VW Polo GTI 1.4 TSI12 | 01 | 2012Scotcars rating

    VW grabs the Polo by the throat and injects a sizeable amount of ooomph! Does it work?


    The expression ‘pocket rocket’ is, to my mind, overused. It also gives the wrong impression, conjuring up images of boy racers in grossly modified elderly Corsas or 206s. But there is one small performer which keeps a very low profile and yet could wipe the floor with some of the other small sportsters. VW’s Polo is a discreet, sensible runabout which has proved immensely popular for the past 34 years and the latest generation – the fifth – sold more than 45,000 in 2010, its best year ever.

    But take the standard car, do a few tweaks on the styling, stretch it and lower it a fraction and squeeze in a twin supercharged 1.4 power unit and you have a very fine mini rocket which won’t hit you in the pocket. It’s actually 25% more efficient than the model it replaces, returning almost 50 miles to the gallon while cutting CO2 at the same time.

    I was rather nonplussed when I heard the test car was coming my way. In fact it sat outside my house for a day or two before I finally got round to taking a look at it. What a mistake that was! From the off, it was a delight … exciting, enthusiastic and exhilarating. I loved it.

    On the Road

    At first it feels a touch rock hard on the road, with the firm suspension feeding up through the equally robust sports seats. The DSG gearbox, developed by VW in 2005, is superb, combining the comfort and ease of an automatic with the responsiveness and fuel efficient of a manual unit. It’s extremely clever, using two clutches to overcome the drops in power usually suffered in a standard auto. As a result, the gearshifts are extremely smooth and completed in less than four-hundredths of a second, leaving you to get on with the job of enjoying the road ahead. Power is more than double that from the standard 1.4 and the feedback to the driver is first class.

    Comfort and Safety

    There are only a few external clues that this car is something special, from the iconic GTI honeycomb grille with red highlights to the 17in alloys with red brake callipers. Inside, there are GTI inserts in the dash, centre console and steering wheel and some discreet red stitching, such as round the gear knob gaiter, to add a touch of something special. It’s crammed with equipment for safety and comfort as standard and in the test car the only extra was the £840 touch screen navigation and radio system. Add to that VW’s reputation for quality and reliability and you have a great package, representing remarkable value with change from £20,000.

    Would I buy one?

    Understated performance and excellent value for money.

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    Alan Douglas

    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £18,795 / £19,635
    Engine / Power: 1390cc / 177bhp
    How fast?: 0-62mph 6.9secs / Max 142mph
    How big/heavy?: L3976mm W1901mm H1452mm / Weight 1269kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: 47.9mpg combined / CO2 139g/km
    InsGP/Road tax: 30E / Band E £115
    Alternatives: Alfa Mito Cloverleaf; Audi A1; MINI Cooper S; Skoda Fabia VRS

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