Volkswagen Officially Launches 40 MPG, 170 HP Polo GTI, Evokes Comparisons To Legendary MK1 Golf GTI

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

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.

To the Point: The New Polo GTI – Extremely Strong and Exceptionally Fuel Efficient
180 PS Polo GTI with 5.9 litre consumption is 25 percent more fuel efficient

229 km/h fast Polo GTI debuts with standard 7-speed DSG
Wolfsburg / Nürburgring, 10 May 2010 – The Polo GTI is back. A powerful 132 kW / 180 PS comeback! And this GTI too lives up to its legendary name with superior handling properties combined with uncompromising engine responsiveness and a maximum of safety. The highlight: Never before has such a powerful Polo come even close to its fuel efficiency. Thanks to clever downsizing of the twincharged 1.4-litre TSI engine (turbo plus supercharging) and the extremely efficient 7-speed dual clutch gearbox (DSG) as standard equipment, the development team was able to reduce combined fuel consumption to 5.9 l/100 km. That is equivalent to CO2 emissions of just 139 g/km. By comparison: Its direct predecessor in terms of power – also equipped with a 180 PS 1.8-litre turbo engine – consumed 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres (equivalent to 188 g/km CO2). This means that the new car is 25 percent more fuel efficient.

This economy contrasts with highly dynamic driving performance: The light 1,194 kilogram Volkswagen sports car accelerates to 100 km/h in just 6.9 seconds and reaches a top speed of 229 km/h. These figures, 6.9 seconds, 5.9 litres are sports car performance parameters of a sustainable kind.

Power is transferred to the front wheels via DSG as standard equipment. An electronic transverse differential lock (XDS) reduces the tendency to understeer and improves handling especially in quick driving through curves. Like all versions of the model series, the Polo GTI also comes equipped with the standard ESP electronic stabilisation programme including Hill Climb Assist. In addition, the car’s extensive safety features consists of a highly effective airbag network, including combined head-thorax side airbags, belt tensioners, belt tension limiters plus belt warning, head restraints designed to avoid whiplash trauma (each in front), three rear head restraints as well as Isofix points on the rear bench seat for suitably fitted child seats.

In addition, convenience features include electro-hydraulic power steering, electric windows in front, central locking, bootspace lighting and tie-down eyes, warning buzzer for light not turned off, driver seat height adjustment, make-up mirror in the sun visors and green tinted insulated glass. The GTI will be the first Polo to be available with bi-xenon headlights with cornering lights, LED daytime running lights and corner marker lights as well as a panoramic tilt/slide sunroof. Naturally, GTI-specific features are always standard too, such as the sport seat system and 17-inch alloy wheels in “Denver” design.

TDI, TSI, DSG and Twincharger are registered trademarks of Volkswagen AG or other companies of the Volkswagen Group in Germany and other countries.
Equipment information and technical data apply to models offered in Germany. They may differ in other countries.

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  • Brian Driggs Brian Driggs on May 10, 2010

    I supersize with those who hearken back to the good old days, when the hot hatch was better known as the crappy tin can the common man's budget allowed. That said, the new Polo looks like a real winner and my only concern, having finished the above post, is whether or not it will ever see American soil. Until such time as we actually get our jetpacks and the future becomes something of certainty against which we can compare the present, we can only glance over our shoulders into the rosy haze of subconsciously embellished memory. Surely the MkI represents simpler times and, hindsight such that it is, would likely outperform even the tactical weapon that is the Audi R8, were the modern powertrain bolted to it's vintage German steel. Perhaps the passive-aggressive backlash against this brave little veedub is not so much a rebellion against the marvels of technology incorporated into the Polo, but more a transference of self loathing; the bloat and sloth of a society. The sub-compact/citycar/micromachine segment is fast becoming one of the most interested in the market. Where once the Mini Cooper reigned supreme with its "Gokart handling," now there are easily half a dozen very appealing models either immediately available or with published arrival dates. I eagerly await the shift in the mass automotive media from lowbrow Corvette-Hypercar, SUV, and bland mid-sized comparos to the triumphant return of the hot hatch.