DOUG KEMSLEY ON WHEELS (4)

RIDE THE WILD POLO GEEGEE   or   RIDING THE WILD POLO PONY

The last time I drove SA’s top selling car, I encountered somewhat of a niggle.

It wasn’t a brand new test Volkswagen Polo but, rather, a 10-year-old one in good condition. Problem was, just about every time I parked in town, I would come back to find a nuisance note under the wiper blade, asking, “if you want to sell this car pse contact Peter…, Paul…, Mary… Tel no…”

Volkswagen’s new Polo GTi adds a new dimension to this popular model’s profile. A sharp new look and loads more power make it even more appealing for the spirited driver.

That says it all. So popular is the little Polo that VW wisely wants to keep adding new stirrups for as long as possible.

Further priming its pocket rockets, they’ve just introduced the Polo Gran Turismo injection (GTi) and it is even more of a punchy lightweight for the enthusiast, committed, driver. Now with the 2-litre TSI turbo engine, it has performance that justifies all of its boasts of successes on the rally special stages and race tracks of South Africa.

A lightweight body and the assertive output from the motor translate into delivering stinging performance that has you keeping your legs together when driving hard, in case you get caught out.

How do you like a maximum of 147 kW of power and a bruising 320 Nm of torque for when you feel like getting playful on the road?

At your service, also, is an optional sports suspension adjustment to keep matters at high speed controllable, but an XDS differential lock through the front drive wheels, to ensure those wide, 17-inch tyres keep clawing at the tarmac, is standard equipment.

So is the Driving Profile selection whereby you can choose from four programmes: Eco, Sport, Normal and Individual. In the Eco mode, the engine management and auxiliary systems such as the air-con, are regulated for optimal fuel-efficiency. Also, if you release the accelerator pedal, on downhills, for example, the dual clutch (DSG) disengages for coasting, while the engine idles.

In Sport mode on the other hand, engine response characteristics and gear shift points are automatically configured for fast driving.

A well packaged, dynamic rig for spirited motoring, indeed. The transmission is six-speed with a dual clutch setup. All this translates into a maximum speed of 237 km/h and a zero-to-100km/h acceleration time in 6,7 sec. That’s what VW claims, but driven normally, they say, fuel consumption can average out at a reasonable 5,9L/100km.

Warning: When driving hard, keep both front wheels on the tar as, with the locking diff, going off the road with the left front, under acceleration, can cause a pull on the steering. Watchit!

The new Polo GTi is not all thunder and lightening either, as I have a six page list of safety, comfort and convenience specifications in front of me as I write this.

To start with, the inside is typical ‘VW GTi’ with the sports front seats and Art Velour upholstery dominant in a connected and largely digitalised cockpit which makes this Polo, always offered in four-door format, cracking as a compact sports saloon.

Red contrast stitching on the predominantly black upholstery is also inherited, and is found around the leather-clad, multifunction, sports steering wheel, the gear shift lever trim, the floor mats and the outer seat surfaces.

The basic GTi is not as spartan as it used to be and, for the R375 900, all-in price tag, you now also get the latest Volkswagen 8-inch Composition Media infotainment system with radio and CD player. There are now power windows all-round, the driver’s seat is height-adjustable, and floor mats, front and rear.

Viewed from the outside, the GTi’s ride-height reduction of 15mm is immediately noticeable, as are the big, red braking calipers behind the ‘Milton Keynes’ style alloy wheels. You can specify and pay in for 18-inch ‘Brescia’ wheels instead of the standard ones.

GTi colour schemes include Pure White, Flash Red, Deep Black Pearl Effect and Reef Blue Metallic.

Up front, you see the independent bumper with an integrated spoiler and fog lights with the signature GTi red stripe in the radiator grille. You can also differentiate the new Polo from the old by C-shaped, black, high-gloss air curtains in the bumper.

Characteristics at the rear include a high-gloss black diffuser, chrome dual exhaust tailpipes and LED tail light clusters that provide a rather distinctive light image at night. I would have appreciated, at the price, were those rear view mirrors, electric folding ones.

Interesting is the tyre pressure loss indicator which uses the wheel sensors of the anti-lock brake system (ABS). With the tyre’s pressure loss, the rolling radius of the affected wheel decreases, and the wheel turns faster at the same vehicle speed. This allows the system to detect insufficient air pressure, and it warns the driver.

Handy for our potholed road conditions, but it still does not relieve the driver of the need to check tyre pressures.

The new Polo GTi comes with a three-year/120 000km warranty, three-year/45 000km Service Plan and the guarantee that you will see no cobwebs on drivers behind the wheel of this wild polo pony,

By Doug Kemsley

 

 

 

 

 

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