Unless you were in a coma over the past few months, you would have noticed that there is a race on between two of our most popular fast food outlets to see who can produce the burger with the biggest buns, the most cheese and, most important of all, the biggest beef patties.
While it's all quite amusing, I can't help but wonder what's wrong with a normal sized burger. Why the need for these big, over the top burgers when what we really want is a plain, simple and satisfying burger.
This is where the new Polo GTI comes in. Its small, fun and, most importantly, fast. However, is the Polo GTI a real GTI or just an affordable way of getting the GTI badge to the masses? The previous Polo GTI, although very popular, was a slight let down for me. This new version, on the other hand, is somewhat truer to the GTI heritage. The original Golf GTI was a small, no fuss and fast little car designed in secret by only a handfull of young designers and engineers. That's exactly what the Polo GTI is.
As is the case with the Golf 6 GTI, you have to look very closely to spot that this Polo is a GTI. Slight hints here and there prove that this in no ordinary Polo, but if I was to be completely honest, I expected more – after all, the Golf 6 GTI is the subtle hot hatch out there. While Volkswagen are experts at subtlety, the Polo GTI should have been more in your face with big wheels, wings and gills, something along the lines of the Renault Clio RS Cup, whose looks I loved.
Inside it's typical Volkswagen, meaning that – yet again – nothing is over the top. The Polo GTI is very simple inside and, while there are some GTI markings and the sporty alcantara and leather trimmed seats, there is not much difference to the rest of the Polo range besides some brushed chrome surrounding the air vents and chrome accents on the control knobs. It's a classy and refined interior with hints of its sporty nature, completed by a flat-bottomed multifunction steering wheel.
It's also not the biggest of interiors, but there is space to seat four people in relative comfort. The boot is very small, though, and I can't really work out why because there is quite a big gap between the boot floor and the spare wheel housing. The rear seats can fold down, of course, but then only one friend can join you on your joy ride.
The Polo is powered by a 1.4-litre turbo- and supercharged engine which produces an impressive 132kW of power and 250Nm of torque. It's a real little gem and sounds pretty good once you climb up into the higher rev range. Low down the exhaust note is throaty, to say the least. The Polo gets from zero to 100km in just under seven seconds which, if you know your performance hatches, is about the same as its big brother, the Golf 6 GTI.
The Polo GTI comes standard with a 7-speed automatic DSG gearbox with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. Pop it into Sport mode and the revs climb, the throttle becomes super sensitive and the whole car livens up. In Sport mode the Polo will shift at about 7 500 r/min – this little car is to be taken seriously! Even a tuned BMW E36 328i stood no chance once the Polo hit second gear and the wheels stopped spinning.
If I had to fault something it would be that the Polo is not as convincing as say, a Clio RS Cup, in the corners. I feel that the wheels – which are the 'love them' or 'hate them' telephone dial design that's become a GTI trademark – could have been bigger and the Polo's ride height could have been slightly lower. It feels as if there is too much engine for the chassis. In its defense, the Polo offers a much softer ride than the Clio RS Cup.
The Polo GTI is a car that can be thrashed all the way to that very exclusive restaurant, but the valet parking attendant will still open the door for you and call you sir. Some people may find that boring, but then again, they will probably opt for the Clio or Alfa Romeo MiTo, in which case you, in the Polo, will destroy them once you get out of the corner and onto a straight.
At R259 000, the Polo GTI makes a strong case for itself when compared to rivals such as the similarly priced Alfa Romeo Mito 1.4 TBi Quadrifoglio Verde (125kW, 250Nm, R269 585), Opel Corsa OPC (141kW, 266Nm, R259 790) and the Renault Clio RS (148kW, 215Nm, R259900). As with most German cars, standard specification is very good, but extras like PDC will set you back R3 510 and a panoramic roof R8 800, so be cautious about how much you are willing to spend on extras.
The Polo GTI is a true little hot hatch, a real little firecracker. It's like that simple cheese burger: nothing fancy or over the top. It is what it is and it does what it's supposed to do well while putting a smile on your face. I just wish Volkswagen added some extra cheese.
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