Volkswagen Magazine

Polo

Rocky mountain high.

Volkswagen has returned the GTI model to the Polo price list, with a manual gearbox again available for the driving enthusiast. There’s no better performance hatch with which to sample the undulating roads of the Blue Mountains. 

Words Martin Ross 
Photos Chris Benny 

A weekend getaway can have many motives, from loading up the family and letting the offspring roam wild, to—at the other end of the spectrum—enjoying a weekend romp.

It’s not that the Polo GTI doesn’t have enough room for the kids and plenty of gear—it does—but this cheeky little hatch has back-road blast to a weekend hideaway written all over it.

Sampling the saucy flavours of the newest Volkswagen performance vehicle requires rolling, natural hills and twists and bends aplenty. But first there’s the city escape route to contend with.

Sydney’s motorway system cuts a swathe through the western suburbs towards the Blue Mountains, the setting for a weekend away in more relaxed climes. Escaping the mundaneness of metropolitan life involves both tangling with traffic and cruising at speed, but the Polo GTI completes its chores without concern or complaint, recharging its battery using braking energy and quelling the engine when at a standstill.

The new Polo GTI laps up the kilometres effortlessly—and with an air of refinement and cabin quietness that is unusual in a small car.

Bushland surrounds the highway as I ascend the first face of the mountains shortly after the bridge over the Nepean River, and I know the short break is underway.

There’s a lot to like about this new Polo GTI, even after a short while driving it. It looks handsome and understated, but with subtle hints of racing performance … certainly nothing gaudy or extroverted to garner unwarranted or unwelcome glances. And seat comfort—despite the sporty nature of the Clark tartan-clad seats—isn’t an issue, even after a few hours behind the wheel.

B-double cargo haulers make regular use of the Great Western Highway, but the Polo GTI has the punch to pass them. 

Getting to grips 

There’s no better place to perch for the weekend than The Hydro Majestic, which offers traditional high tea with unsurpassed views over the Megalong Valley. The 1km-long hotel, perched atop the cliff face, has recently undergone a multimillion dollar makeover that has helped to preserve its old-world charm. 

 

The hotel’s Medlow Bath base offers a central location from which to explore the surrounding region, which is chock-full of the terrain for which the Polo GTI was built: bends. 

 

B-double cargo haulers make regular use of the Great Wwestern Highway, but the Polo GTI has the punch to pass them, not to mention the brakes and balance to make short work of Victoria Pass, a sinewy and steep run that drops 240m in the 2km stretch of road from the top of Mount Victoria to the valley floor to the west. 

 

The road to the spectacular Jenolan Caves offers plenty of amusement in its own right, delivering ample opportunities to explore the Polo GTI’s balanced and lithe chassis. 

Returning to the highway and swinging through the mining town of Lithgow presents a brief reprieve from the meandering back roads. 

 

Another 60 minutes down the road and I’m in the heart of Australia’s home of motorsport—Bathurst—and with the chance to sample the hallowed, haunting and harrowing Mount Panorama circuit. 

 

The 6.213km-long track is a public road for most of the year, but it would be downright un-Australian to drive around it the wrong way. It’s also the scene of some of Volkswagen’s earliest Australian motorsport victories—at the first Armstrong 500 touring car race held there in 1963, four of the top five cars in Class A were Volkswagen Beetles. 

 

A drive around ‘The Mountain’ gives an appreciation of the steep and narrow nature of the track—it rises 174m in altitude from Pit Straight to Skyline. You’ll also get an appreciation of the lowered GTI’s handling, but beware the two-way traffic, the 60km/h speed limit and NSW Highway Patrol.  

Watching the sun set from the [Three Sisters] lookout brings the curtain down on a fine day behind the wheel of Volkswagen’s latest small-car wonder. 

Mountain hop

Back into Lithgow and beyond, there’s another lovely, fantastic piece of bitumen now known as Bells Line of Road.

Originally part of the traditional Aboriginal pathway network, it was shown to Archibald Bell Jr by local Darug tribesmen in the 1820s, but it wasn’t until the period around World War II that the route began to be used regularly.

The peppy Polo GTI makes short work of the steep inclines, sweeping bends and tight corners that make up the route all the way to a planned lunch stop at Mount Tomah Botanic Garden. Speed comes easily with just gentle prods of the accelerator and the brakes are equal to the task when a corner comes unexpectedly quickly.

It’s difficult to ignore the stunning views offered by the gardens, which take in nearby Mount Wilson and Mount Irvine, and the acres of state forest that stretch towards Wollemi National Park to the distant north.
Tear yourself away from the view for long enough and the deck setting of the restaurant offers the chance to tuck into fine fare as your GTI ticks away gently, cooling in the car park.

The return journey to Mount Victoria takes in the Darling Causeway; then we continue on, past the Hydro for 10 minutes, to Echo Point, home of The Three Sisters rock formation.

Watching the sun set from the trio’s lookout brings the curtain down on a fine day behind the wheel of Volkswagen’s latest small-car wonder. Amid a beautiful Blue Mountains backdrop, the new Polo GTI has shown it can combine small-car practicality and assured performance in one sweet package.

In the process, it has thrown down the gauntlet to its small-car competitors.

Small car, big impact

The new Polo GTI is an impressive performer—subtle but deceptively swift when the driver demands. 

 

Offered as a 6-speed manual or 7-speed DSG with Tiptronic function and sport mode, the Polo GTI’s new engine has power (141kW) and torque (320Nm in the manual) in abundance—double the amounts offered by the 66TSI Trendline variant. 

 

But the performance doesn’t come with an outrageous price tag, nor is it thirsty at the petrol pump. 

 

The Luxury Package adds LED headlights, black Alcantara seats and a panoramic sunroof. The Driver Assistance Package, a first for the Polo, adds satellite navigation, rear view camera, front and rear parking sensors and Driver Fatigue Detection System. 

Specifications 

Model: Polo GTI 

Engine: 1.8-litre turbocharged TSI with BlueMotion Technology 

Transmission: 6-speed manual, 7-speed DSG

Max. power: 141kW

Max. torque: 320Nm (manual), 250Nm (DSG)

0–100km/h: 6.7 seconds

Speed comes easily with just gentle prods of the accelerator and the brakes are equal to the task when a corner comes unexpectedly quickly.