13 February 2012 ~ 1 Comment

Our cars: 2001 Volkswagen Polo GTI – report three

Five months in, how is Rich Gooding adjusting to life with his 10 year-old Polo GTI? The first mileage milestone has passed, and the car has recently been pressed into daily service…

In my last report, I hinted that there could be some seasonal goodies on the way for Y464 GHJ, and as I was clearly a good boy, the festive period heralded new front and rear badges (the old badges’ red ‘I’s had been painted with nail polish due to fading), new locking wheel bolts, new plastic wheel bolt covers, and a full complement of 1980s-tastic black, red-trimmed carpet mats. Very GTI. The locking wheel bolts have been fitted (annoyingly taking some paint off the wheels on the outside edge of the bolt holes due to the old ones being rung), as has the front badge and the carpet mats. I’ll very carefully apply the rear badge when it’s a little warmer. New numberplates in Volkswagen factory holders tidy up the outside, too.

First ten thousand-milestone passed, and I’m still enjoying spending time with Y464. Since the last report in December, I’ve taken a job at a local design agency, which means that the car now gets driven almost daily, covering just under 40 miles on a return trip. It’s the perfect commuting distance – just enough to make it manageable, and not take too much of a toll on the car. Along minor A-roads with some corners which could quite easily catch you unawares, Y464 is proving an able, comfortable, and relaxing travelling companion, and a 70,000-mile reading has just rolled over (or whatever the digital equivalent is) on the odometer.

Some would say that comfortable and relaxing is not what a hot hatch should be about. And they’d be right of course. But, the car can also do the sporting thing, too. It picks up pace quickly – the engine note growling as the revs are increased – and is a tidy handler through the tight corners which make up my cross-country route from Essex to the border of east Hertfordshire. Though not as engaging as modern machinery (or some old machinery for that matter), a 2001 Polo GTI is engaging enough. For this driver anyway. Saying that, I can see why contemporary reviews stated that the GTI was more of a faster Polo and not a GTI.

Daily use is also now revealing some impressions of what it’s like to live with, too. The recent cold spell of weather has seen the air-conditoning come into its own, and after years of living with a car with just a three-speed fan (I dug out my 1994 168,000-mile Polo GT coupé recently to take some potential sales photos, above), it’s a revelation. Shame that the usual faultless Volkswagen interior ergonomic spark failed to ignite when the designers came to lay out the air-conditioning controls in the cabin. Inherited from the Lupo, placed low on the centre console, drivers have to take their eyes off the road for a split second when adjusting the fan speed, temperature (the GTI has digital climate control) or windscreen air flow – far from ideal…

Another foible is that the gearbox can be a little notchy when cold, getting smoother and easy to slot into its five ratios once the oil’s warmed through. The heated windscreen washers have also failed to work recently, though with temperatures dipping well below zero most days, that’s not necessarily a fault of the car. Finally, the boot light is very laissez-faire about when it wants to come on, suggesting a faulty microswitch. But, it’s working at the moment, so, fingers crossed it stays illuminating. You don’t realise how much you miss it until you don’t have it. Overall, though, five months in, Y464 is proving to be a fuss-free ownership proposition.

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