Driving this fifth generation Polo GTI brought back the memories of the fourth generation GTI that I drove back in 2008. I was on my way to Singapore in the GTI for the inaugural Singaporean Grand Prix (and had a hot date as well). The only thing that stood between us was Kuala Lumpur’s chaotic traffic.
Needless to say the Polo GTI got me to Singapore well on time and my date liked it as well, that’s enough said about that. But yes, it was a complete blast to work the manual gearbox to put down the power. Somehow, even the superfast DSG automatics can never beat the intuitiveness of a proper manual.
Three years later, the memories of that drive still linger but the new GTI, gleaming in red, looks so much more desireable and judging from the words of advice from VW’s PR person, it seems to be quite a stonker as well. And just as the previous review of the Mk 4 GTI, I was again in a rush and not really paying attention to the advice from VW’s Head of PR, the only thing I heard was, “be careful when it’s wet, it has plenty of torque steer”.
After a quick handshake and a “sorry but I’m in a hurry,” I was off. The GTI’s semi-bucket seats are quite supportive and interior space is decent for a six-footer. Out of the car park at VW’s headquarters in Bangsar and I floor it and suddenly Mr.PR’s words run through my head as I wrestle with the steering wheel to keep the front wheels in line. Lesson no. 1 – keep the steering wheel straight before flooring the pedal!
The Polo GTI does come fitted with a limited slip differential to handle the surge of power but even on dry surface with maximum traction, the 180bhp of power and 250Nm of torque just mince the LSD’s existance. Max torque is available at a lowly 2000rpm and max horsepower at 6200rpm, this unique tune ensures that the engine never runs out of breath and catapults the GTI to the century mark in just 6.9 seconds. That’s quick enough to make the GTI one of the most credible hot hatches.
My favourite part of the car is the handling, because of its size and the brilliant electronically assisted steering, you get a barrage of feedback from the tyres and the car responds to your slightest inputs. There was never a moment where I found myself carrying too much speed into a corner as all I needed to do was counter steer a little as soon as the rear threatened to break loose, get on the power and feel the rear settle in before flooring it to sling shot out of a corner. It’s a brilliant set up.
However the short wheelbase results in a twitchy ride on the highway, but that’s to be expected as that happens with all vehicles with a short dimensions. Otherwise it’s a comfortable ride and the 7-speed DSG gearbox makes cruising economical, the engine revs at slightly over 3000rpm at 170kmph, that’s very decent and good enough to return over 500km for a full tank.
Find a long piece of tarmac, work the shift pedals located on the steering wheel and the GTI will speed past the 220kmph mark. But I felt that the brakes were not quite up to the mark, there’s no initial bite at first but press a little harder and the brakes suddenly awaken, its fine at low speeds but at triple digit speeds, I demand better performance. A set of Brembos perhaps?
The other thing I didn’t quite get along with was the turbo lag, floor the throttle and for about half a second nothing happens and then there’s this gush of G-force that momentarily retards your senses before kicking in and forcing you to back off.
Starting at RM132,888 for the three door, it’s the most fun you can buy for this kind of money. There’s absolutely no doubt that the Polo GTI is an awesome car. The number of doors just don’t matter, what matters is the speed and fun that comes bundled. And it will get you a lot of hot dates, I guarantee that.