2022 Volkswagen Polo GTI Review
Price & Equipment:7
Performance & Economy:8
Ride & Handling:9
Interior & Practicality:8
Service & Warranty: 7
What we like:
  • More than just a GTI-lite - it's fun and fast
  • Much more affordable than the Golf GTI
  • Practical and spacious cabin for the class
What we don't like:
  • Not cheap but still missing some equipment
  • Expensive service pricing
  • Interior quality isn't amazing
7.8DiscoverAuto Rating:

It’s well known that while Volkswagen wasn’t the creator of the hot hatch genre, it was the brand that popularised it with the original Golf GTI that began production in 1976. Through its creation and subsequent generations, Volkswagen proved that there was a global appetite for small hatchbacks with larger engines – cars that are practical but very capable of putting a smile on your face. Fast forward to now, though, and the Golf GTI – while still enjoyable to drive – has been priced out of reach for a lot of buyers at almost $60,000. But we feel that there’s a solution that provides driving thrills with a Volkswagen badge for a fairer price: the 2022 Volkswagen Polo GTI. Is it a substitute for the Golf GTI? Let’s find out.

We know what you’re thinking: as if a Polo could be a substitute for a Golf. But the devil is in the detail as the latest Polo size is very similar to Golfs of the past. Take the Mk5 Golf (2005-2010) for example – the new Polo GTI is only a mere 13.6cm shorter than it (4,080mm vs 4,216mm), while pumping out the similar 147kW/320Nm performance figures.

Price & Equipment: 7/10

Sitting at the top of the local Polo tree, the 2022 Volkswagen Polo GTI is priced at $38,750 plus on-road costs (around $44,000 drive away, depending on your location). While that isn’t cheap, it is less expensive than the Mk5 Golf GTI five-door automatic was, which retailed for $42,990 plus on-road costs in 2009 (or around $55,000 in today’s money).

Standard equipment is much lengthier than the 2009 Golf GTI with 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic all-LED exterior lighting, auto wipers, keyless entry and start, automatic dual-zone climate control, heated and auto-folding mirrors with auto-dropping when parking, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation, DAB+ digital radio, a wireless phone charger, a 10.25-inch digital driver’s display, a six-speaker sound system, four USB-C ports, lumbar adjustment for the front seats, a leather-wrapped flat-bottomed steering wheel, and adaptive dampers with selectable driving modes.

Safety kit includes seven airbags (including a front centre unit), auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, low-speed front and rear automatic braking, lane keep assist with lane trace assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, driver fatigue monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, Matrix headlights with adaptive high beam functionality, semi-automatic parking, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.

A single option package exists for the Polo GTI: the $1,500 Sound and Tech Pack, which adds a 300W six-speaker sound system Beats sound system with a subwoofer and a larger 9.2-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You can also choose a $1,500 sunroof, while the only colour that has an extra charge is the $300 ‘Kings Red’ of our test car. All the other colours – ‘Reef Blue’, ‘Pure White’, ‘Smokey Grey’ and ‘Deep Black’ are no cost. Cloth upholstery with the traditional GTI tartan trim is the only interior option for Australia.

While the Polo GTI is quite well equipped, we would like to see the Sound and Tech Pack included as standard equipment, while the option of leather (or leather-like) upholstery with heated front seats – like the pre-facelifted Polo GTI had – would be a nice addition as well.

Competitors to the 2022 Volkswagen Polo GTI include the legendary Ford Fiesta ST and its deadly Hyundai i20 N rival, while the new Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo could also appeal if you’re looking for a sporty-looking hatch that’s packed with kit. All these rivals sit in the high-$30,000 drive away price bracket once on-road costs are included.

Performance & Economy: 8/10

Under the bonnet of the 2022 Volkswagen Polo GTI is the ‘EA888’ 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that does duty in a plethora of Volkswagen Group cars – but yep, it’s under the bonnet of a Polo and not a Golf. In this tune, it pumps out 147kW of power (between 4,390rpm and 6,000rpm) and 320Nm of torque (between 1450rpm and 4390rpm). In Australia, the Polo GTI comes solely with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission – not the newer 152kW and seven-speed gearbox that Europe gets.

As is the case in other cars that it’s used in, the EA888 engine is pretty good. It sounds good, it’s got performance throughout the rev range and it can be economical as well – we achieved comfortably under 6L/100km in highway driving. With a claimed 6.8 second 0-100km/h sprint time, the Polo is quick, but in reality it feels quicker. Thanks to a relatively light 1,305kg tare weight, the in-gear performance of the Polo GTI is pretty strong for a light hatch and it certainly feels more muscular than the three-cylinder Fiesta ST, even though the Fiesta is – officially – quicker to 100km/h at just 6.5 seconds.

The only gearbox option in Australia is a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which has been used on various Volkswagen Group products before. While it has less ratios than the seven-speed on offer in Europe, we think that the older six-speed box is more intuitive at lower speeds and is therefore smoother. But a sweet six-speed manual – like Ford uses in the Fiesta ST – would make it even better, in our opinion.

Volkswagen claims that the Polo GTI will use 6.5L/100km on a combined cycle, and we achieved 6.8L/100km with a mix of urban driving and a 1,000km road trip. It must use a minimum of 95RON premium unleaded fuel and it has a 40-litre fuel tank.

Ride & Handling: 9/10

Sitting on the Volkswagen Group’s ‘MQB-A0’ platform – which also underpins SUVs like the Volkswagen T-Cross and Skoda Kamiq – the Polo GTI uses a fairly traditional MacPherson strut front/torsion beam rear suspension set up, versus the more sophisticated and expensive ‘MQB’ platform that underpins the Golf GTI with its all-independent set up. But while it’s not as sophisticated as the Golf, the Polo GTI still drives and rides quite well. It’s not quite as fun as the Fiesta ST or i20 N, but it’s more raw than the Golf GTI and because of that, we think it can be more fun.

Add to that meaty steering and good grip from the chassis – as well as pretty spot on two-stage adaptive dampers – and the Polo GTI can be a big ball of fun on the right road. But when you’re not going for it, it can be quite comfortable and mature, in the typical Volkswagen way. Road noise levels are relatively low for the segment, its visibility is good and its active safety systems are intuitive as well.

Interior & Practicality: 8/10

As we recently discovered in the Polo 85TSI Style, the interior of the 2022 Volkswagen Polo GTI is grown up and mature, though the GTI adds some nice hot hatch touches that give it a bit more character than regular Polo models. Thankfully as well, its interior uses a lot more hard buttons than the Mk8 Golf’s almost all-touchpad experience, which makes it way easier to use.

The quality inside the Polo is not the best, with scratchy hard doors and lower centre console materials, but the dashboard is nicely soft and the switchgear all feels great. The screens used are high quality as well. It’s also a practical cabin with nicely sized door bins, a deep tray ahead of the shifter with a wireless phone charger, a reasonable glovebox, a small centre box underneath the armrest and some small cupholders next to the [manual] handbrake.

The 9.2-inch touchscreen in the Polo GTI (with the Sound and Tech Pack, as fitted to our test car) is actually based on the older Volkswagen software. But we think that’s a good thing as it’s more intuitive, quicker and generally easier to use than the newer system that features in cars like the Mk8 Golf.

It’s also well featured with wireless smartphone mirroring, digital radio and satellite navigation. We’d choose the Sound and Tech Pack for the 300W Beats sound system, as it’s rather good.

The back seat of the Polo is quite roomy for the class with ample room for two six-footers to sit comfortably. While there isn’t as much headroom as you’d get in a Mk5 Golf, it’s still roomier than both the i20 and Fiesta. Rear seat amenities include seatback pockets, door pockets and two USB-C ports, though no centre arm rest or air vents, unlike the new Skoda Fabia.

The boot of the 2022 Volkswagen Polo GTI measures 351-litres, which is healthy for the light car class and actually one litre bigger than the Mk5 Golf. Folding the seats down opens up 1,079L, and the rear seats fold almost flat. The boot has a few hooks and storage areas, as well as a dual-level floor – but choosing the Sound and Tech pack eliminates that as the subwoofer takes up space. Under that is a space-saver spare wheel.

Service & Warranty: 7/10

Like other Volkswagen products, the 2022 Volkswagen Polo GTI comes with a five-year/unlimited km warranty that also offers only 12 months of roadside assistance. Like the Fiesta – but unlike the i20 – its service intervals are once-yearly or every 15,000km, whichever comes first. The cost of servicing the Polo GTI for five years or 75,000km is a massive $3,507 ($701 per service), though buyers can choose a service plan for the same duration for a slightly less $2,750 ($550 per service) within 12 months of purchase.

By contrast, servicing the Fiesta ST costs just $1,501 ($300 per service) for the same length of time, while the i20 N’s service costs are $1,545 ($309 per service) for the first five years/50,000km, but its service costs can increase because of its shorter 10,000km service intervals.

The 2022 Volkswagen Polo GTI DiscoverAuto Rating: 7.8/10

The 2022 Volkswagen Polo GTI is a genuinely interesting car and in our opinion, quite likeable. It offers good performance, fun handling, a mature driving experience, a quiet and comfortable cabin with enough sporting details, good practicality for the segment and a price that’s a lot lower than the Golf GTI that it sits below. It’s also a good reminder that cars don’t have to be so serious all the time and that while the motoring world is heading towards electrification, a good old-fashioned turbo hot hatch can still be fun.

Of course, it’s not perfect. Despite costing a lot less than the Golf, it’s still not what you’d call cheap at over $40,000 drive away. It’s also not quite as fun to drive as the Fiesta ST and i20 N, it’s very expensive to service, and while Volkswagen charges an arguably premium price for it, its cabin materials don’t feel premium at all. But aside from these negatives, we think the Polo GTI is a great car that’s deserving of more fanfare than the Golf GTI, simply because it has more personality and is priced more realistically for most Australians. If you’re looking for a sub-$45,000 hot hatch, it needs to be on your test drive list.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.