Many moons ago, the hot hatch flag in India was carried by the Fiat Palio GTX. A machine which had a normally aspirated 1.6 litre heart hiding under its bonnet, Veglia Borletti dials and Magnetti Marelli components. The GTX was the perhaps the first serious hot hatch in our market which made 100 bhp and as my first car, I still remember what a hoot it was to drive. Mind you, the pump price for gasoline that time was less than Rs 50, I was in my teens, hip-hop music made at least some sense, ‘With or without you’ used to be the closing track at pubs and my brains were behind my ribs.
What happened post that was natural progression. Prices continued to rise, with them my brain started to like its natural position better and normally aspirated, larger capacity petrol engines started to vanish from the market. Smaller capacity motors attract lower duties, so manufacturers started to plonk amoeba sized motors with additional breathing apparatus in their small cars. They promised to circumnavigate the globe in a litre of fuel, and some even managed to perform quite adequately, but nothing quite gave you the shot of adrenaline you craved for.
So they might not be famous for their humour, but it was the Germans who thought of reviving the dead smiles in the “We love hot hatches” tent. The Volkswagen Polo GT twins were like a shower of rain in the middle of a desert storm and VW almost gave us a scare when they pulled out the performance offerings from the market a while ago, only to tell us that refreshed versions were on their way.
VW then invited us to sample the new Polo 1.5 GT TDI and the 1.2 GT TSI around the city of Amby Valley and booked an entire runway within the township for us to go berserk. We’ll begin this flight with the Volkswagen Polo 1.5 GT TDI then, as it is the one which gets a new engine, while the 1.2 TSI is essentially the same car, however, has been refreshed cosmetically.
So the first thing we noticed on the front grille was the GT logo. It probably has taken the Facebook left brained or right brained test and has repositioned itself on the right side of the grille this time. The rest of the styling is identical to the refreshed Polo 1.5 TDI, which includes new double barrel headlamps, connected with a chrome strip that runs across the bottom of the radiator grille, a new bumper with a chrome lined upper lip, horizontal fog lamps with cornering feature and all of that adds up to create a familiar looking face, one that you are glad to see.
Moving sideways, the horizontal theme continues with a crease that starts from the headlamps, runs through the waistline and melts into the rear. The Polo GT twins get 15” Estrada Alloy wheels which look good, though we would’ve loved it if VW provided black wheels and painted the brake calipers in the colour of your choice, at least as an option. Mirrors are finished in a glossy black housing, no matter which shade of GT you paint your life in.
Move towards the rear and you are greeted with a spoiler that is finished in black, while the bumper with integrated reflectors and the tail lights are carried over from the saner Polo 1.5 TDI. The boot gets ‘GT’ badging, which helps differentiate the car from its less powerful sibling in a very subtle fashion, which is so typical of the car. You like things loud? Step aside please.
If there is a sub 10 – lakh rupee car where a fat bottom steering truly belongs, the Polo GT is that machine, in India at least. However, once you open the door, what greets you is a door sill plate with GT badging. The instrument cluster is similar to the 90 PS Polo, where again, the red needles are in their right place, however a racy font for the speedometer markings would have added to the experience.
What gels with the sporty personality of the car though are the aluminum pedals, the all black dashboard and a centre console which shuns the silver paint found on the normal Polo in favour of piano black. The only thing which will please the average Joe’s liking towards a lighter shade is the two-tone ‘Milan’ Titanschwarz fabric upholstery and the chrome lining around the AC vents, the rest means business. What we would’ve liked though is for the material on the dashboard to be a little softer.
The steering is adjustable for rake and reach, and along with a height adjustable driver’s seat, finding the perfect driving position is easy and that also doesn’t make one complain about the seat belts not being height adjustable. Front seats are comfortable, offer good under-thigh support and don’t let you swerve sideways when the driver is in the mood for some fun. In fact, I was busy deleting pictures on the camera, when my drive partner was busy going through corners at silly speeds.
Everything else is carried over from the ‘Highline’ variant of the Polo TDI and reeks of quality. We drove two Audi’s the very next day after testing the Polo 1.5 TDI and it gave us such a hangover, we forgot its the Audi and not the Polo which has a lamp in the glove-box and for the vanity mirrors. So we figured, those two places aren’t illuminated in the Polo GT twins either. What is carried over though from the 90 PS Polo is ambient lighting in the cabin and a dead pedal.
Now this is where evolution plays its part, but does changing the heart change the soul too? We’ll find out. The new 1.5 TDI engine found in the 90 PS Polo makes its way into the GT TDI as well, however, makes 105 PS at 4400 rpm and develops 250 Nm of torque between 1500 – 2500 rpm, which are similar figures when compared to the 1.6 litre motor found on its predecessor.
What has also changed is the nature of the engine, where the old 1.6 TDI motor would let its powerful stream of torque flow in only after 1800rpm, the new 1.5 TDI delivers power in a more linear fashion, but excites you nonetheless. As the torque is cleverly spread in the 1500 – 2500 rpm band, the GT TDI pulls strongly even from lower revs and starts gaining some serious momentum once past the 2000 rpm mark. Once the turbo kicks in, the GT TDI marches ahead like a locomotive with authority, in a manner rarely found on a hatchback.
If you like, you can rev it all the way till 5500 rpm just for kicks and the GT TDI will get there in a very petrol car like manner, with the engine emitting high bpm music all the way, but power comes in a strong surge until 4500 clicks and shifting in the mid-range is where the going gets faster. The characteristics of the new engine are similar to its lesser powered 90 PS variant, however, the additional 15 PS of power and 20 Nm of torque do make a difference, in terms of on road performance. The engine feels eager even at higher triple digit speeds and is also at home within city limits, thanks to a wider power band. Talking about the heart and soul connection, the new heart matches the personality of the GT TDI’s soul, beat for beat. The 1.5 TDI motor adds versatility to the GT TDI, where it can play the role of a fast grand tourer, dilate your pupils around your favourite section of twisties and be equally at home in slow moving traffic.
Clutch action is light and gears shift in a positive and precise manner. Although the throw is short, we reckon a slightly slicker shifting box would’ve added to the GT experience. The GT TDI is only available with a manual gearbox and the addition of a DSG would’ve made things interesting, maybe they might add one in the future. The new GT TDI will see fewer stops at the pump as well. The hatch boasts of an ARAI rated efficiency figure of 19.91 kpl and even after our spirited driving, the on-board computer didn’t show a figure which would raise eyebrows.
We started driving the GT TDI on a damp morning, when even the sun was still busy shining maybe somewhere above Bangladesh. On cold tyres and a damp piece of tarmac, we started pushing the car and although the rear would step out only slightly, the car held its line amazingly well. Once daylight started settling in, the atmosphere was still cloudy, but our minds were clear that it’s rather difficult to get in trouble with this car or to tie its chassis in knots – the GT TDI is that good. The GT TDI understeers, but it isn’t scary, as the handling is predictable in a good way and the Apollo Alnac rubber does a good job of acting as the wingman for the chassis and there’s plenty of grip available at all times.
The steering is relatively light and doesn’t have the old-worldly feel or weight of the hydraulic steering units, which we have to come to terms with, as manufacturers have given in to the demands of the urban car buying population. However, it is a precise unit and will point the car exactly in the direction it is told to. In comparison to the GT TSI though, the TDI still feels slightly front heavy and like its petrol sibling, should have been equipped with ESP.
The suspension is carried over from the standard Polo and it offers a blend of both worlds. Neither is it overtly stiff or too soft and finds the perfect balance to give a car a mature ride quality. Out on the open road, you start appreciating the suspension setup, as even around fast bends, body roll is minimal and the car corners flat. The GT TDI displays immense poise and will make even a lesser driver feel comfortable going faster, right from the word go. Around a specially laid out slalom course on an air-strip, the GT TDI held its line and never did once lose composure. As we carved our way through the cones, the brilliant chassis and suspension combination came into play, where gunning the throttle, braking hard, turning in, and then lifting off to shift the weight started to turn into such an addictive affair, we ended up going through the same course over and over again.
Should you buy one?
They say you only live twice, once for yourself and once for someone else. There will be times when you might buy things out of compulsion, like an MPV for the family, a large premium sedan to impress your clients or maybe an SUV, for no reason at all. The Polo GT TDI is the car to buy if you haven’t lived for yourself yet. The sense in the word sensibility will ask, if you really want to pay a premium over the 90 PS Polo and buy the GT TDI, but the fact that it is a diesel, is frugal, manages to thrill, makes more than 100 bhp and is amongst those very few cars worthy of a hot hatch tag in India, should be enough to put your brains behind your ribs again. It isn’t a car you’d buy to please anyone else but yourself.
So if you have been hunting for a car that makes you happy, is as well built as a sword made out of Valyrian steel, displays a character as versatile and endearing as Tyrion Lannister, in a neat and tight package, the Polo GT TDI is the car to buy.
|Volkswagen Polo GT TDI|
|Engine and Transmission|
|Version||1.5 TDI Engine|
|Engine Type||4-Cylinder In-line|
|Bore x Stroke (mm)||77 x 80.5|
|Fuel Efficiency (km/l)*||19.91|
|Max Power PS (kW) @ rpm||105 (77) @ 4400|
|Max Torque (Nm) @ rpm||250 @1500-2500|
|Type||Electronic Power Steering|
|Kerb Weight (kg)||1148|
|Gross Vehicle Weight (kg)||1620|
|Front/Rear track (mm)||1460/1456|
|Minimum Ground Clearance (mm)||165|
|Tyres and Wheels||185/60 R15 (Alloys)|
|Fuel Tank Capacity (litres)||45|
|Price||Rs 7.99* lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi) * Indicates introductory price|
Click on any picture for an enlarged view:
The Polo GT TDI gets Piano Black inserts around the center console, instead of the silver painted surrounds found on the regular Polo TDI
Red dials gel with the sporty appeal, racy font for the speedometer markings could spice things up.
Milan Titanschwartz upholstery is different than the all beige fabric found on the 90 PS Polo
All three pedals get aluminium finish with rubber inserts, dead pedal is a welcome addition
VW is shooting many birds with that new 1.5 TDI motor, features in the regular Polo, the Polo GT TDI and the refreshed Skoda Rapid already
AC vents get chrome lining and the piano black inserts are carried over to the side vents too
The steering wheel is a joy to hold and the flat bottom does a fine job of acting as a reference point
Try as hard as you can, but it is difficult to get the Polo out of shape
Our drive partner during the event was a former rally driver. He tried going around a roundabout at more than decent speeds, but the inner rear wheel never lost contact with the tarmac
To differentiate itself from the regular Polo, the GT TDI gets door sills with GT badging
A sight most other diesel hatch owners will get used to
Difficult to tell the difference between the normal Polo and the GT TDI if some prankster flicks the GT badge
Low, flat and a horizontal silhouette adds to the go fast appeal
These folks were interested in knowing what the new GT TDI drives like, they kept following us for a good part of the shoot.
If a heightened driving experience is the goal you are aiming at, the Polo GT TDI is the striker you should choose
New alloys are similar to the older 1.6 GT TDI
Those double barrel headlights do a great job of lighting things, when they are fast approaching in the dark
Mother India’s ride has a four cylinder motor of a different kind.