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10.Honda Civic Hatchback
We might have some fancy cars over here in the USA, but there are quite a few vehicles overseas that we can’t help but think are desperately missing from our shores. More than a few are niche market models perfect for auto-enthusiasts, while others are more stylish or practical than what’s currently available in the US. And some are both.
In Europe, hot-hatch enthusiasts can enjoy a faster version of the Golf in the form of the GTI, or they can go absolutely mad with the V6-engined, all-wheel drive Golf R32. But while they can also buy the Polo GTI, Volkswagen isn’t so sure about building a quicker and AWD version of the smaller hatch.
The Polo shares the same platform as the new Audi A1, the succinctly-named PQ25. It wasn’t initially developed for all-wheel drive, which renders a blow against the Polo R: all VW R models feature AWD, as it’s the trump card against the GTI. Without AWD the Polo R would just be a slightly faster and angrier version of the current Polo GTI, and not even Volkswagen could have the good conscience to promote that.
However, Audi’s A1 is currently looking at a quattro model. This could pave the way for a Polo R with the vaunted AWD, but it would also drive the price up: with the Polo GTI at £19,000 in the UK and the Golf GTI £6,000 more, the Polo R would be difficult to slot in between those.
Volkswagen‘s been on a roll with hot hatches lately; the Scirocco, Golf GTI MKVI and Golf R are all fine performance cars that the common man can buy, but as the cars balloon in size, equipment and power, they become further and further removed from their ancestor, the tossable, no-frills MKI GTI.
The car that will inevitably draw comparisons to the MK1 is Volkswagens new Polo GTI, officially announced today, despite being shown at Geneva in March. The MK1 GTI weighed 1830 lbs, a little less than a Lotus Elise, hit 60 mph in just under 9 seconds and put out 110 horsepower from a 1.6L naturally aspirated four cylinder engine.
Today’s Polo GTI, which technically slots in below the Golf, weighs 2632 lbs, pumps out 170 horsepower from a 1.4L four cylinder engine with both a turbocharger and a supercharger and uses a twin-clutch 7-speed gearbox(!) to propel the Polo GTI to 60 in 6.9 seconds while returning a combined 39.9 mpg.
Before the inevitable judgements surface about how the Polo GTI is heavy, too laden with technology and has little in common with the spirit of the original, featherweight GTI, consider the following.
In the mid 1970′s, when the MK1 GTI was released, the dual clutch gearbox was being developed for use in the Porsche 962 LeMans car (and didn’t even appear until the mid 1980s), twincharging was still years away in the Lancia Delta S4 rally car, 40 mpg was the domain of dreadfully slow econoboxes and the premium interiors and build quality of the Polo just didn’t exist. Do I have to mention how far braking and crash safety has come in those few decades?
The Polo GTI packs the kind of technology once available to only the most advanced race cars, and creature comforts of a much more expensive car for relatively little money, not to mention represents a quantum leap in quantitative performance over the MK1 To paraphrase the comedian Louis C.K., this car is amazing and nobody is happy. The fact that this sort of equipment has trickled down into an everyman hot hatch really is a miracle.
GALLERY: Volkswagen Polo GTI
Hit the jump to read the official Volkswagen press release.
Barring the unlikely scenario that Volkswagen releases a Polo R, the Polo GTI is now the sportiest mini-Golf offered in Europe. Sadly, VW sill has no official plans to bring the Polo (including this new GTI model) to North America. Read on to see why that’s such sad news.
Powering the car is VW’s impressive 1.4 TSI Twincharger engine. Displacing 1.4-liters this four cylinder uses direct-injection technology as well as a turbocharger and a supercharger to make 178-hp and 184 ft-lbs of torque. Combined with a 7-speed DSG transmission, the little GTI can hit 62 mph in 6.9 seconds. It’s also incredibly efficient, delivering 40 mpg on average (using the more generous European Test Cycle). This represents a fuel economy improvement over the last Polo GTI’s 1.8T engine.
Along with a GTI-styled exterior and interior (with the necessary Interlagos plaid seats), Polo GTI highlights include a sports suspension that is not only stiffer but also 15mm lower to the ground. A set of 17-inch wheels allow for wider 215/40/17 tires. And to help in the corners, the Polo GTI gets VW’s XDS electronic differential, which uses the car’s brakes to slow the inside wheel in a corner.
Maybe, just maybe, VW will bring the Polo, and this hot GTI version to the U.S. soon.
GALLERY: Volkswagen Polo GTI
Official release after the jump: