Volkswagen Polo GTI – First Drive


Volkswagen has always been a true enthusiast’s brand and we all have seen and known why. The iconic GTI badge hatchback cars from Volkswagen first rolled out in 1976 and these cars were said to reach a top speed of 182kmph, which was a big, big deal for hatchbacks back then. The only people who believed this were the ones who actually experienced the car and since then, Volkswagen has sold over 2 Million Golf GTIs. Despite having the Polo GT here in India, Volkswagen decided to get us the Polo GTI and leave us speechless when we drive it. And that’s exactly what Volkswagen wanted us to do, to experience it!



It was a bright Saturday morning here in Bangalore, and the thought of me experiencing the GTI around the Meco Kartopia race track was reverberating in my head every time i crossed a signal or took a turn to reach the place. As we inched closer, I was trying my luck to spot a GTI heading to the track with us. I couldn’t be lucky yet, until we were off the cab, walking towards the track and there, a ¬†Flash Red colored GTI passed us showing off its GTI badge on the front grille and the dual chrome exhausts at the rear. It looked like any other Polo on the road from a distance but when we saw it up close, we could notice the missing rear doors, a changed inverted smile front bumper, LED DRL’s upfront, red inserts working its way from end to end of the headlamps, and of course the GTI badge. We were briefed about the GTI from a Volkswagen professional and he mentioned it had a 1.8 litre engine with 192 horsepower and 250Nm of torque. You don’t get to hear those numbers everyday and that very fact got me a little more excited.



I was eagerly waiting my turn and then when I did get my turn and got in the GTI, I immediately noticed that great looking steering wheel with a GTI logo at the bottom of it. Good quality leather with red stitching around the steering gave it a truly extraordinary look. I was housed in the retro styled, ‘Clark’ cloth bucket seat designed for comfort. While all this was happening, my mind kept reminding me that i was there to drive it. With a grin on my face and a firm hold of the steering wheel, I was off with 192 Bhp, 250 Nm and a lovely looking track all for myself for the next few minutes.



As i stepped on the pedal, i could feel the rush and eagerness of the engine asking you to drive it hard. But wait, I was just doing the first lap, concentrating on learning more about the GTI. How much can you learn about the car with a lap, right? Wrong! The GTI is so easy to get used to and the next i know, i’m flooring the pedal, driving on the front straight of the track. The GTI gives you immense confidence to drive it around. Its aggressive nature lets you exploit the car in corners and features like the ESC and ABS lets you get away with mistakes quite easily. The GTI gets slightly larger and better brakes than the normal Polo which uses drums at the rear. The suspension on the GTI has been tweaked for the Indian roads and around the race track, they didn’t seem impressive. ¬†Throw the GTI hard around the corners and under-steer is evident. But the electronic front differential lock works pretty well not letting you run off the track easily, of course, unless you drive carelessly.



Done with two laps and i wanted to push the GTI harder. The Bridgestone Turanza’s which are not sporty start to squeal a bit but hold a good line. If you were to buy the GTI for serious track use, we would suggest you to upgrade the tyres and lower the suspension to start with. Paddle shifts work seamlessly on this 7-speed DSG gearbox. What’s more impressive is how well the automatic gearbox holds its own giving you great feedback no matter where you are on the track. The world over the GTI sits 15mm lower than the Indian-spec one which has 155mm of ground clearance. The top speed of the GTI is claimed to be 233 kmph but we didn’t get to really test that on the small track we got here. It doesn’t matter what speeds you are doing on the Polo and honestly speaking, i did not once look at the speedometer to check what speeds i was doing because it really didn’t matter to me how fast i was going. All that mattered to me was to get better with the GTI lap after lap and that’s exactly what happened.


The GTI is a car capable of getting the best out of you every increasing lap you do and every corner you apex. I couldn’t get enough of driving the GTI around the Meco, i had to then stop to gather all my emotions and get a chance to experience the GTI sitting along side a Volkswagen Motorsports driver to see what the GTI could really do under the hands of a professional racer. After we were done, we got off the car and smiled and that said it all.


Heading back home with a huge smile on my face, I couldn’t stop thinking about the adrenaline rush the Polo GTI gave me around the track. That right there is a sign of how good a car the GTI really is. Its rare that you experience such emotions and feedback from a machine. All i could think of the entire way was that i wanted a few more laps on the track with the GTI.


The GTI comes loaded with features and yeah, so should a car which costs a bomb at Rs 25.64 lakhs ex showroom Mumbai. It isn’t a surprise since Volkswagen is getting the GTI to India from Spain. Is it really practical to buy the GTI here in India? That’s something for the mind to answer. But do you really want to get the GTI? That’s what the heart is for, and for me, my heart screams a YES!!





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Author: Nikhil Thorvat

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