twelve months?

Polo R-Line Report2 001

In short, the R-Line has been virtually flawless throughout the year, with only a handful of minor issues cropping up along the way. Here’s a quick summary of what has been good, and bad, since the last report with just 1,000 miles showing on the odometer:

The Good

  • Fuel economy – 45 mpg is an average real world figure for day-to-day driving, based on a mix of motorway and urban roads. Economy has improved over the year, and longer runs can easily see it creep up towards 50 mpg. (more…)

EngageSportMode Shares the R-Line Love

If you just cannot get enough of hearing about my Polo R-Line, but would rather read about it elsewhere, then you prayers have been answered. Over the coming months I’ll be documenting my ownership of the R-Line over at PoloDriver.com

But in all seriousness, I am genuinely honoured to have been asked to contribute to somebody elses website. I’ve only been doing this internet writing thing for 18 months, so to have the chance to write something for PoloDriver.com truly means a lot.

This is especially true given the immense time and effort put into the site by owner Rich Gooding. I challenge you to spend five minutes on PoloDriver.com and not find out something new about Volkswagen’s supermini. For instance, did you know about the painfully rare 2004 Polo Club Sport? Or that VW India offers a version of the R-Line known as the GT TSI? Well, now you do.

So go on, go learn something new about the Polo!

Friday Photo from the Archives #7

Some car ideas work better in certain places than others. Some, such as the BMW 5-Series GT, don’t really seem to work at all – at least not in America that’s for sure.

The Volkswagen Jetta (or Bora/Vento/Golf with a boot) is one of those propositions that has never really taken the UK by storm. Consequentially, they present themselves as something of a bargain on the second-hand car market, which was how I came to find myself behind the wheel of one in March 2010. This one in particular:

At the time I was between jobs and, had just sold my wretched Audi S3, as its financial burden had finally proven to be enough. However, the prospect of being sans automobile was a thought too unholy to contemplate.  I had to find a new vehicle and fast. But any replacement car would have to be affordable to run, reliable and blessed with at least some modicum of performance and entertainment.

As a VAG fan, my natural instinct was to think of a Golf. Specifically, a Mk5 GT TDI. It was quick enough, achieved good fuel economy from its 2.0 TDI engine and should be relatively solid. But, alas, the GT TDI was expensive. Volkswagen’s chosen son was the one everybody wanted, which meant used values remained high. That GT TDI moniker also meant insurance prices had a suitably enhanced value too. So I used my automotive knowledge and thought laterally; when is a Golf not a Golf? When it’s badged as something else and has a humongous rear end.

When I first went to view NJ56 XKS (a great number plate for a Jaguar) the trader described it to me as “having a boot you could easily get two dead bodies in.” He also had a Caterham Seven Superlight in his own garage, so I decided he was probably (for once) a genuine person to buy a car from, and ignored the fear of my car once carrying corpses in a previous life. The Jetta’s history was slightly more mundane, as you would expect, having been a former company-car for the Benfield motoring group. As a result it had been serviced religiously by a VW dealership, meaning mechanically it was sound, but the black paintwork betrayed a working life. Either way, it was a deal too good to miss, and I found myself behind the wheel of a diesel saloon at the age of only 25.

In the eighteen months I owned it, the Jetta proved to be a tireless workhouse, schlepping up and down the A1(M) with ease. It’s cavernous boot was never filled, and I often felt like I was a photocopiers salesperson on the way to a very important business meeting whilst in it. On the road it was entertaining to drive, the 140 bhp and 236 lb.ft of torque gave effortless shove and the GT TDI suspension meant it attacked corners with verve belying it’s size.  Parking was a pain in the backside, literally, given its hefty rump as was constantly having to explain to people what it was.

But more fool them; in the UK the Jetta remains the thinking man’s Golf. ESM’s good friend The Tame Geek drives one very similar to the one I owned, and every time I see one I have a wry smile, liking to think the owner made a clever choice to avoid going with the herd.

I do miss my Jetta, as does ESM’s OH; mainly because she found it comfortable enough to fall asleep in whilst I drove. In the end it was traded for that of which we do not speak, which was probably the worst car-buying choice I’ve made! Oh well, can’t win them all, just ask BMW.

Music Makes it Better – Driving Tunes

Does music turn a drive into a journey? It’s something that struck me last weekend, as I found myself piloting the Polo R-Line along a short stretch of road from Crakehall to Catterick in North Yorkshire. It’s the one highlighted in blue on the image below:

Mapping via google.com

Mapping via google.com

It’s a road I’ve driven a few times, but never with any real intent. However, last Saturday, everything seemed to align into a perfect opportunity to test the R-Line in the wild. It was warm and sunny, there was very little traffic as people made the most of the good weather, and this song came on the radio:

As you can see from the video, What It Feels Like by Armin Van Buuren is quite clearly a song that you’re meant to drive to. The beat and rhythm fitted perfectly as I threaded the Polo around the twisty bends, found the slightly too long travel of the suspension and worked the TSI motor for all it’s worth.

By the time I reached Catterick and joined the A1, I was grinning from ear to ear. Had I done that route with the radio off it would still have been enjoyable; but having a musical accompaniment just made it even better.

Whether this is the same for everyone, I’m not so sure. Up until recently I’d have probably turned the radio off to have maximum concentration when partaking in some “spirited driving” but playing Forza Horizon has probably made me contemplate music as part of the experience. In addition, should you be fortunate enough to be driving something with an aurally exciting engine (we’re talking V8, V12 territory), then I’m pretty sure you’d be in the music off category.

So if you’re out this weekend doing enthusiastic driving, will you be speakers up or windows down?

VW Polo R-Line – 1,000 Mile Review

As you might have just read, after a huge period of indecision, ESM finally acquired a Volkswagen Polo R-Line. That was back in late January so, several months and miles later, just what has the kitted-up supermini been like to live with?

First, some photos from when it arrived and the cleanest it has been since, due to the excellent weather we’ve had.

Having had my hand ever-so-slightly forced into taking the Deep Black pearlescent option, I was pleased to find that it suited the R-Line well. The jutting front end gives it an aggressive appearance, with the rear diffuser and relatively large exhaust pipe making the back look equally sporty. On the motorway it has proved able to hustle and intimidate others out of its way well; something it’s predecessor never could. It’s just unfortunate that the colour is already living up to my fears; showing a couple of small scratches, much to my annoyance!


ESM’s 2012 Car Buying Predicament #6 – The Finale

Recently I wrote about the end of my ownership of the 9N3 Volkswagen Polo, following the epically long saga to replace it which began all the way back in October last year. So after several months of searching, test driving and negotiating, just what did land on the EngageSportMode drive?


A Polo R-Line; not mine.

Originally when my quest began I had dismissed the regular Polo for looking too mundane, despite the appeal of the 1.2 TSI petrol engine. But whilst researching a broker who could supply an Audi A1, I happened across a listing for the R-Line like the one shown above. Embarrassingly for such a perennial Polo purchaser, the existence of the R-Line had completely passed me by, despite being unveiled several months ago. Could the R-Line be the answer to all the requirements I’d originally asked of my new car? Let us just review what I wanted:

Essential Criteria

1. 0-60mph in less than 10 seconds. The R-Line dips under with an official 0-60 of 9.7 seconds.
2. A 120mph+ top speed. 118mph according to the manual. Close, but not quite.
3.Real world mpg of 35+. Yup. The benefits of a modern downsized engine mean an official combined mpg of 53.3, so even taking into account the fact the stated figures are impossible to achieve, it bodes well.
4. 3-Spoke steering wheel. Three-spoked, with a flat bottom, and made of a nice leather/perforated leather combination. (more…)

End Of The Road: The VW Polo 1.4 SE (9N3)

I intended to write and publish this item many, many, weeks ago. However, certain events transpired to prevent me from doing so. So here it is, now, slightly later than planned.

 Polo SE-01

In short, the 9N3 Volkswagen Polo 1.4 SE pictured above is no longer with me, having been traded in for something else, which finally concluded the epic car-buying saga. It was in my possession for around 9 months, and in that time it failed to be anything if not underwhelming. 

Polo SE-03

After the previous frantic experience of the Panda 100HP, I realised I needed something a little more sensible from my daily-driver. To be fair, you’ll struggle to get much more rational than a 1.4 petrol Polo in SE spec.  (more…)