2013 Volkswagen Polo GT TSI review, test drive
The Indian VW Polo claims superior German engineering. The car's engine line-up however, is nothing more than mediocre. The three-cylinder, 1.2 litre petrol and diesel are fuel efficient but in no way quick. The 'hot' 1.6 litre petrol also fails to deliver the excitement to match the car's sharp looks. Volkswagen is however, looking to turn tables with the Polo GT TSI. This car features a modern, turbocharged, direct-injection petrol motor that replaces the 1.6-litre engine and brings along quite a few firsts to the segment. These include a seven-speed, twin-clutch automatic gearbox and Electronic Stability Control (ESP).
The GT TSI's technology-laden engine may displace just 1.2 litres but it makes as much power and torque as the now defunct Polo 1.6. The power doesn't come at the cost of fuel efficiency either. The motor is from VW's EA111 engine family and develops 103bhp and 17.8kgm of torque, which is a substantial 2.2kgm more than the old 1.6. Other changes for India include a beefed-up clutch plate to handle our intense stop-start traffic.
The car's throttle response is reasonably linear and the car feels very peppy. Peak torque is made all the way from 1400rpm to 4100rpm, the mid-range is particularly strong and the engine will pull happily to its 6200rpm redline as well. The DSG box on this car has three modes - 'D', 'S' and 'Manual'. In 'D', it is programmed to upshift at the earliest, maximising fuel efficiency, whereas in 'S', it will stay in the lowest gear possible.
The problem with driving in 'D' is that when you need that burst of power, you are usually in a gear too high and have to wait for the gearbox to kick down. 'S' is more responsive, but it is the manual mode that gives you the most control, and is the most enjoyable. You can downshift from pretty high revs, unlike most automatics that won't let you. However, it will upshift automatically at the redline and you can't hold it in gear against the rev limiter.
It is in Sport and Manual modes that one can feel the true performance of the car - it will get to 100kph in just 10.9sec, which is 0.7sec quicker than the Polo 1.6. In fact, it is the quickest hatchback around and finally eclipses the fastest time set by our previous quickest hatch, the Fiat Palio 1.6, way back in 2002. The rate of acceleration slows down past 140kph and it takes another 26 seconds to do 170kph before going on to a top speed of 190kph.
In traffic, we did have some problems - the DSG isn't at its happiest ambling along at slow speeds and, as is the case with most twin-clutch transmissions, it can occasionally be jerky in stop-start traffic and simply doesn't have the seamless shift quality of a torque-converter unit.
While the engine is very quiet and smooth at low speeds and when you're cruising, it does get a bit thrummy after 5000rpm, and it isn't as smooth as, say, the bigger 1.8 TSI motor in the Laura when you rev it hard.