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Cars We Want in the US – 2015 VW Polo GTi

The Golf GTi – No Longer an Inexpensive Hot-hatch

Twenty-five years ago, the Volkswagen Golf GTI was the spitting image of budget performance.  The VW hothatch was a car that most could afford – it was inexpensive, and cost less than a family sedan, or a wagon, but still provided a livable amount of room.  However, in 2015, this is no longer the case.

Since that time the VW Golft GTi has grown physically larger than its predecessors and now sells for upwards of $26K as a base model.  Its Golf R variant costs in the $40k range.

Problem: VW Missing the Mark

In fact, it’s fair to say that performance hatchbacks have deviated from their intended purpose over the last 15 years.  They’re no longer inexpensive, with many costing as much as an average family sedan.  For VW, in the US, this means missing out on a market segment which includes cars such as the Mini Cooper S, Ford Fiesta ST and Fiat 500 Abarth.

Solution: The VW Polo GTi

The solution for VW would be to bring back the basic hothatch to the US.  Fortunately, they now have just the right candidate, namely the 2015 VW Polo GTi.  Unfortunately, the VW marketing boffins in Wolfsburg have decided for now, that the Polo does not need to be sold in the USA.  We think VW is missing out.

While appreciably smaller than the Golf, the Polo GTi once again economical to buy a performance hatchback.  Its some 40% cheaper than its older brother, the Golf GTi, meaning that if it came to the US, you might expect to be able to buy it for less than or close to $20k.

Powertrain

The Polo GTi features a turbocharged, 1.8 liter powerplant, which is good for 190 horse. The engine is an evolved version of VW’s EA888 unit and includes a number of developments, including both direct and indirect fuel injection to, variable valve timing and a very well controlled turbocharger wastegate, which minimizes the much-dreaded turbo-lag.

Torque output, oddly-enough depends upon your choice of transmission.  VW offers the Polo GTi with a choice of twin-clutch seven speed DSG and a standard six-speed manual, putting out 184ft-lb and 236lb-ft of torque respectively.

Chassis

 The Polo GTi features a very capable chassis and a sports-suspension which is 10mm lower than on its vanilla non-sporting Polo counterpart.  An optional Sport Performance Kit provides for electronically controlled dampers, which can be actuated in a ‘sport’ setting.  The steering system, an all-new electromechanical unit, is a significant improvement over its predecessor, providing a nicely weighted and precise steering feel.

Having a little wheelspin-induced fun with the Polo is not too hard, given that its traction-control system (ESC-Sport) can be either totally turned down or totally off.  The Polo also uses the Golf’s XDS-Torque Vectoring System, which typically kicks in just before ESC, but is unobtrusive during every-day driving.  This also functions a limited-slip differential.

Its looks also follow the Golf’s lead.  Relatively conservative in appearance, the Polo more sporty bumpers, 17” alloy wheels, red radiator grille strips and a black honeycomb grille.

Cars we wish we had - Polo GTi Int

 

Performance & Handling

Regardless of transmission, the Polo GTi accelerates to 60mph in 6.7 seconds and has a top-speed of 146mph.  The manual tranny equipped car feels more sprightly, accelerates a little faster but delivers slightly lower-fuel economy of 47.1mpg versus 50.1mpg for the DSG box.

In the handling department, the Polo GTi is neutral right up to the limits of grip, with little body-roll and precise and appropriately weighted steering.  During spirited driving, it does seem unwilling to rotate in corners.

Summary

While at the end of the day, the Golf is bigger, faster, and arguably prettier, there is something to be said for the Polog’s price tag.  However, VW is missing some of their target audience with their Golf GTI and R models, because their target audience involves a young demographic, that lacks the depth of wallet to afford a $30k car, much less a $30k hatchback.  If only we could buy the VW Polo for $20k again.

– Farra and Kareem Majid

 

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Posted by: Farra Majid on Saturday, May 9th, 2015 at 3:46 pm in CARS