29 November 2018

Volkswagen Polo 2018 Car Review

Our tester admits that the VW Polo GTI has always been a bit of a favourite of theirs.

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Volkswagen Polo 2018
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Volkswagen Polo 2018 Car Review
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Volkswagen Polo 2018 Car Review
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Volkswagen Polo 2018
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Volkswagen Polo 2018

Sure, there are plenty of faster cars out there, curvier and flashier, but as a sleeper it’s hard to beat this cheeky bit of kit.

There are a few external hints that there’s more to this car than the standard 1.0-litre turbo which powers its everyday siblings, but not not enough to alert most folk that behind the wheel of this unassuming little hatch there’s a hooligan just waiting for the right moment to come out.

Key to the car’s performance is of course the engine, for while the other four Polo variants are powered by a three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbo fielding 70kW and 175N, VW having downsized engines in the hunt for fuel economy, this sixth-generation Polo GTI packs a 2.0-litre direct-injection turbo throwing 320Nm to the ground from 1500rpm to 4387rpm, the exact point at which the 147kW power peaks.

Yep, that’s over double the power and almost double the torque of the standard Polo – VW admits that a GTI should prioritise performance over economy.

Part of the Polo’s armoury is the ability to tailor driving mode somewhat to conditions, via a simple button and a touch-screen menu to select Eco, Normal, Sport or Individual. The latter lets you tailor the steering, drive, air con, engine sound and suspension – each to either Normal or Sport mode. Our fave set-up for most circumstances used Sport for all except the air con and suspension, the latter in Normal in deference to the bumpy country roads that make up a chunk of our tester’s commute. That still imparts incisive cornering, well controlled and predictable, yet sufficiently compliant for comfort.

That suspension has been updated, now with those two compression or rebound setting choices, to reflect the fact that this car will be a daily driver, as well as a weekend funster.

Those seeking the latter will like the Launch Control Program. Simply hold your left foot on the brake, floor the accelerator pedal, see the rpm hover at 3000rpm and launch it off the line. It won’t hit 100kph quite as fast as its Golf equivalent, but by golly is it fun in the midrange, the engine delightfully flexible, with the sort of punch that’ll have most drivers grinning from ear to ear as they fling it through corners, enjoying the best dynamics this model has boasted so far. That a car can be this compliant for everyday use, and also this much fun on a bendy back road is quite impressive, and all the more enjoyable given it doesn’t look as effective as it is.

Naturally, spanking the little car along isn’t the best if you want to cut spending at the pump, but it’s hardly a guzzler, either. Our average consumption, including a range of driving from sedate and Eco to sporting, from motorway to challenging hill roads came out at 8.8l/100km for around 200km, but the last, 40km-odd return drive over the same route, all in ‘Normal’ setting and driven at the speed of the traffic at all times, hill climbs and highway included, returned a 7.0l/100km average. We suspect that once the initial novelty of the car’s sporty abilities have worn off, and it spends most time conducting daily driving duties, a buyer’s consumption would sit somewhere between the two.

This Polo follows a trend in that it’s bigger than ever before – larger than the original Golf, in fact. Among the benefits is better boot space.

As for the cabin, this class doesn’t deliver the most spacious of legroom, but it’s adequate – and of course the car boasts typically ascetic VW lines, here embellished by red stitchery on the wheel and gear-lever gaiter, and of course the subtle tartan seat insets which add a whisker of cool to an otherwise staid design.

As is now common, there’s a big centre touch screen which controls many of the car’s functions, with VW’s useful habit of showing commands as your finger nears it, then hiding them when you pull a hand back, especially appreciated when using the satnav, and needing as much map as possible to show up.

VW NZ will hope to snare buyers who might otherwise wait for Ford’s Fiesta ST, due next year, or considering the Golf GTI, and prepared to compromise spec and size for almost equivalent performance at a much lower price.

At a glance


Volkswagen Polo GTI


2.0-litre turbo-charged petrol



ANCAP safety rating


Power and Torque

 147kW at 4387 to 6000rpm, 320Nm at 1500 to 4387rpm


Six-speed DSG

Fuel economy

5.9l/100km combined

Towing capacity

Braked 1200kg, unbraked 670kg


2WD Front Wheels

Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

350 litres (rear seats upright and rear bench forward), 1079 litres (rear seat folded, and bench forward)

Safety systems

  • Front Assist including City Emergency Braking
  • Blind Spot Warning with rear traffic alert
  • Pedestrian monitoring
  • Park Distance Control
  • Rear view camera
  • Six-airbags
  • Electronic diff lock
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