By Mike Torpey on 2019-01-19 - 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+
THE hot hatch scene is awash with models these days - and for very good reason.
There's a strong argument in favour of these fun and fiery models being the closest thing you can get to a true all-rounder.
They are practical, smart looking, useful, a real gas to drive and, compared to bigger cars, pretty cheap to run.
Throw in the value for money versus quality ticket for good measure and it takes a lot to beat the Volkswagen Polo GTI.
Once very much the pocket rocket of the German brand's line-up, the latest generation Polo arrived in June having grown considerably - to the point that it is now as big as a Mk V Golf GTI.
Longer, wider, and with lower overall height but improved headroom compared to its predecessor, that extra space really gives the Polo an extra dose of family-friendly practicality.
It is also the most powerful Polo GTI yet built, its 2.0-litre petrol engine developing 200ps, giving the car acceleration of 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds and a top speed of 147mph.
Available exclusively in five-door form, and with a six-speed DSG twin clutch transmission as standard - a six-speed manual gearbox is due before the end of the year - the car sits on a 15mm lowered suspension with a Sports Select set-up as standard.
One of the most engaging features of the GTI is the way you can switch at the touch of a button between Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual drive settings.
The difference is pretty dramatic too. From pottering quietly and comfortably through urban traffic you can arrive at country lanes, hit the Sport setting and enjoy a mini racer that's actually 28 per cent stiffer than before pop, pop its way into the tightest of bends.
It's exhilarating, fun driving at its best in a car that sticks to the road like a limpet.
Otherwise the GTI doesn't look too dissimilar to the standard Polo, with a few notable exceptions.
The front end sees a honeycomb mesh grille with a red trim stripe through the middle, there's a black under-body skirt, twin tailpipes, tinted rear windows and 17-inch alloy wheels with red brake callipers.
Inside there's a striking red alloy trim around the dash, gearshift area and door openers plus criss-cross red stitching on the leather flat-bottomed steering wheel.
The tartan patterned seats are comfortable and there is plenty of legroom for two people in the back, though it's a tight squeeze for three and perched for a centre rear passenger.
Stowage is acceptable with deep, wide door bins, a small covered central container, glovebox, oddments tray and overhead sunglasses holder.
You can't fit too much in the boot, though the rear seats do split and fold 60-40.
The GTI also gets safety kit like Front Assist with City Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Monitoring as standard, along with an Automatic Post-Collision Braking system.
There are also front and rear head airbags, XDS differential lock, driving profile selection, ambient lighting, air-con and LED tail light clusters.
Volkswagen Polo GTI+
Mechanical: 200ps, 1,984cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via automatic gearbox
Max Speed: 147mph
0-62mph: 6.7 seconds
Combined MPG: 47.9
Insurance Group: 28
C02 emissions: 134g/km
Bik rating: 27%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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