Tuesday 18 December 2018

Polo is a mighty little mint

This powerful number from VW has many swift charms, but it is not for everyday use, writes Campbell Spray

POLO GTI: Not quite as much fun as a Mini or a Ford Fiesta ST, but this car still raises a smile
POLO GTI: Not quite as much fun as a Mini or a Ford Fiesta ST, but this car still raises a smile

One day, you are young, careless, perhaps even a bit reckless. Suddenly, almost without blinking, the three score and 10 foretold in the 90th Psalm begins to approach, but in your mind, you are still that person of four decades ago replete with that bit of recklessness thrown in. Yet to everyone else, you are not. You seem to become one of the unseen; the ones with white hair ignored at the bar, the shop, the road crossing.

Then there is the Volkswagen Polo GTi, based on the ultimate young woman's car, which suddenly shoots you down the road and the decades roll off. You get the heads turning and those nods of appreciation. You are young again and the road is your prairie to conquer.

The Polo GTi is a powerful little number with almost double the power of the original Golf GTi from 1979 and shares the 200HP 1984cc engine with its bigger sister. A fair bit of engineering has been done to give a lot of confidence on the road, although a Mini, a Ford Fiesta ST and a few others give you more fun if you want to throw the car around.

It's good but not exciting but that is perhaps what a lot of VW buyers want - solid and reliable without wildness. The boyfriend and girlfriend come together and show a sense of responsibility. The Polo will never be a family car. It's really for the two up front in the supportive seats and perhaps an occasional friend in the back.

The GTi is well kitted-out with a lot of safety features alongside the sporty ego-massaging stuff on board. In this regard, it is perhaps the class leader.

It's nearly 40 years since the Golf GTi arrived but it wasn't until 2005 and after a lot of playing with other titles that the Polo GTi joined it.

The test model had the company's DSG semi-automatic twin-clutch transmission. It makes for an easy time around town but when you need the speed, it takes a noticeable time to make up its mind but when it does, it is electrifying.

Of course, it is a bit of a crazy price for a small car. While it starts at €33,170 on the road, the test model was another €3k. With the impressive looking 18" Bresica alloys and stiffened suspension, you feel every bit of the road which would get a bit jarring for everyday living. I did enjoy my week in the Polo GTi and felt really good when I picked up my son at the airport and could see he was impressed.

Despite some people saying that the Polo GTi is a terrific all-rounder, it would be totally impractical as a daily runabout. However, I will smile when I see one with its distinctive, but nicely restrained, styling.

Maybe people will do the same to me, even when I am out of a car. One can hope.

Sunday Independent

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