Volkswagen Polo TSI road test review

  • Apr 25, 2013

Volkswagen India has been in the limelight in the last few months and for good reasons. With new updated models of Vento and Polo rolling out, the company has also been introducing lucrative schemes to lure buyers and limited editions to keep the line-up fresh – take for instance the new Vento Style edition. The result has been a 12% increase in March 2013 sales as compared to February for the same year.
However, the German giant clearly doesn’t want to stick to the usual ways of doing automotive business in India. Enthusiasts are on their radar as prospective customers and hence the launch of India’s only petrol turbo-charged and seven speed automatic offering under Rs 15 lac in the form of the Polo GT TSI, a hot hatchback that can easily rip the pants off every other hatchback and some of the more expensive sedans when it comes to performance. Performance mind you is not always related to acceleration and top speed but other parameters as well including in-gear punch, stability and road manners – this GT TSI for example even has ESP (electronic stability program) as standard!

The Polo 1.6 was a wonderful car for petrol-heads. However, it used an engine that didn’t allow it to qualify for small car tax norms and hence Volkswagen looked at their global kitty for small capacity but powerful petrol engines. TSI is a technology we all are familiar with thanks to the Jetta and other group offerings in India and the same now finds itself in the Polo as well. The famous saying of “Don’t judge a book by its cover” applies here too as the 1.2-litre engine might be small on paper, but thanks to TSI technology, it produces the same power, 105PS, as the bigger 1.6-litre petrol engine found in the earlier Polo (optional engine) and the current Vento. Further, maximum torque is way more, importantly building up from as low as 1500rpm which makes city commutes a piece of cake! The icing on this cake comes in the form of the seven speed dual clutch transmission which puts to shame other automatic gearboxes in the segment of hatchbacks as well as C segment sedan offerings.

Our 200km drive in Goa took us through some of the most scenic as well as enjoyable roads. NH-17, leading out towards Mumbai from Panaji has shaped up pretty well over the years with ample four-lane stretches that were able to do justice to this new motor. Infact, even with three well-built adults on board along with luggage and air-con working, the Polo easily gathered pace, with the speedometer needle kissing the 150km/h mark with utter ease. We reckon given the road, this hatchback will crack the 175km/h mark, making it the fastest hatchback in India. No, the VW Bettle is still seen as a coupe, not a hatchback! The 0-100km/h run should come up in around 10 seconds, which is around a half a second off the earlier Polo 1.6’s timings. See, torque does help!

However, the engine is not only about its outright punch that will give you mile wide grins in plenty, it’s also the way this engine responds in traffic thanks to the 7-speed DSG ‘box. Gear changes are lightning quick and suddenly, all other conventional four and five speed autos we have seen on the regular hatchbacks feel obsolete. The S mode also delights you further with downshifts that are accompanied by throttle blips. Intoxicating! The manual mode also allows the driver to shift gears as they please by pushing the leaver front or back. Oh by the way, the gear lever (and handbrake) gets the leather treatment with a silver finish for the upper part that also has DSG embossing!
The Polo GT TSI continues to impress us with its impeccable road manners. Not only does it give a sense of being composed at high speed, the light yet well weight steering allows you to steer the car according to your needs and mood! Suspension soak up is perfect and nearly the best in class. What however could be a problem when driving with four on board is the slightly limited ground clearance. This version also comes standard with hill hold feature which basically holds on to the brake for a couple of seconds when the driver lifts off his right foot from the brake pedal, onto the accelerator – pretty handy when starting off on inclines.

The Polo has been a smart looking hatchback and the GT TSI version looks the same save for some minor changes. There is a prominent GT badge on the front grille, GT TSI sticker work on the C pillar and GT and TSI badge on the rear on either side. The alloy wheel design is slightly different though we would have loved to see this hot baby with the SR kit that the Polo SR comes with and/or a different contrast color for the roof for that sporty touch! Like the exterior design, the cabin too looks the same till you start noticing the sporty drilled pedals. Open the door and you notice the door sills adorning the GT TSI badge while the floor mats are new with Polo stitching. The seat fabric is different too and we are told, the rear seat passengers now get upto 30mm of extra knee room, however, the likes of the Brio and the Liva still offer better rear knee and leg room space at the rear. The GT TSI version comes with a super 2-DIN RCD 320 audio system along with rear parking sensors.

The Polo GT TSI suffers from one of the biggest problems that the global manufacturers face in India – import duties. Now the engine and gearbox are imported from Germany as it’s not economically feasible to make these in India due to the small quantities. This is also the reason why the GT TSI version carries a premium sticker price (Rs 7.99 lac ex-showroom Delhi). However, it does come loaded with almost everything you and I as an enthusiast would want in their hot hatch – power, technology, ease of driving and features. The Polo GT TSI is the perfect recipe for goose bumps, grins and screams – take your better half for a spin on empty roads and you will get my point! Unlike some of the other so called hot hatchbacks, it won’t leave you wanting for more and still be economical to run. With an ARAI rated figure of almost 18kmpl, this car makes me remember the famous saying, “sometimes, you can eat your cake and have it too!"


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