Whoosh. There goes another Audi scorching down the motorway. In a 300-mile trip four cars went past at excessive speeds at different times on busy sections, doing 100mph at least. All were late model silver Audis. Two of them had illegal number plates. They give the marque an image once bestowed on the “hot hatch”. Like the one I was in. A Volkswagen Polo BlueGT.
Its turbocharged 1.4 litre engine delivers 148bhp to give a 0-62mph time of 7.8 seconds and a top speed of 137mph – only where legal, of course. I can tell you that it will exceed 60 in second gear and 90 in third, with three more left to go. It has an electronic differential lock to help the front wheels get the power down. The stiffer suspension is slightly lower and low-rolling resistance Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres are fitted to 17 inch alloys. The front seats are slightly body-hugging and have Alcantara suedette side bolsters – to look sportier and keep you in place on the curves. Outside there are side skirts and a few other cosmetic differences, plus two exhaust pipes. A BlueGT badge sits in the gloss black facial grille, repeated on the boot lid with the word BlueMotion – signifying improved efficiency, viz the special tyres, brake force regeneration and some fancy engine tweakery.
The GT uses VW’s active cylinder system, which cuts out the middle pair of cylinders on a light throttle. The engine is a tour de force in other ways, with low friction technology and significant weight reduction and thermal efficiency by integrating the exhaust manifold in the cylinder head.
So, that BlueGT badge heralds rather a special engine. Volkswagen suggests that its cylinder cut-out can save a litre of fuel every 60 miles of urban driving and 0.7 litres at 70mph and 0.4 litres overall. It does add: “This information should be used for illustration purposes only. Standard EU Test figures for comparative purposes, may not reflect real driving results.”
Indeed, it’s been that way for many years but Polo GT drivers who are careful with their right foot and their money will easily get the car on to two cylinders – indicated by a message on the dashboard. I tend to drive cars for economy with pace rather than non-stop excitement and the “two cylinder” message regularly applauded my subconscious technique.
But first, the excitement. The Polo BlueGT is a scorcher off the line and handles well but the ride can be hard over bumps and on iffy country roads it gets jarring and fidgety at higher speed – enough for me to slow down. The brakes are excellent. Those who want more of the same can go for the 1.8 litre 189bhp Polo GTI which does 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds and, they say, can reach 147mph – which could give those speedy silver Audis a surprise. The cost is from £20,370 for the three-door and £21,000 with five doors.
Once upon a time, maybe, but the GT is quick enough and even then my Polo money would probably go on the one-litre, three cylinder model with a modest 113.4bhp.
There are brighter looking small cars but Volkswagen’s Polo keeps racking up sales – more than 14 million in the past 40 years. Its success is eclipsed by the Ford Fiesta, launched in 1976, with more than 18 million sales to date. Other big selling rivals include the Renault Clio and Peugeot 208 whilst from Skoda and SEAT the Fabia and Ibiza share the Polo’s VW heritage and chassis.
What a Polo has is what the larger Golf has, a smart though conservative design which is unlikely to upset or excite. It soothes you with its calmness, nothing extrovert yet cute enough to be chic. It is classless, which actually makes it classy, bestowing confidence in your choice. It is far from the cheapest in its class, but in return you get a better second-hand value if you ever sell. Otherwise, you could expect to keep one for ten years, or 15 years or 20 years. Just a thought.
The GT’s brisk nature and image will no doubt endear it to the town and city set, where badges matter more than they do in the country. In “the country” I’d prefer a Polo with a more cushioning tyre than the GT’s “40” aspect low profiles. Horses for courses and all that, I suppose.
Verdict: Possibly the best car in its class. Expect a new Polo in the next two years.