Volkswagen will offer a manual gearbox option on the facelifted version of the Polo GTI early next year, bringing cheaper entry-level pricing into the bargain.
Expected to be introduced at the Paris motor show in early October, with Australian sales to commence within the first quarter of next year, the fastest Polo will take the challenge up to the current darling of the baby hot-hatch set – the $25,990 Ford Fiesta ST.
The recently discontinued Polo GTI three-door retailed from $27,790 with a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission that normally attracts a $2500 premium, so it should be price competitive with the ST.
Polo chassis engineer Wolfgang Bartusch said VW is responding to consumer pressure to offer a manual alternative to the DSG, even though he personally prefers the self-shifting transmission.
Bartusch, a company veteran who has been responsible for every Polo chassis development program since 2001, confirmed that the facelifted Polo GTI will produce 141kW, but refused to divulge any more information about the hotly anticipated performance flagship.
So it remains unclear if the Spanish-built hot hatch will continue to use a variation of the current 132kW/250Nm 1.4-litre turbo/supercharged four-cylinder engine, and whether it will adopt a mechanical limited slip differential in lieu of the electronic differential locks and torque vectoring devices currently offered.
Since late 2010, the Polo GTI has only been offered with DSG, a move that was considered radical for this class of car, particularly as the preceding model was manual-only.
It will be interesting to see if Renault responds with manual gearbox availability in the Clio RS200.
During a visit to Renault Sport’s Paris HQ in 2012, Wheels noted some dissatisfaction within the company over its decision to go for dual-clutch only in the current model.
One engineer even told us he would “fight to the end” for the next-generation Megane RS to retain its manual gearbox specification.