The 2011 VW Polo GTI — a sub-Golf-sized mini hatchback — weighs 2,632 Lbs. The original 1976 VW Golf GTI Mk1 weighed 1,830 Lbs. But, the new Polo hits 62 MPH nearly two seconds faster. Progress?
Powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged and supercharged engine capable of producing 177 HP and returning 39.9 MPG in the optimistic euro cycle, the new Polo GTI can go from 0-62 MPH in in 6.9 seconds. The standard gearbox is a dual clutch flappy paddle item and torque steer is mitigated by an electronic transverse differential lock. All of this sounds like a fast, frugal, practical car, but we can't help but feel that something is missing.
The original GTI was based on the Mk1 Golf and released in 1976. To create it, VW took the light, simple, practical Golf and stuck a powerful-for-time 110bhp 1.6-liter engine in it, then tied down the MacPherson strut front, trailing arm rear suspension a bit tighter so the handling could keep up with the engine. The result was a light, simple, practical car that was also relatively fast (0-60 in 8.7 secs), but more importantly that performance was accessible and fun to exploit. Famously, the second ever hot hatch would cock its inside rear wheel off the ground in tight corners.
It's that fun that we fear the heavy-but-safe Polo GTI is going to lack. The 1.4 TSI is an impressively powerful engine and their DSG gearbox is a good one, we're seeing a lot of technical complication and in place of fundamentally right engineering. This comparison may seem a bit odd, there still is a Golf GTI after all, but the Mkv Polo is now closer to the Mk1 Golf's size and function than the much larger Golf is. The ultimate question is: will the Polo GTI re-invent the way an entire European generation drives? We're afraid not.