BEST TESTS ’22 Volkswagen Polo GTI is a performance bargain of note.

Suppose it was fortuitous that Volkswagen sent us our Polo GTI test unit during the week before Aldo Scribante’s third round Compcare Polo Cup races on Saturday. Our aligned Bullion IT Racing duo, championship leader Jurie Swart and leading turbo GTI Cup rookie Giordano Lupini took their racers out for a final shakedown and test before packing for Gqeberha, so it was a chance to introduce our blue and red Cup cars to their street GTI kin.

A Good old Petrol GTI. Thank Goodness!

The second evolution of the present generation Polo GTI continues in the face of Volkswagen’s international range falling off the face of combustion engine earth. It is a breath of fresh air. Polo GTI delivers a sharp and sexy nip and tuck on this proudly South African made petrol-powered hot hatch. And these changes of course also carry over to perhaps South Africa’s finest racing series, the Volkswagen Polo Cup. Yes, Polo Cup continues as is, only sharper looking too.

Volkswagen promises us that the acme of South Africa’s favourite car range, the 147 kW 320 Nm Polo GTI takes performance, technology and sportiness to new levels. Its pedigree stretches all the way back to 1998. Now fully digital at the highest technical level, the latest Polo GTI brings a sharper new face too. There’s a full width LED daylight lighting signature across the grill and a sharper GTI badge.

A majoir component of that new face is this latest Polo GTI’s IQ.Light LED matrix headlight package. We don’t run those or the grille LED bar on the race cars because it’s less expensive to replace banged up bits with more run of the mill bits. Those IQ lights certainly do look the part, and shine splendidly. it’s also good to see top end lighting tech like this filtering down to more affordable models.

Racetrack Derived Polo GTI Looks

That new Polo GTI get-up perfectly contrasts the famous GTI red stripe that also continues across the grille. Yes, the race cars certainly keep all that! Step inside and there’s more red trim on GTI’s cool racy chequer design chairs. The fully digital ‘always on’ GTI will also bring state-of-the-art connectivity with App Connect and wireless charging. Plus We services, MIB3.1, Digital Cockpit Pro and features on demand, among other highlights.

Polo GTI also packs systems like IQ.Drive Travel Assist, Lane Assist, Front Assist, which are also usually reserved for higher class cars. Personally, we love the tech and loved the upgraded screen and system. But we’re still struggling to come to terms with the touch and swipe sliders that replace the buttons on more conventional Polo models. From a personal point of view, if we could deselect the sliders for buttons and knobs of the regular models. we would in an instant.

Like those daft C USB only ports, sometimes too much progress is a step backwards. Sure, give us a C port, but what about the millions of drives and passengers who still have conventional cables? D’uh! All that said, Polo GTI possesses a splendid cabin. Well appointed, sporty and comfy, we loved driving in it. It’s also heaven compared to the single minded one man show of cold pipes, carbon and straps of the racer. But the lads love that!

Polo GTI is Loads of Fun on the Road

Polo GTI is loads of fun on the road. We loved its traction control, ability to jump off the line, its wieildiness and chuckability. And we thrived on its power and torque. Although we did notice that it likes to light up the front end when powering out of a bend. And while that DSG box is brilliant to thrash, it’s a bit thrashy and jerky around town. You know wha they say? You can’t win ‘em all. But for the rest, for the price, the Polo GTI is quite sublime.

All in part thanks to the 2022 Polo GTI building on its modular transverse matrix platform pedigree to set a new class benchmark in safety and driving comfort. Unlike the rest of the world where Group motorsport shifts to sister brands Audi and Porsche as the VW continues its electric march overseas, the 2022 Polo GTI will continue as the mainstay of Volkswagen South Africa’s Motorsport division’s twin focus of Polo Cup and SupaCup.

And Polo Cup continues on its mission to deliver among South Africa’s finest race drivers of the past quarter century. From the van der Linde brothers Kelvin and Sheldon to Tasmin and Jordan Pepper. All whom today fly the SA flag so high overseas. We’re loving being part of the action that will see this latest Polo GTI will deliver the next batch of SA racing heroes too.

Bottom Line: Polo GTI is an Absolute Bargain

We may have mentioned it in passing, but there’s one aspect of this South African built Polo GTI that stands it head and shoulders above its accepted opposition. That’s the price. Most of the Polo GTI’s rivals today reside a class above. So, in a world where hot hatches are expected to cost beteen R650 and 850K, this humble opponent comes in at under five hundred grand. And it will happily return around 7 litres per hundred if you drive it like a lady or a gentleman.

In our opinion, this Polo GTI is a little performance bargain of note. It may not break any performance records and it’s not perfect, but it is still mighty quick, sophisticated and well enough equipped to expect it to cost so much more. Better get it while the going’s good then. Now if you will excuse us. We need to go racing. Polo Cup, of course! — Michele Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Volkswagen Polo GTI
Engine: 147 Kw 320 Nm 2-litre turbo petrol I4
Drive: Double Clutch Automatic FWD
0-60 km/h:        3.37 sec
0-100 km/h:       6.63 sec
0-120 km/h:       8.79 sec
0-160 km/h:       15.09 sec
400m:             14.6 sec @ 158 km/h
80-120 km/h:      4.00 sec
120-160 km/h:     7.00 sec
VMax:             238 km/h
Fuel:             6.4 l/100 km
CO2:              147 g/km
Warranty/Service: 3y 120K/3y 45K km
LIST PRICE:       R495K
RATED:            9
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