By Mike Torpey on 2015-12-19 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Volkswagen Polo GTI
IT'S not often that you hop out of a car and give it a lingering pat on the roof - the way you would congratulate a winning racehorse with a couple of slaps down its neck.
But whether you prefer putting your money on a sprinter or a stayer, you'll be on a winner either way with the Volkswagen Polo GTI.
Seen as a baby brother to the fabled Golf GTI, the fiery Polo may have been around for 30 years but there are no grey whiskers on this pocket rocket.
Now into its fourth generation, the Polo GTI doesn't just perform better than ever it makes you feel good too with its combination of style, composure and quality.
GTI insignia, eyecatching 10-spoke silver and black alloy wheels with red brake callipers, honeycomb grille, twin tailpipes, roof spoiler and red radiator strips are standard features along with sports suspension that's lowered by 10mm at the front and 15mm at the back.
Move inside and there's a chunky flat-bottomed leather steering wheel with logo and red stitching plus drilled alloy pedals.
In fact the only touches I don't much care for are the tartan-style ‘Clark' cloth seats - even if they have been an emblem since the first GTI in 1976.
In trademark Volkswagen manner the switchgear is all well made, sensibly placed and beautifully engineered.
As for space, rear access is good because this is a five-door car but rear legroom can be restricted if the front seats are slid fully back, nor would you want to travel far in the centre rear position.
Otherwise travelling is exactly what you want to do in the Polo GTI because it's every inch a match for lauded rivals like the Ford Fiesta ST and Peugeot 208 GTI.
Beneath the bonnet is a 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine - derived from the 2.0 unit in the Golf GTI - which delivers 192ps - up by 12ps from the previous generation.
It can shift from standstill to 62mph in 6.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 146mph regardless of gearbox, yet has the potential to return an average 47.1mpg with the six-speed manual transmission and up to 50.4 with VW's DSG twin clutch automatic gearbox.
Like its larger stablemate, the Polo GTI has ESC Sport, allowing the electronic stability control to be adapted for track use, and also a ‘Sport performance pack' which at the touch of a button produces sportier steering, accelerator response and engine noise in the cabin.
Volkswagen Polo GTI 1.8 TSI
Mechanical: 192ps, 1,798cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via six-speed manual gearbox
Max Speed: 146mph
0-62mph: 6.7 seconds
Combined MPG: 47.1
Insurance Group: 29
C02 emissions: 139g/km
Bik rating: 22%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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