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GTI Light

Volkswagen's junior Golf GTI is finally here and our resident hot hatch freak has put it through its paces. Here's Raymond Lai's verdict on the Polo GTI.
OneShift Editorial Team
OneShift Editorial Team
21 May 2011
What we like:
GTI looks
as quick as the Golf GTI on paper
efficient powertrain
quick gearbox
evocative GTI badge
What we dislike:
Handling not as composed as its big brother
exhaust note lacks purposefulness
can be better equipped


The GTI's cabin is basically standard Polo fare other than the signature GTI go-faster bits to spice up the basically somber cabin. These include sports seats that are partly trimmed in a suede like material, the chunky flat bottomed steering wheel from its Golf GTI sibling, signature GTI roof liner in black, brushed chrome accents throughout and the contrasting red seams for the gearshift boot, steering wheel and parking brake.

A major disappointment is the instrument panel - other than the screen for the multi-function display, the small dials for the fuel gauge and coolant temperature, and a speedo that reads up to 280km/h, the instruments look like those from a run-of-the-mill Polo. The front seats also lack the Golf GTI's embossed GTI logos on their backrest. Despite details like the steering wheel, black roof liner, red stitching and so on, you somehow feel that Volkswagen hasn't done quite enough to spruce up the Polo GTI's cabin to make it feel GTI special like the Golf's cabin manages to.

The Polo isn't exactly the most accommodating car for rear passengers and it's the same in the GTI - the rear passenger compartment is just not as useable as in the larger Golf or when compared to other similarly sized compact hatchbacks for that matter.

Disappointingly, the Polo GTI is sparsely equipped when compared to the very complete Golf GTI. The smaller GTI lacks the latter's hugely appealing standard convenience features like HID headlamps with LED daytime running lights, rain and light sensors, anti-dazzle mirrors, radio navigation system headunit and electrically adjustable front seats - equipment that made the Golf GTI such a complete package and made it such a nice car to live with on a daily basis.

Just like its Golf GTI big brother, safety is a major strength of the Polo GTI as the Polo was awarded a five star rating for the all important and influential Euro NCAP crash test program.

The Polo GTI's biggest problem is the brilliance of its big brother - the Golf GTI is such an accomplished hot hatch that it'll be a hard package to emulate but then again, the Polo is a significantly cheaper car and in a smaller package. Like most things in life, you'll get something better if you fork out more money. Despite some of the Polo GTI's shortcomings and raw edges though, it still makes for a hoot of a drive on smooth roads and will no doubt be desirable thanks to its evocative and iconic GTI badge and looks.

Credits: Story by Raymond Lai Photos by Yang and Raymond Lai

Cars in this article
Volkswagen Polo 1.4 Polo GTI (DSG) 5 Door 2011
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Volkswagen Polo 1.4 Polo GTI (DSG) 5 Door 2011

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