Golf GTI's 'little sister' starting to shine

David Roy previews Volkswagen's new-for-2022 Polo GTI, which is finally starting to give its more famous big sister some serious competition in the hot hatch stakes...

UNTIL recently, the Volkswagen Polo GTI was very much living in the shadow of its big sister the Golf GTI.

Undoubtedly, this was largely down to some canny protective parenting by VW, who have worked hard to ensure that the Golf has never had its thunder stolen by its slightly younger, cuter sibling.

The plucky Polo did enjoy a brief taste of sports supermini fame back in the early 1990s with the supercharged G40, which was decidedly more interesting than the underwhelming Golf GTI mk3. However, Polo was never actually bestowed with a GTI badge of its own across all markets until a decade later.

Indeed, the Polo GTI only became a constant presence in the Volkswagen fleet in 2005 and it wasn't until the arrival of the mk6 in 2018 that this supermini finally started to properly turn heads away from its elder sibling.

VW's striking new exterior design language has made this generation of Polo the most 'Golf-alike' version yet – although, annoyingly for GTI-purists, it is only available in five-door form – with interior trim, equipment and space now pretty much on a par with its big sis too.

The Polo range was facelifted earlier this year, but VW held back the the launch of the updated GTI – until now. The 2022 Polo GTI is finally available to order priced from £26,430 on-the-road: that's over seven grand cheaper than the latest Golf GTI, which starts at £34,175.

Visually, you get the usual sporty GTI-specific bodykit, front and rear bumpers and rear spoiler, all of which errs on the side of subtlety while still letting other road users know what they are looking at.

The car comes with 17-inch alloy wheels as standard, displaying painted red brake callipers. Volkswagen's IQ.LIGHT LED matrix headlights are also standard fit and there's a snazzy illuminated crossbar with red GTI trim on the front grille working in tandem with daytime running lights for better visibility to other drivers.

Under the bonnet, The new Polo GTI has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged TSI petrol engine offering peak power of 204hp with 236lb ft of torque on tap between 1,500 and 4,500 rpm. Mated with a 7-speed dual clutch gearbox (DSG) – no manual option is currently available – this set-up will shift you from 0 to 62 mph in 6.5 seconds and onwards to a maximum speed of 149 mph, which is not far off the 6.4 seconds and 155mph offered by the Golf GTI.

To better harness this extra power, the new Polo GTI has a 15mm lower stance and features a dynamic chassis with uprated running gear, including a larger front anti-roll bar and stiffer rear axle-location mounts. Adaptive Chassis Control DCC offers four driving modes – Eco, Individual, Normal and Sport.

The standard fit electronic stability control and traction control systems include an XDS electronic differential lock, offering improving cornering by controlling brake pressure on the front wheel on the inside of a bend and thus helping to keep those pesky hedges at bay.

Pleasingly, the car still comes with an actual lever-pull handbrake, opening up the possibility of all sorts of ill-advised skid-based activities.

GTI-spec safety equipment includes an additional curtain airbag system for front and rear passengers, including side airbags in the front, to help ensure that you and your friends live to tell the tale whenever you run out of talent on a particularly challenging bit of road.

Inside, you get sports seats with the distinctive GTI 'Jacara' tartan and a dash panel finished in either standard eye-catching/watering Kings Red Glossy or the optional and considerably more tasteful Deep Iron Glossy.

Driver information is displayed on the 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit Pro screen in the binnacle behind the leather multi-function steering wheel and DSG shift paddles, while VW's latest Discover Media Navigation and infotainment system is on the centre console behind a high-resolution 8.0-inch touchscreen.

All-in, the new Polo looks like one classy little pocket rocket that will definitely give its big sister a run for her money at dealers next year.


  • Price: from £26,430 on-the-road
  • Engine and drivetrain: 2.0l turbocharged TSI, 7-speed dual clutch gearbox (DSG)
  • Peak power: 200hp / 236lb ft between 1,500 and 4,500 rpm.
  • 0-62mph: 6.5secs
  • Maximum speed: 149mph
  • WLTP fuel consumption (combined): 38.2 mpg
  • WLTP emissions (combined):168 g/km
  • BIK: 35 per cent
  • Euro NCAP rating: 5 stars (2017)