Some might call it impressive, others will say it is excellent, fast, dynamic, and exciting but I think the best way to describe Volkswagen's new Polo GTI is by simply saying it is a super-sexy little sizzler.
Its baby 1.4-litre engine has been given the full benefit of turbocharged, supercharged fuel injection.
Yes, it is impressive and fast and it clings to the road and behaves better at pace than just about all of its competitors, but it also has a particularly confident cockiness that sets it apart from other small hot hatches.
In fact, it is so good it muscles its way right into the company of the new Golf GTI and the equally rapid new Golf R launched in South Africa recently.
Priced at about R80 000 less than the Golf GTI one must question why anybody would opt for the Golf rather than this new Polo.
Let's look at a couple of figures to see precisely how this rapid little wild-child stacks up against to the outgoing Polo GTI: - its 0-00km/h squirt time is quicker, top speed is better, muscle is up from 110kW to 132kW and from 220Nm to 250Nm, and it delivers better fuel consumption and less emissions.
Take it out of the VW family environment and stack it up against its main competitors, the Alfa Mito, Opel Corsa OPC and Renault Clio 2-litre and it chows them all when it comes to top speed, torque, less fuel guzzling and emissions - and even equals the Renault's fastest in this group sprint time of 6.9 seconds over the 0-100km/h.
Blue blood is in the Polo DNA with the titles such as World Car of the Year in 2010, European Car of the Year in the same year and the 2011 South African Car of the Year (an honour it shared with the BMW 530).
More than just a fast hatch
It's this pedigree that polishes the new GTI's marble even brighter, because it is a heck of a lot more than just a fast hatch. Like most VW cars, the new little GTI feels like it is built to last and it brims with safety, luxury and comfort features which also make it an easy-to-drive daily commuter.
Particularly impressive is its ride which is a near-perfect balance between comfort and dynamics. Sure, the suspension is firm, but not so that it will shake your fillings loose.
The cabin is as comfortable as you would expect from a fairly compact four-seater and the foldable rear seats can also be split 60/40 to increase packing space.
Because the GTI comes with a space-saver spare wheel which doesn't take up as much room as a normal spare wheel, the boot is also quite adequate.
All the bells and whistles... adjustable headlights, cruise control, leather multi-function steering wheel complete with paddles for flicking through the gears, and more.
To make the living quarters comfy the front passengers have sports racing-style seats that are adjustable and have built-in heaters, the front head rests are adjustable and there are three at the rear as well.
Daddy Long Legs and paunchier passengers might find the back seating a tad tight and it definitely works better with two rather than three at the back.
The living quarters have all the comfort and snazzy kit you can ask for including a super sound system (with CD, MP3 functionality and six speakers) glove compartment with cooler, cup-holders, dimmable interior lighting, front central arm-rest, electric doors and lots of little storage spaces.
Red stitching, contrasting black roof liner, roof pillar trim, grab handles, sun visors and central console panels are all styled to create a classy contrast with the brushed chrome air vent surrounds and control knobs.
The driver's pleasure is enhanced by adjustable headlights, cruise control, leather multi-function steering wheel complete with paddles for flicking through the gears, leather clad stubby gearshift, fully adjustable steering column and a multi-function computer, lights-on warning buzzer and a number of other nice touches.
Before you set out to do what the GTI enjoys best, and that is to be driven with enthusiasm, it is also comforting to know that occupants are well protected by a host of airbags all round, adjustable seat belts for the front-seaters and a three point belt for the central back seat occupant, plus ISOFIX child seat mountings and kiddie-proof door locks at the rear.
The Polo is armed with disc brakes with ABS and EBD, an electronic stability programme (EPS), transverse differential lock and pin-sharp steering.
On-the-road aids are given deservedly important status and the Polo is armed with disc brakes with ABS and EBD, an electronic stability programme (EPS), transverse differential lock and pin-sharp steering.
I drove the latest VW-offspring over a lovely route from Cape Town airport via the N1 to Paarl and from there along the old Du Toits Kloof Pass, through the outskirts of Worcester to Villiersdorp, over the scenic Franschhoek Pass and back to the airport via Stellenbosch - and I was absolutely blown away by this performance gem.
What is probably the most amazing feature of the Polo is its baby 1.4-litre engine which has been given the full benefit of turbocharged, supercharged fuel injection - and jeez, does it perform.
It literally flies out of the starting stalls and gallops with consummate easy to the 200-plus zone.
Holding that line is easier than you might think
The 215/40 R17 tyres wrapped around 7Jx17 Denver alloys are super-glued to the tar and the steering is needle-sharp to help the car keep its composure even when the rubber is taking punishment.
Through the fast twisties the presence of the electronic transverse differential lock certainly cuts down on understeer, so holding a line becomes quite easy, even though the steering does feel a little light and sensitive at times.
The suspension has been modified and stiffer springs combined with the 15mm lowered ride also make an admirable contribution to maintaining the car's balance and poise.
The GTI is only available with a DSG gearbox which is really fast and smooth, although at times a little puzzled in fast-slow situations when left in full automatic. However, driven at normal commuter pace or at a consistently fair lick the changes are silk-and-chocolate smooth. When the DSG transmission performs at its very best is when the driver gives the little beast horns by selecting Sport mode and then uses the flappies on the steering wheel to flick through the cogs.
As to be expected the hot Polo produces a pleasantly raunchy gargle through its cheeky twin-outlet exhausts which sounds particularly pleasant bouncing off the sides of a curving mountain pass.
The bigger Golf GTI does look a little bland and the younger brother is cast in a very similar mould, yet the Polo looks a bit more like a bar-fighter, probably because of its smaller tough tyke attitude.
Just whip out that wallet
You get the message fairly quickly when you stroll up for closer look; trademark GTI red trim strips on the radiator grille, flared fenders, low front fender, rear spoiler, attractive alloys, the red painted brake callipers, shapely rear apron with diffuser and the tell-tale big-mouthed exhaust outlets.
The Polo is an attractive package in standard format but owners can whip out their wallets for optional extras such as a Panoramic Sunroof, Rear Park Distance Control and curtain airbags.
Polo offers six colour choices of which I prefer Flash Red with Deep Black running a close second.
There's more than enough 'oomph' in the engine to show many competitors a clean pair of heels.
At R259 000 the 1.4 TSI Polo GTI is not cheap but it is a particularly impressive bundle of performance and class that will appeal to all who enjoy spirited driving.
Included in the price tag are additional attractions such as a three-year/120 000km warranty and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty.
A five-year/ 60 000km Volkswagen Automotion Maintenance Plan as well as a five-year/ 60 000 km Service Plan are optional.
Bizcommunity.com motoring editor Henrie Geyser () has worked as a journalist in Cape Town, London and Windhoek for the Argus Company (now Independent Newspapers) and spent 12 years at The Cape Argus in Cape Town. He then owned and ran a public relations consultancy for 13 years. He joined the online publishing industry through iafrica.com, where he worked for five years as news editor and editor. He now freelances for a variety of print and online publications, on the subjects of cars, food and travel, among others; and is a member of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists.
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