What is it?
Why I would buy it?
Performance, and sporty ride and handling.
Why I would avoid it?
Expensive, could be better equipped and age-old styling.
What is it?
At a time when other manufacturers are introducing new-generation models of its cars, Volkswagen India is content with bringing in another facelift. With mild updates to its exteriors and interiors, and a new paint scheme, this is the 'new' Volkswagen Polo GT TSI. It gets the same engine-drivetrain combo and a similar equipment list too. So, is the new Polo GT any different? Let's find out.
The Polo GT is known for its understated styling, and the facelift version is no different. Sure, it is the quintessential old-school sleeper car, but the design changes won't wow you. So, you get a tweaked GTI-like front bumper with a black front skirt and honeycomb mesh pattern for the grille. In profile, the car comes with new 16-inch 'Portago' alloys, blacked-out ORVMs and a side skirt.
Updates to the back includes a new black spoiler, reworked rear bumper with a diffuser and slightly revised taillights. What's more, you also get a GT Line trim, which comes with a black roof, door foils and a 'GT Line' badge on the front fender. And did we say it also gets a new colour option? Yes, the new Volkswagen Polo GT is now available in the Sunset Red paint scheme.
How is it on the inside?
The understated styling continues on the insides as well. And unlike the exteriors, changes inside the cabin are far minimal. The good part, though, is that the GTI-inspiration continues here as well. So, you get the classier checkered pattern for the upholstery, and there's also the new touchscreen infotainment system. What's more, the cabin is laid-out ergonomically and everything falls within easy reach. NVH levels, too, are good, and the outside noise is very well controlled.
Sure, you get a lot of hard plastics on the inside, but the overall interior fit and finish and material quality is top notch. Even the switch-gear quality is good and the doors close with a reassuring thud. The front seats offer good lateral support, and the view out is decent too. You get manual height adjustment for the driver's seat, and that coupled with the tilt and telescopic adjustable steering means finding an ideal seating position isn't an issue.
In comparison, the rear seats are a bit cramped and headroom, legroom and shoulder room is in short supply. And that is further aggrieved by the all-black cabin, which makes it claustrophobic. Ironically, the rear seats could have been more accommodating, and tall occupants will find the headroom and legroom a bit cramped, which can get claustrophobic for some.
There's decent kit on offer as well. You get a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink support, a single-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control and much more. However, there are quite a few glaring omissions as well, for a car that costs upwards of Rs 11.5 lakhs (on road). Features like engine start-stop button, reverse camera, automatic headlamps and fancy bits like DRLs or LED lighting have been given a miss. In terms of safety, the Polo GT gets ESP, traction control, hill hold function, dual front airbags, ABS, parking sensors, speed alert system and seat belt reminder among others.
How does it drive?
The Volkswagen Polo GT TSI is powered by a 1.2-litre four-cylinder, direct-injection turbocharged petrol motor that belts out 103bhp and 175Nm. It is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. And its a surprisingly refined motor with barely any vibrations. It's a free-revving engine and the power delivery is linear throughout the rev band. Sure, there is some turbo-lag below 1,500rpm, but the DSG gearbox negates this to some effect with its Sport mode, or by shifting manually. The engine revs all the way up to 6,000rpm; however, it starts feeling gruff post 5,000rpm. In city, the linear power delivery and sleek gearbox makes it easy to drive, while out on the highway, one can stretch its legs quite comfortably. In terms of braking, we would've liked a strong initial bite, however, the progression is good and the pedal action felt nice too.
The DSG transmission is known for its lightening-quick shifts, and you'd barely notice the gearbox working. In D mode, it is calibrated to shift early to extract the maximum fuel efficiency. However in Sport mode, it holds on to the gears for a longer duration, which helps during spirited driving. What's also commendable is that you don't need to work around the gears to keep the engine on boil, it works seamlessly in the background and all you have to do is enjoy the drive. That said, Volkswagen should've offered paddle shifters in the new Polo GT.
The steering is decently light at low-speeds, but weighs up brilliantly on the highway. It is quick and precise, and offers good feedback as to the amount of lock needs to be dialled-in or if you need to make any corrections. What also helps the excellent handling package is the overall firm suspension setup. Take the GT to a set of twisties, and it darts into corners with reassuring confidence. There's minimal body roll, and the car settles onto its springs quickly.
Volkswagen seems to have dialled down the dampers a wee bit which has made the low-speed ride marginally suppler. As for the high-speed ride, it still absorbs road undulations and bumps quite well while offering a fairly flat ride quality. However, being a hatchback, there's a tendency for it to get unsettled over sharp-edged section joints at triple digit speeds.
Should I buy one?
There's no doubt that the Volkswagen Polo GT TSI is the ultimate sleeper car in its segment. It offers excellent performance and is a brilliant handler too. But the fact that with its steep price, it lacks some new-age equipment, and the fact that it can't hide its ageing design, works against its favour. So, if you want a no-frills, fun-to-drive car, and can live with Volkswagen's current service standard and network, you can't go wrong with the new Polo GT TSI.
Where does it fit in?
The new Volkswagen Polo GT TSI costs Rs 9.76 lakhs (ex-showroom Delhi). It competes against the Maruti Suzuki Baleno RS and the Ford Figo AT, which are priced considerably lower at Rs 7.89 lakhs and Rs 7.70 (ex-showroom Delhi) respectively.
Pictures by Kapil Angane