Volkswagen is a master at subtle mid-life enhancements. The GTI enthusiast will notice new bumpers both front and rear, tweaked front lights, new ‘Parabolicca’ alloy wheels and dark red rear lights with the obligatory rear spoiler (now finished in black), diffuser and twin-exit tailpipes. Overall, the new design is just about enough to differentiate the old car from the new one; with the lights on, the facelift is even more apparent.
Inside is where the changes are more noticeable. There’s a new steering wheel from the Golf, a new GTI instrument cluster, redesigned layout of the controls on a redesigned centre console, red accents throughout the cabin and Alcantara seats with leatherette inserts that are heated up front. You’ll also find black headliner and aluminium-look pedal caps.
In terms of infotainment there’s the 5.8-inch Composition Media system with colour touchscreen with Bluetooth, CD-player, USB port, MP3 functionality, auxiliary and SD-card input for external audio source and six loudspeakers. The new interior ushers in the new Polo look for the GTI model and overall, it makes the car look and feel more upmarket.
Expect features such as Hill Hold assist, the impressive XDS+ Transverse Electronic Differential Lock, Driver Alert System, Cruise Control and Automatic Post-Collision Braking System. These, combined with the new infotainment system mean that the new GTI is a better equipped vehicle and therefore offers the customer better value despite it costing over R10 000 more than the car that is replaces
The car is now available with the Sport Select suspension and ESC Sport, which includes electronically adjustable dampers with VW chasing down the likes of the Fiesta ST and Clio Rs 200EDC. I still think the ST is the sharpest driving tool of the three, however, the GTI, as always, offers such a complete package.
There will be a Sport Performance Kit that improves performance at the push of a button. When the driver presses the Sport button this activates an electro-mechanical switching valve in the dampers, which alters their tuning to a stiffer sport mode, adds some weight to the steering feel and sharpens up the throttle response and engine soundtrack. This will only be available from later in the year when the manual derivative arrives.
There’s no replacement for displacement
The 1.4 TSI motor is gone and in its place a 1.8-litre turbo four-cylinder, without a supercharger. Power is up to 141kW/250Nm for the seven-speed DSG automatic model. The 1.8-litre motor suits the Polo package far better and while the car doesn’t really feel much quicker than the previous model it does inspire confidence knowing the bigger motor doesn’t have to work as hard to deliver the same if not better performance.
Interestingly, there will be a six-speed manual variant from the second half of 2015 onward. This model will have 141kW/320Nm. We put the torque difference down to the torque limitation of the dry clutch DSG gearbox.
Volkswagen claim that both models will sprint from 0-100km/h in 6.7 second (6.9 seconds in the old car) and go on to a top speed of 236km/h. However, the DSG uses less fuel with a figure of 5.6 litres/100km versus 6.0 litres/100km on the manual.
Warranty and service
The new Polo GTI comes standard with a three-year/45 000km Service Plan and a three-year/120 000km warranty.
Polo 1.8 TSI GTI DSG R326 400