There’s now a lightly tweaked version of the VW Polo GTI. With 204bhp from its 2.0-litre EA888, it’s more powerful than before, and there’s also snazzy new equipment plus a new Golf 8-like face transplant. None of which would tempt us into buying one.
Not because it’s going to be a bad car - we liked the pre-update Polo GTI very much. The problem is all the other B-segment hot hatches you can have for the same money - the Ford Fiesta ST is one of the most exciting attainable performance cars out there, and the new Hyundai i20 N isn’t that far behind. To make matters worse, the hot Polo’s six-speed manual option was ditched ages ago. Unlike the smaller Up! GTI and the bigger Golf GTI, this tartan-enhanced supermini can only be had with a seven-speed ‘DSG’ automatic.
If the Polo’s blend of solid performance and classiness allures you, though, we do have a couple of used options to present. First off, you could merely go for an early pre-facelift car with the briefly available manual. It’ll still have a bit of its original VW warranty left and feel nicely fresh, but you are going to have to pay over £15,000.
Option B involves the previous-generation Polo GTI, but it’s important not to go too early. The pre-facelift cars came with an unusual 1.4-litre turbocharged and supercharged inline-four, which sounds interesting, but again, your only transmission option was a DSG. In 2014, though, VW installed a more conventional 1.8-litre solely turbocharged inline-four and gave it a six-speed manual.
Said 1.8 is good for 189bhp, a handy increase of 11bhp. Torque meanwhile sits at 236lb ft, but only if you buy the manual - the DSG is limited 184lb ft as that’s all the weedy seven-speed auto could take. Whichever one you go for, though, the 0-62mph time is the same - 6.7 seconds.
As with the current Polo GTI, there’s no physical locking differential here, with the VW instead relying on a brake-based ‘XDS’ torque vectoring system to keep the front end in check. That was less unusual back then, though - LSD-equipped B-segment hot hatches weren’t anything like as common as they seem to be now.
The best bit of all is the cabin. It’s a smarter-looking space than what you get in the new Polo, and most importantly, you’ll still get proper buttons for everything. Unfortunately, the facelifted current car has adopted the dreadful haptic feedback steering wheel button pads also used in the Golf, along with the weird digital slider thing for the fan speed VW recently added to the updated Tiguan.
Prices of the earliest, highest mileage fifth-gen facelift Polo GTIs have now dipped under the magical £10,000 mark. Our pick for today from Autotrader is a smidge over that price at £10,490, but it looks like a good buy. Frozen White suits it nicely, the mileage isn’t too high at 70,000, it has a full service history (as you’d hope for a car of this age), and yes, it has tartan seats.