Don't be surprised by the name of this car because that is exactly what the badge on the rear of this car says. There is no reference to the Polo in the badging anywhere on this car. Volkswagen claims that this is the Polo but other than the familiar silhouette there is nothing else to identify this as a Polo. Flare up the arches, change the grille, add in larger tyres and this could be the Golf (a larger hatchback Volkswagen sells in Europe and elsewhere) for all you know. However for familiarity sake I will refer to it as the Polo GT TSI. Essentially the Polo GT TSI is the car Volkswagen should have sold in India in the first place not the Polo with the 3-cylinder engine that felt more like it belonged in a field outside Gurgaon drawing water from a bottomless well.
The 1.2-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged direct injection petrol engine defines the Polo GT TSI. It is Volkswagens 'Hope' diamond and it will in time, actually sooner rather than later, become a legend in our market. This car will replace the Polo 1.6, the very same engine that is also used by the Polo's larger sibling, the Vento. I am convinced the 1.2 TSI will become a icon of our times and like the Swift set new benchmarks for enthusiastic motoring for the masses, the Polo GT TSI will establish a new benchmark as the hot hatch of this decade.
Interestingly the Polo GT TSI isn't about performance, that is its secondary objective. It's primary directive is to optimize fuel efficiency which at nearly 18kmpl as claimed by ARAI is one of the better recorded figures amongst the current crop of hatchbacks. This 1.2-litre engine generates 105PS of max power at 5000rpm and 170Nm of max torque between 1500-4,100rpm. This is the first time a turbocharged petrol engine has ever made it into a hatchback. When it kicks in at just around 1700rpm the hundreds of explosions in the 4-cylinders go supernova. The effect is simply spectacular, no petrol hatchback can claim to make you feel that shove, diesels probably do but never has a petrol been able to generate that sort of G force the Polo GT TSI is capable of. Momentum builds up rapidly and in an outright drag every other hatchback will be left several lengths behind. Better tyre profiles than the 180/60R15 it comes with would have provided better acceleration as these tyres are prone to breaking traction if you pounce on the throttle from standstill.
Both the turbocharger and the direct injection combine to provide very respectable efficiency, something we commonly witness only in diesels. What make this efficiency even more striking is that its delivered with an automatic transmission. The Polo GT TSI comes with a 7-speed DSG transmission which is a dual clutch automatic transmission. The ratios are spaced optimally to maximize efficiency but it also gives the Polo GT TSI superb drivability. This transmission also has a manual mode that will allow you to select gears but the engine map and the ECU deliver the best results, so best leave it in automatic.
Shifts are reasonably quick but the lack of paddles behind the steering wheel to me was a bit disappointing as the performance demands it. This is because when driven enthusiastically the paddle shifters allow you to prep the transmission to shift into a lower gear when you brake, faster than the transmission can do so. There is a sport mode but what it essentially does is allows the engine to spin to max revs and shift up only when the tacho needle hits the redline. It does not allow for quicker downshifts during braking to keep the engine running in the meatiest portion of the power band, so rev matching is definitely out of the question.
On the handling side nothing changes, the Polo GT TSI feels just as impressive as it always did. The steering has a solid feel to it, thankfully its still a hydraulic unit so the communication channels are always open and the feedback is brilliant. The tyres as I mentioned could have done with slightly wider profiling to give it even more dynamic confidence but even as it is the handling is impressive.
The suspension has a softness to it that you feel when you come across rapidly undulating surfaces. Yet there is enough firmness to keep the Polo GT TSI to maintain a safe and consistent path. The Polo GT TSI could however use larger brakes, these are the same brakes in the conventional Polo and they lack the bite you would need in a car that accelerates this rapidly. ABS too kicks in pretty late and a bit tighter modulation in this regard would only make the Polo GT TSI feel that much safer. Ride quality too continues to be impressive and if comfort was a priority over everything else the new interiors will please you. Personally given the kind of performance this car is capable of the front seats could have done with a bit more bolstering.
So there you have it the Polo GT TSI is astonishing to say the least. Overall though while I do feel there are still areas that Volkswagen could have exploited to the fullest, the Polo GT TSI is still the best halo hatchback in the business today. We haven't had the opportunity to VBox it yet but when we do, we won't be surprised to see that the figures will be the best in class. Rest assured no comparison story will ever be the same again, move over the Swift there's a new hero in town.