Volkswagen Polo GT TSI review, test drive
25th Apr 2013 4:31 pm
Is the new VW Polo 1.2 GT TSI what enthusiasts have been waiting for?
It’s called the Polo GT TSI and that means a couple of things. First, it’s a 1.2-litre turbo-charged, direct injection petrol and second, it’s available in India only with a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic. This, and the fact that there’s more equipment hint at VW’s strategy to position this Polo as the top-of-the line variant, one that replaces the now defunct Polo 1.6. Interestingly, this smaller engine makes exactly the same peak horsepower as the 1.6 and, 17.8kgm of torque which is 2.2kgm more than the old car. The idea here is to provide the same levels of performance but with the fuel efficiency of a smaller engine.
Know that there are a few India-specific changes mainly to do with the beefed-up clutch pads (to deal with our punishing start-stop traffic) and modified electronic connectors for the mechatronic control unit for the DSG gearbox.
So, what's the GT TSI like? For starters, the 1.2 TSI is a whole lot quieter than the 1.6. It fires up and settles into a smooth, quiet idle. The DSG box on this car has three modes – ‘D’, ‘S’ and manual. In regular ‘D’, it is programmed to upshift at the earliest, maximising fuel efficiency, whereas in ‘S’, it will stay in the lowest gear possible. It is also superbly responsive in manual where it allows you to downshift right up to the redline.
It is an entertaining engine and gearbox combination. Peak torque kicks in at a low 1400rpm and post this, the engine has a strong midrange. It will also pull happily up to its 6000rpm redline, but it does get a bit thrashy after 5000rpm. It isn’t as smooth as say, the TSI motor in the Laura when you rev it hard.
Still, there’s plenty of fun to be had. Once you get past that initial tiny bit of lag (the DSG tries its best to hide this) there’s a smile-inducing grunt and the car will get to 100kph in a reasonably quick 11.34sec, which is 0.28sec quicker than the Polo 1.6 (0-100kph in 11.62 sec). Throttle response is reasonably linear and the car feels peppy thanks to peak torque being made all the way from 1500rpm to 4100rpm.
Despite that, the lack of sheer displacement can still be felt, especially when you get to around 140kph where the rate of acceleration slows down. VW’s ARAI-tested fuel efficiency figure for the car is 17.2kpl.
Now, because the car is called the GT, you might expect a sporty suspension setup, but that is not the case here. Sure, the GT TSI has its own specific setup – but ground clearance remains the same as the other Polos in the range and the spring and damper rates have clearly been tuned with comfort in mind. That’s not to say that the car is soft and wallowy and it is, in fact, quite the opposite. Push it hard through corners and the Polo GT will stick with you most of the time. There’s decent body control, the steering is direct and accurate enough (it lacks any real feedback though) and there’s good grip from the 185/60 R15 tyres (the same as on a regular Polo Highline).
This, combined with the engine’s enthusiasm makes for a car that is fun to punt down your favourite twisty road. Push it to the limit however and it will show its limitations in the form of some understeer and bobbing over undulations.
The Polo GT TSI looks identical to its lower-powered siblings and this might be a bad thing. The only external clues are the GT badging on the front grille, GT TSI stickers on the C-pillar and, you guessed it, GT and TSI badging on the boot lid. Strangely, there is no ‘Polo’ or ‘Volkswagen’ badge anywhere on the car.
On the inside though, there are quite a few changes. The seats now get sportier black and grey fabrics with contrast stitching, the Polo GT TSI gets the climate control system from the Vento as well as a new 2-DIN audio system that incorporates USB, Aux-in and an SD card reader on its faceplate. Sadly, sound quality isn’t all that great. Plastic quality and fit and finish are good, but not exceptional like on the bigger VW’s and space and comfort are exactly the same as you would find on a regular Polo.
In the end, the Polo GT TSI, despite its suggestive name, comes across as a premium automatic hatchback rather than a sporty one. We say this because it sacrifices a bit of body control for comfort and that’s what ultimately keeps it from being properly sporty. Also, VW should offer a manual option to please the really keen drivers.
So, while enthusiasts might be disappointed, there’s enough fun to be had for anyone looking for something more than a regular hatchback. It costs Rs 7.99 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).