Archive | Our cars: 2015 Polo GTI

10 December 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Twin test: SEAT Ibiza Cupra vs Volkswagen Polo GTI contributor, motoring writer, editor and Polo GTI owner John Redfern weighs up the pros and cons of two seemingly similar Spanish-built Volkswagen Group hot hatchbacks

2016 Volkswagen Polo GTI and SEAT Ibiza Cupra

This is evidently a subjective area, and neither Cupra nor GTI could be considered unattractive designs. Whether you prefer the basic Polo or Ibiza shape is personal taste, so we concentrated on the actual effort made to transform regular supermini into a hot hatch.

So what sets the GTI apart is the fact it looks more bespoke compared to the rest of the Polo range. From the red trim running across the grille into the headlights, to the honeycomb mesh and the GTI branding, it feels more special. Yes, it might be a scaled-down pastiche of the Golf GTI, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

On the other hand, the Ibiza Cupra struggles to separate itself from the hundreds of FR-badged imitators. Where it does differ is often through fussy styling, like the trapezoidal centre-exit exhaust or fake vents in the rear bumper. It’s still a good-looking car, but doesn’t quite do enough to make things feel distinctive.

Take the gloss black alloy wheels fitted to this Cupra Black test car, and compare them to the multi-spoke items, with diamond cut elements, on the GTI. Whether you like them is a matter of taste, but it exemplifies the extra attention to detail and sense of occasion found on the transformation of the Polo into a GTI.

Winner: GTI

Volkswagen Group interiors have long held a reputation for strong design and build quality. That doesn’t change when it gets to the Cupra and GTI, but subtle distinctions between them still exist.

As with the exterior, the Polo GTI edges ahead with a cabin that manages to have a greater sense of occasion. It starts with the ‘Jacara’ (or tartan) seats, and extends to the red stitching on the gear knob and steering wheel. The addition of piano black trim helps break up a sea of charcoal, as do the extra chrome elements.

Unlike the GTI there’s no additional trim to separate acres of grained black plastic. It could be a Cupra, or it could be a base-spec E, there’s no real feeling of delineation. Where the Ibiza does score an advantage is with seats that will go lower to the floor, and ultimately feel more cosseting than those in the GTI. Get back in the Polo and the sense of extra seat height is palpable – blame the extra storage drawers hiding underneath for that.

Fundamentally the Polo GTI feels more expensive, looks more expensive, and persuades you that VW were inclined to try that little bit harder in making it feel unique.

Winner: GTI

Same 1.8-litre TSI engine and, unsurprisingly, the same official performance figures for both. Drive them back-to-back, or have someone drive the other one alongside, and you’ll be extremely hard-pressed to say one is faster than the other.

The Cupra does, however, have a slightly sharper initial throttle pedal response and feels ever so marginally quicker in terms of initial acceleration. Conversely, the GTI seems to have a fraction more lag before the torque kicks in. It is a very subtle difference, and one that could only really be detected driving one immediately after the other.

More noticeable is the lighter clutch pedal and gearbox of the Cupra, which removes an extra degree of effort that’s needed in the GTI. The Polo’s gearbox is still accurate but needs more force to shift cogs, whilst the clutch is also heavier.

Both cars here feature Sport modes that sharpen the throttle response and provoke more noise from the interior sound actuator. As noted in our review, the Cupra makes a slightly strange offbeat tone, whilst the GTI sounds more conventional. Despite the Cupra’s fancy tailpipe design, it’s the GTI that actually makes more noise from the exhaust itself.

The 1.8-litre TSI engine is an impressive unit in both applications and, so nuanced are the differences, we’re calling this round a tie.

Winner: draw

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16 March 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Our cars: 2015 Polo GTI – report one

In May 2015, John Redfern, editor of, traded up from his 2013 Polo R-Line after two-and-a-half years and 19,000 happy miles. Here, he introduces us to its rather more powerful replacement…

2015 Volkswagen Polo GTI: John Redfern

About a year ago I wrote about the temptation of trading my Polo R-Line for the then recently announced 6C Polo GTI. I promised myself to wait until my current finance deal came to an end, but caved in after about a month of trying to not think about it.

So when the R-Line went for a second-year service at Pulman Volkswagen in Durham, I floated the idea of trading it in. Suddenly the deal on offer seemed to good to turn down, especially with free insurance for a year being thrown in for good measure. I signed on the line after a week of thinking about it.

Five-month wait
Previously in my R-Line updates, I mentioned about not being too great at waiting for things. The GTI, however, tested my patience to the limit, with a five-month wait between placing the initial order in January and it finally arriving in May. From viewing various forums, other owners had to endure even longer periods dependent on specification and options picked.

Perhaps keeping the GTI relatively simple helped my cause. In fact the only boxes ticked were for the Climatronic climate control, the Light & Sight Pack (mandatory with Climatronic) and the Sport pack. Why climate control instead of the perfectly adequate manual air conditioning? Two reasons: I like the upmarket look Climatronic brings, and it’s also a neat throwback to my 6N2 GTI. For the same reason I went with Flash Red paint, three-doors, and the manual six-speed gearbox.

Sport pack
Adding the Sport pack, a bargain at only £245, brings with it the ability to stiffen the dampers, quicken the throttle response, and add weight to the steering at the press of a button. It was also a fairly important purchase when you have a blog called EngageSportMode, so there was no doubt as to whether I’d add it or not!

Compared to driving in ‘normal’ mode, pressing the ‘Sport’ button on the dashboard does make a difference to the driving experience. The suspension becomes substantially stiffer, to the point where potholes and ruts can be uncomfortable. On certain urban roads I find myself switching back to normal mode for the sake of my spine.

However, the experience of the car with ‘Sport’ mode engaged makes the hard ride instantly worth it. With an instant throttle response, extra exhaust noise in the cabin, and meaty steering the GTI feels properly sporty and hard-edged. The sound from the engine is addictive, and just adds to the feeling that it is a proper little hot-hatch – not just a supermini with a big engine.

Chunks of torque
Although that is also the wider impression the GTI gives in a positive way. With huge chunks of torque available lowdown the rev range, there is the definite sensation of large engine stuffed into a small car.

It makes commuting, and longer motorway journeys, easy as the ability is there to slot into gaps without even needing to shift down the gearbox. The ludicrously bright and effective LED headlights also make a good job of helping middle-lane dawdlers move out of the way, too.

With a decent amount of mileage now under its belt, the GTI has been almost completely reliable. A small number of interior trim rattles developed quite soon after delivery, which was annoying, but easily ignored. Pulman Durham did offer to take the car back straightaway to investigate but, from experience, trying to solve dashboard rattles usually results in creating even more than was there in the first place!

The only other minor issue has been an indicator/main-beam stalk that lost the ability to flash the headlights. A small problem, but annoying when your commute involves letting people merge onto dual carriageways. Pulman Durham were, again, instantly ready to get the car booked in under warranty but the GTI decided to fix itself instead and start flashing again.

Smoothness and economy
Fuel consumption has averaged at almost exactly 35mpg for daily usage. This has risen to 40mpg on longer runs, such as travelling all the way to the South coast for the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Given the performance on offer, I’m perfectly happy with the GTI’s thirst for Shell V-Power, with a notable improvement in smoothness and economy when running on premium petrol.

Despite having driven a multitude of different cars last year, I never felt disappointed getting back in the GTI. In fact, the exposure to a number of other hot hatches and performance cars has only made me even happier with the choice I made.

Although I never thought it would get under my skin like my old beloved 6N2 GTI did, the 6C is certainly making a good go of it! So much so in fact, I’m looking forward to several thousand more miles behind that red-stitched steering wheel…

Read John’s reports on his 2013 Polo R-Line here.

2015 Volkswagen Polo GTI: John Redfern

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