With Volkswagen launching a diesel version of the Polo GT, a new challenger has risen to take on the reigning segment king, the Hyundai i20. The Hyundai has been a favourite in the market owing to its class-leading interior space and long equipment list. So, does Volkswagen's new product have enough on offer to win over customers?
The new Polo GT TDI is powered by the 1.6-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine from the Vento, rather than the usual 1.2-litre, three-cylinder diesel. It makes a strong 103.5bhp. Refinement levels are good and the engine is pretty quiet as well. Power delivery is strong and performance is punchy and smooth. It’s equipped with a five-speed manual gearbox and reaches the 100kph mark from standstill in 10.51 seconds.
The i20, on the other hand, is powered by a 1.4-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine that produces 88.7bhp and 22.4kgm of pulling power, both slightly less than the Polo GT. The motor is smooth for the most part and flexible enough for both spirited driving or a relaxed cruise. It has a lighter clutch than the Polo and feels effortless to drive, especially in the city. It’s equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox and reaches the 100kph mark in 12.88 seconds. It does not feel as fast as the VW.
Ride and handling
The Polo impresses in this department and is definitely the sportier of the two here. The suspension does a good job of suppressing undulations on the road, and the ride is generally pliant at low speeds and a lot more composed at higher speeds. The front tyres afford abundant grip, and the Polo inspires a lot of confidence. The brakes are only average and a little grip from the rear tyres would have been good.
This is where the i20 doesn’t impress as much as the Polo. Its soft suspension is comfortable at city speeds, but the exceedingly light steering makes it a little difficult over rough surfaces. There is some body roll too, you will not want to turn corners too enthusiastically either. It feels pretty stable when driving in a straight line however, but it isn’t anywhere close to the Polo as far as handling is concerned.
The GT TDI’s interiors are pretty simple and a bit boring in comparison to the i20’s, but the quality of materials used and the fit and finish are much better than the Hyundai’s. It’s easy to find a comfortable driving position thanks to seat height adjustment and a steering that is adjustable for reach and rake, although the Polo’s high dashboard may hamper visibility for shorter drivers. The dials are easy to read and super functionality of the switches is very impressive too.
The i20’s interiors are typical Hyundai and have been put together well. The cabin design looks more exciting than the Polo’s, with two-tone interiors, a brushed silver central console and an information screen on the dash top. The big dials are clear, the chunky controls are effortless to use, and all the controls fall to hand easily. The quality of plastics is also good, especially on the dashboard and the door pads, but not quite up there with the VW.
Space and practicality
The VW does fall a bit short here – its rear seat is down on headroom and legroom, especially if you are on the taller side. The front seats, however, have decent space and there are plenty of cubby holes for storing stuff. This makes it best for owners who drive themselves around. The door pockets also offer generous space to store big bottles. What it lacks in rear seat space, the Polo makes up for with its 294-litre boot, which is usefully big and is well shaped too.
In terms of absolute space, the i20 does better than the Polo. The front seats are well contoured and comfortable, but the cushioning is a tad hard. The rear seats are comfortable too and space in the back is much more. Three adults can sit comfortably in the back seat. Its 295-litre boot is fairly large and can accommodate generous amount of luggage. The i20 is the one to choose if you travel with a full complement of passengers.
The Polo GT TDI is available only in one high-spec variant, similar to the standard car’s Highline trim. It gets 15-inch alloy wheels, aluminium pedals, leather-wrapped gear lever, steering wheel and handbrake, ABS, two airbags automatic climate control, steering-mounted controls, rear parking sensors, fog lamps, electric mirrors, height adjustable driver’s seat, a two-DIN music system with USB, aux and Bluetooth, and a tilt and telescopic steering wheel.
Like all Hyundais, the i20 is very well equipped, and this top-end Asta trim has just about everything the Polo GT gets, and then some more. It has ABS, rear parking sensors and camera, two airbags, front and rear fog lamps, LED daytime-running lights, 14-inch alloy wheels, a six-speaker audio system with USB, aux and Bluetooth, automatic climate control, a cooled glovebox, electric folding mirrors and a height adjustable driver's seat.
While the Hyundai does trump the Volkswagen in terms of space and equipment, it simply doesn't feel as well put together and fun to drive as its German competitor. The Polo GT TDI is fast, efficient and fun to drive, and if you drive yourself, this should definitely be your choice of premium hatchback.