The secret diary of a motoring journalist aged 39¾'ish


8th October 2018

The Golf GTI has been the definitive hot hatch for four decades, but Volkswagen tells us this latest Polo GTI is about the same size as the fifth generation Golf. Given that model was an absolute belter of a performance machine, does the Polo now make more sense than the present fast Golf? With a P11D value of £22,760, it’s certainly cheaper than its big brother, but is it better?
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This Polo GTI definitely looks the part sitting on optional 18-inch alloy wheels and with its Reef Blue paint. The dark hue suits its subtle appearance and only those in the know will clock the small ‘GTI’ badges on the front wings and boot. Compared to a Vauxhall Corsa VXR or Ford Fiesta ST, the German is a paragon of restraint and that suits me just dandy for parking in town or multi-stories where you don’t want a car to scream ‘look at me’.
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Inside, the Polo GTI is a little bit more flamboyant, but only in a very Teutonic fashion. The Jacara Red tartan cloth seats are a visual link to the bigger Golf GTI and, more importantly, the chairs provide plenty of support and comfort for those in the front. As for VW’s claim that this Polo is about the same size as a Mk5 Golf, that may be the case for exterior dimensions, but I found the rear less spacious than the old Golf or the latest Fiesta.
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Right, this is a GTI, so it’s time to avoid the main road and head for the hills to get to my appointment this morning. First things first, engage Sport mode on the driving profile settings. One mile later, it’s into the Individual option to dial the suspension back to normal while leaving the throttle, steering and engine noise dialled up 11. On anything other than a tautly smooth road, the Sport suspension is just too jarring and skitters over and across bumps rather than feeling its way over bumps. It’s handy being able to alter the settings, but why can’t we just have one that works in every condition?
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Where to, squire? Saf of the river – you must be joking. And other such black related clichés all come to mind today when trying out the new London Electric Vehicle Company eCity taxi. There’s a great deal to like about this cab, including its Volvo-sourced switchgear and infotainment screen, the range-extender hybrid drivetrain and the ease of its drive. From the back seat, which is where most of us will experience this taxi, it’s quiet, comfortable and more spacious than its diesel-fuelled predecessors.
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The Active Info Display dash with its 10.5 screen is a great piece of design. It’s easy to configure and scroll through different options and the main dials for speed and revs are big and clear. Also, the gear display is useful in this DSG gearbox-equipped model as you cannot always keep track of which ratio the ’box is in when enjoying a back road canter. As for the twin-clutch gearbox itself, it shifts smoothly, but I’d prefer it to drop down a gear a fraction earlier in Sport mode.
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Off to rugby today with my son and another area where this Polo doesn’t bear comparison with the Mk5 Golf is boot capacity. This car has 280-litres with the rear seats in place while the old Golf offers 350-litres. That shows when you’re cramming in boots, brolly and water bottles. It sums up the Polo GTI: it has the name and on-paper performance, but it just doesn’t come together as a complete enough package. As a Polo, the GTI doesn’t have enough of an identity to better its key rivals from Ford or Vauxhall.
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