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By Mark Jones

Road Test Editor

WATCH: VW Polo GTI has lost none of its boyish charm

Aspirational pulling power of this compact hot hatch is as strong as ever.

The Citizen Motoring last drove a VW Polo GTI in 2020, and despite the car not changing during this time, I was looking forward to getting reacquainted with this pocket rocket again when Volkswagen South Africa offered us a drive in one recently.

Watch Polo GTI in action

What has changed in this time though is that my 16-year-old daughter and her boyfriend have gone from being car-mad passengers to car-mad drivers. And the keys hadn’t even touched the counter and they were all over the car. This only proves the aspirational pulling power of a VW Polo GTI among the youngsters is as strong as ever.

There was a time when you could pick and choose your weapon in this hotly-contested segment of the market if you didn’t want to drive the country’s most popular hatch with a GTI badge on it. The loyal Ford and Opel fans could opt for the likes of the Fiesta ST and Corsa OPC. But these models have long disappeared from showroom floors. Now if you want to go play with a compact hot hatch, it’s only the Polo GTI that is available to you.

Playing means a 147kW and 320Nm, 2.0-litre turbocharged TSI engine paired to a six-speed DSG double clutch gearbox, It runs down to the front wheels through an XDS differential lock that does its best to limit wheelspin, but seldom succeeds.

ALSO READ: Polo GTI a race car straight off the showroom floor

Polo GTI rear
Our Polo GTI rode on optional 18-inch rims. Picture: Mark Jones

Firm ride

Riding 15mm lower than a run-of-the-mill commuter Polo, and offering a sport suspension with adaptive shocks, and optional 18-inch alloys, the Polo GTI likes to remind you of your age (in my case). And that you are driving the sportiest derivative in the range.

But, at least with standard driving profile selection that offers four driving modes; Eco, Individual, Normal and Sport, you can choose to set-up your Polo GTI to suit your mood or road condition at a push of a button. This help to retain that everyday versatility that makes VW GTI cars such popular choices for those who want more than just hardcore track or dragstrip driving.

ALSO READ: There is a VW Polo GTI to tickle everyone’s fancy

Higher top-end speed

Talking of which, despite testing this exact same engine/gearbox combo twice already over the years, we still took the Polo GTI to Gerotek. Just to see if VW hadn’t maybe snuck some undeclared horsepower under the hood. But the sprint numbers all came in within a few hundredths of a second of the previous runs.

What did catch us by surprise was the fact that the electronic top speed limiter that kicked in at 238 km/h before, has seemingly disappeared. Our test car ran way past this to 260 km/h.

Polo GTI interior
The Polo GTI is ready to launch. Picture: Mark Jones

ALSO READ: Volkswagen details 2024 product roll-out and future of Polo

Bragging rights

Rather academic in a world where you can attend open track days to show off your driving skills and not just your car’s computerised launch control functions. and will gain a criminal record if you choose to test this theory on a public road. But for some, this is exactly one of the reasons they buy a car like this.

Bragging rights beat prison food when you are young and bullet proof. When you get older, you prefer your morning cappuccino served by your partner. Not some cuddly mass murderer called Big Bubba.

Just like men of my age should not have man buns and wear skinny jeans, I am too old to be seen driving a Polo GTI. But despite this harsh reality, I really enjoyed my time with the Volkswagen Polo GTI. And I guess this is why it will remain as popular as it is.

Polo GTI in numbers

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Road Tests Volkswagen Polo

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