So now there are two Polo GTIs to choose from: one equipped with the elusive third pedal and the other, with the ever-popular DSG gearbox. The manual GTI is some R15 000 cheaper than its DSG sibling however, as we’ve seen from the Golf GTI, the DSG seems to be the popular choice.
But what was it like having a manual in the Polo again? The pre-facelift Polo GTI was DSG-only so it was refreshing to see VW release the option again and nice to see that on paper at least, it has some 70Nm more than the dry-clutch DSG car.
The manual, with its apparent torque advantage would probably be near identical to the DSG in a straight line race, with the DSG making up the torque deficit with supremely fast shifts. Then there’s the manual’s shift speed; hot hatches are made to snap-change however, the manual Polo simply doesn’t feel very happy to do so. I found myself giving it that fraction of a second more, before putting it in gear, and in that time the DSG would have been able to change twice or three times.
Where the manual does come in handy is perhaps in a more dynamic environment such as the track. You can heel-and-toe to match the revs, while the car allows you to gear down when you want to. Driving the Polo DSG around the track, you feel that the gearbox has one goal, self preservation, a good thing but a bit of a killjoy.
New engine and efficiency
Both cars are happy to rev though and chase the redline hard, once on the boil. I did notice that the car must be kept on the boil more than the older 1.4 turbo/supercharged model as there is some lag. However, the newer motor simply feels much stronger. The newer engine sounds good too from inside the cabin; I was never a fan of the older 1.4 model’s engine note.
In terms of consumption, VW claims that the DSG is more efficient however, I found myself achieving very similar consumption figures in both cars, with an average of around 7.9 litres/100km on a mixed cycle.
Obviously, in the traffic that we sit through every day, the DSG would be the car that makes more sense; it’s very fuss-free, whereas the manual requires that pesky clutch work. The manual still makes for a better daily drive than the Fiesta ST though, as the ride comfort and indeed seat comfort is better in the Polo.
GTIs have beautiful interiors; the seats are finished in Alcantara, there’s leather covering on the steering wheel and soft-touch materials along with the intuitive infotainment system with Bluetooth/USB/Aux compatibility. The one strange thing about the manual is its gear lever; it looks very cheap and out of place in such a premium interior.
The exterior does that tough juggling act that most GTIs manage; it is understated when viewed in its entirety yet, upon further, inspection the sportier elements make themselves known and the look grows on you. Some might call conservative boring but there’s no denying that it’s a classy piece of work, inside and out.
I am a huge fan of manual cars and I loved driving a manual performance VW again, but I cannot deny how pleasant a DSG Polo GTI is versus its manual counterpart in terms of daily use. The Polo remains the sensible choice in the small hot hatch segment, only now there’s a manual version that can give you some of the three-pedal thrills that the Fiesta ST has been providing us with for the last two years.