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Review: Volkswagen Polo GT TDI

Driven November 2013

Review: Volkswagen Polo GT TDI

It’s raining Polos this year. It all started with the launch of the GT TSI in April, followed by the Cross Polo in August, and now the GT TDI. While the Cross Polo was more like your regular Polo being put through unnecessary plastic surgery, the GT TDI comes with a more significant change – a heart transplant.

As the badges suggest, it’s a more powerful version of the diesel hatchback, borrowing mechanicals from the bigger Vento sedan. And sitting transverse under the diesel GT’s hood is a four-cylinder, 1,598cc, common-rail diesel engine churning out 103bhp and 250Nm of max pulling power. Like the Vento, but that’s a 28bhp and 70Nm jump over the regular Polo’s 3-cyl, 1.2-litre diesel motor. And that should translate to fun driving on the road. We’ll check that out in a bit.

Like the petrol GT, there’s very little to differentiate the GT TDI from the regular Polo. The only visual changes are the GT badges on the grille and the boot lid, and a slightly altered rear spoiler. Spotting this hotter diesel hatch in profile is going to be even tougher because the GT TDI decals on the C-pillar – like the ones on the TSI model – are missing here.

Inside though, there are some notable changes like new seat fabric, climate control, new music system, leather-wrapped gear knob and sporty aluminium pedals (all like the GT TSI). What’s unlike the TSI is the fact that while the petrol model introduced modern technologies in India, the diesel GT tries to make the most of what is already available in VW’s closet.

Unlike the petrol GT that comes with a seven-speed DSG ’box, there aren’t any segment-firsts on the GT TDI. The 1.6-litre diesel motor is teamed with a five-speed manual, a combination found in the Vento as well. But what’s interesting is that the GT TDI is around 65kg lighter than the Vento, which means the increase in power-to-weight ratio is notable.

The initial turbo lag under 1,800rpm is evident, yet the lack of power isn’t as obvious as it is in the smaller 1.2-litre unit. And once the needle zooms past 2,000rpm, the turbo is completely awake and there’s a strong surge in power. Although all that fat torque on tap is easily enough to potter around the city without the need to shift gears, the jerky clutch pedal does make driving in the city a bit cumbersome.

However, the GT TDI is a treat on open highways. A wider spread of torque and strong mid-range punch ensure it happily pulls from 2,000rpm all the way to 5,000rpm. The engine does tend to get a bit vocal around higher engine speeds, but it’s not as bad as the clamour from the smaller three-pot motor. Even while idling, the bigger 1.6-litre motor feels much smoother than the regular 1,198cc unit.

Ride quality on the GT TDI isn’t different from the regular Polo’s, so it leans a bit on the softer side, and as in the other models, the suspension tends to crash over sharper bumps. At high speeds though, this VW hatch rides well, and if there was a thing to fault, it would be the steering wheel. Not to say it isn’t accurate.

The electronic steering is precise, offers decent feedback and is devoid of any surprises. It works perfectly fine in the city, but doesn’t weigh up enough with speed. And because of its softer setup, the GT TDI also has a tendency to bob at higher speeds, and it moves sideways when pushed harder. But it still doesn’t feel as shaky as the petrol GT, thanks to the added weight of the diesel motor.

This hot diesel hatch is a decent handler too. Going around corners or making sudden direction changes, the GT does exactly what you want it to. But push it harder and it tends to understeer. Straightline stability at high speeds is excellent and it can easily cruise at 140kph all day long. With an overall 15.11kpl, the GT TDI can stretch its legs across 650km on a single tank, making it a decent highway cruiser.

It doesn’t have any direct rivals but it does compete with the likes of Hyundai’s i20 and Toyota’s Liva TRD Sportivo. Both are no match for the GT when it comes to power, but the Hyundai may just outshine the VW in the VFM game. Available only in Highline trim, the GT TDI's Rs 8.08 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) sticker price is on the expensive side, but this is more due to our dim-witted tax structure, which doesn’t allow a diesel hatch with an engine capacity higher than 1,500cc to enjoy small-car tax benefits.

For that money, you get ABS, dual airbags, reverse parking sensors, music system with Bluetooth, USB, aux-in and an SD card slot. So, is this car worth the extra Rs 85,000 over the diesel Polo Highline? We say yes. For that money, you get a much more refined and peppy engine with additional power and decent fuel economy. An auto ’box would surely have upped its desirability, but it would also push the GT TDI higher up the price range. And in a price-sensitive market like ours, that’s the last thing any carmaker wants to do.

The numbers
4-cyl, 1,598cc, common-rail diesel, 103bhp, 250Nm, 5M, 1156kg, 0-100 in 10.27sec, 30-50 in 3rd: 2.8sec, 30-50 in 4th: 5.49sec, 50-70 in 5th: 5.47sec, City kpl: 13.52, Highway kpl: 16.7, Top speed: 180kph, Rs 8.08 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)

The verdict
Heavy on power, light on the pocket – the GT TDI is for those looking for a diesel hot hatch. An auto 'box would've made life easier in the city though.


Devesh Shobha

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