WORLD Car of the Year. Now that is a crown that takes some getting. The Volkswagen Polo wears the accolade with surprising ease, balancing it carefully on widened shoulders, taking care not to become too blinded by the sparkle.
The Polo has been tweaked to present a cleaner, streamlined package. VW calls it the “eagle look”, perhaps what they really mean is less girly.
The hope, as it most often is in these cases, is to appeal to a wider demographic.
Chances are though the sporty looks, trendy lines and award-winning performance will further entrench the Polo in its niche market.
Small cars usually mean cramped knees but the Polo is not too bad in this department.
Things are still tight and we would recommend only two in the back if you want to maintain any semblance of comfort.
The trademark tartan seats are nicely cushioned while the console is angled toward the driver for ease of use. Instrumentation is funky and practical with the interior displaying that quality feel we have come to expect from Volkswagen.
The boot will hold the mid-month shop and a small suitcase.
On the road
It has taken VW almost 15 years to use the GTI moniker on a car other than the Golf and it seems to have chosen wisely. The 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine is both turbo-charged and supercharged, allowing it to deliver a staggering 132kW of power.
Matched to VW's seven-speed dual clutch gearbox, the new engine is smaller, faster and more fuel efficient than its predecessor. Horror of horrors it is only available in an automatic but such is the delivery of the DSG, odds are you won't even miss the manual.
Expect to be surprised behind the wheel as the Polo is an enthusiastic charge, racing around corners, making light work of hills and giving off a lusty laugh when you allow it to stretch its legs. The sporty display makes for a firmer drive though and there is some torque steer.
What do you get?
VW prides itself on safety and the GTI's top-notch package includes six airbags, Electronic Stabilisation Program, anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist, Electronic Differential Lock and Anti-Slip Regulation traction control. The deformable bonnet has been designed to minimise injuries in the event of a collision with a pedestrian.
The Polo also comes with Bluetooth, ipod connectivity, cruise control, parking sensors, bi-xenon headlights, chilled glove box and multi-function trip computer.
Rivals include the Alfa Romeo MiTo QV ($34,990), Renault Sport Clio ($36,490) and the Mini Cooper S ($40,500).
Look, the GTI is not built for a pack of forwards but it can deliver if you're looking for a zippy every-dayer that offers zing without breaking the bank. As in all small cars, the close confines take a bit of getting used to. We found the centre console tiresome, especially when you need to apply or release the hand brake, but it is a moveable fixture.
The GTI is a dream to park and to negotiate the gnarly traffic in the city.
VW recommends the more expensive 98 octane at the pumps but at 6.1litres/100km that shouldn't hurt the pocket too much.
With its lowered suspension and honeycomb grille, the GTI looks like a hot little hatch. There has been a concerted effort to make it look more masculine, with crease lines that enhance the side profile.
The back has been kept pretty simple with the funky lights shown off to maximum effect.
It is not difficult to see why this car has impressed around the world. We thought it very capable, very safe and an exciting drive.
Cut your suit according to your cloth but the Polo GTI offers thrills at an affordable price.
Model: Volkswagen Polo GTI.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive hatch.
Transmission: Seven-speed DSG.
Engine: 1.4-litre in-line four-cylinder turbo- and super-charged TSI petrol generating maximum power of 132kW at 6200rpm and peak torque of 250Nm between 2000-4500rpm.
Consumption: 6.1 litres/100km combined average.
Performance: 0-100km in 6.9 seconds.
Bottom line: From $27,790.
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