VW Polo GTI track review: 4th place, Bang For Your Bucks 2019

Upsized small hatch still a giant-killer, especially in the wet, but...

2019 Volkswagen Polo GTI track review

After helping Volkswagen stash three BFYB gold medals in its trophy cabinet over the last decade, the Volkswagen Polo GTI has earned a reputation as a natural at this thing. 

This track review was carried out in conjunction with MOTOR's Bang For Your Bucks 2019

So this year you can imagine the dread among rivals who learnt it’s been rebuilt from the ground up. On a new platform the wheelbase has grown while the body is longer and wider, too. This means you now sit lower in the car and the larger shell can swallow the Golf GTI’s EA888 2.0-litre powertrain.

2019 Volkswagen Polo GTI engine
There’s no manual transmission available, though. VW won’t build us a manual one without Euro 6 petrol particulate filters (that choke on local fuel) since there’s not enough demand. Luckily, both powertrains share the same 147kW/320Nm outputs, up a measly 6kW on the old 1.8-litre.

Its upgraded specification, all-new platform and mandatory six-speed dual clutch transmission could have priced it out of contention as well, but even though it’s $3400 more expensive (at $31,990) it shares the honour as being this field’s ‘cheapest’ with the Kia Cerato GT.

Credit where it’s due, the Polo is a much improved steer. Its steering feels more fluid than before and it wants to trace a more neutral line into and out of corners. That wider spread of grip also gives it a planted stance on the road that never feels like it’s going to surprise you.

2019 Volkswagen Polo GTI handling review

So it gives you confidence to wade through Winton’s drenched corners without it suddenly throwing you into the sandtraps backwards. Even on economy Michelins.

A case in point is a photo of DC, grinning like a mad man, chasing down Morley in the Mustang. Morley’s raised a white flag in the form of a finger, hoisted out the window and pointing across the roof, showing where DC can pass. And he wasn’t the only victim. There’s clearly some giant-killing DNA in its genetic make-up.

Its strategy in year’s past was in delivering consistent mid-field performances on top of a bargain basement price. But rather than blend in with the pack on our time-honed formula this year, it’s been left to convince the judges. And, frankly, as history has shown, it’s never found adoration.

2019 Volkswagen Polo GTI lift off oversteer handling

It all still feels a bit too grown up, especially for a shrunken hot hatch. For instance, it still won’t let you kill ESC and yet it’s fitted with a manual handbrake. Then there’s the gearbox, which is obviously nowhere as involving as a manual, which disobeyed downshifts in some instances.

That’s why if we were forced to collect wet performance data on this year’s field, we reckon it might have surfaced even higher than fourth place. But it was not to be. Fingers crossed it takes a crack at the crown in future with the manual.

Bang For Your Bucks 2019

Volkswagen Polo GTI BFYB 2019 Results - 4th place

2019 Volkswagen Polo GTI Bang For Your Bucks ranking rating

0-100km/h: 6.15sec 
0-400m: 14.42sec @ 156.51km/h
Price: $31,990
Bang Index: 62.4
Bucks Index: 162.9
BFYB Index: 112.7

Bang For Your Bucks 2019 Judges' Comments

2019 Volkswagen Polo GTI front grille

Campbell - 7th
“Polished, to a slightly sterile degree.”

Cordony - 9th
“Improved in most ways except the ones we want.”

Morley - 10th
“I’m still a sucker for tartan seats. Gearbox annoyed me.”

Scott Newman - 7th
“Feels sportier than Golf GTI but engine struggles at the top end.”

Luffy - 10th
“Volkswagen has really got the spacing between the Polo GTI, Golf GTI and Golf R just right. The Polo GTI has that nimbleness and is fun to drive, but if you want a little bit more than the Polo you buy the Golf GTI, and if you want a little bit more than the Golf GTI offers you get the Golf R. But the Polo was good fun without being sterile and it definitely leaves you wanting more.”

2019 Volkswagen Polo GTI technical specifications

BODY: 5-door, 5-seat hatch
DRIVE: front-wheel
ENGINE: 1984cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
BORE/STROKE: 82.5 x 92.8mm
POWER: 147kW @ 6000rpm
TORQUE: 320Nm @ 1500rpm
WEIGHT: 1285kg
POWER-TO-WEIGHT: 108kW/tonne
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed dual-clutch
SUSPENSION: struts, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (f); torsion beam, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (r)
BRAKES: 310mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (f); 272mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (r)
WHEELS: 17.0 x 7.5-inch (f/r)
TYRES: Michelin Primacy 3, 215/45 R17 89W (f/r)
PRICE: $31,990

Bang For Your Bucks 2019

The Contenders, Judges & Criteria
11 of the hottest new fast cars under $100K roll up to take on our famous value-for-money formula. Which will be number 1?


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