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.
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.
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.