Volkswagen gives

Polo GTI treatment

Volkswagen Polo GTI, 2018, front
Volkswagen Polo GTI, 2018, side
Volkswagen Polo GTI, 2018, rear
Volkswagen Polo GTI, 2018, front, action
Volkswagen Polo GTI, 2018, interior
Volkswagen Polo GTI, 2018, instrument panel
Volkswagen Polo GTI, 2018, exhaust
Volkswagen Polo GTI, 2018, boot
Volkswagen Polo GTI, 2018, boot, seat folded
Volkswagen Polo GTI, 2018, rear seats
Volkswagen Polo GTI, 2018, gear lever
Volkswagen Polo GTI, 2018, display screen
Volkswagen Polo GTI, 2018, display screen, track mode
Volkswagen Polo GTI, 2018, badge

THREE random letters mark out this Polo as something special...and give the VW supermini something to live up to.

For more than four decades the initials GTI have identified sporting Volkswagens, particularly the Golf, and created an enviable sub-brand within the fold.

The newest arrival is the Polo GTI which in its latest guise promises to have the right ingredients to do battle with other reputable pocket rockets such as the Fiesta ST and Peugeot 208 GTi.

That hasn't always been the case - several Polos bearing the famous letters lacked the heart and guts of their big brother. But by harnessing a version of the Golf GTI 2.0litre turbo engine - albeit slightly detuned and incorporating it in a lighter body, performance barely lags behind the racy Golf with a dash to 62mph in 6.7sec and a max of 147mph.

But VWs have never been just about flash stats. Refinement, overall ease of driving and engaging handling are attributes that the newcomer has inherited by the spadeful.

I drove the GTI+ version complete with six-speed DSG automatic gearbox which comes in at £22,160.

With dimensions remarkably similar to the original Golf, the Polo is remarkably roomy and has five doors, making it a practical proposition to families as well as boy racers.

The 197bhp turbo engine has a pleasantly sporty rasp which responds eagerly with a dab of the right foot. The auto box - a manual will be available later in the year - is a joy to use with razor sharp reactions and smooth changes.

Handling is crisp and roll-free with near neutral behaviour around smooth bends but there's a trace of steering tug when exiting corners under full acceleration.

The ride, though firm, comfortable and compliant - better than most rivals which err on the harsh side in order to satisfy keen drivers. At a touch of a button the suspension can be set for your chosen driving mode which adjusts not only the dampers, but also accelerator and gearbox responses accordingly.

With wrap-around tartan covered seats, an eight-inch touchscreen complete with sat nav and a neat flat-bottomed leather steering wheel, the driving compartment is a largely pleasing if unexciting environment. Flashes of colour around the centre console and binnacle brighten proceedings somewhat.

Most of the facia plastics are soft-touch and user friendly but the door coverings are a shade hard and somewhat low-rent.

Luggage space is 305 litres which is marginally less than some rivals, but enough for most couples. The split rear seats can be folded to boost room to 1,079 litres.

Drive carefully and 45-plus mpg is easily possible. But make the most of zippy acceleration and you'll be lucky to top 35mpg. The official combined figure is 47.9mpg with emissions of 134g/km.

The new GTI is the best Polo for ages with a degree of pace, refinement and maturity way above its price tag. It truly merits the iconic initials...

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