Published on March 16th, 2015 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Volkswagen Polo GTI, 3.5 years in.
When it comes to testing cars, the majority of the cars driven are quite new and have barely any mileage on the clock. Most companies cycle their test fleets before the year end, and some companies de-fleet test units once they hit 3000 kilometres on the odometer. In that sense, we only ever get a picture of the first year of ownership with a car at most- and we never really understand what the cars are like in the long run, or any potential problems they may face.
Volkswagen is one the companies that has come under a lot of flak in more recent times, especially with the whole DSG debacle that put a serious dent in their popularity. They assure us that the issues have been resolved and for the most part it seems as though incident rates are dropping, although only time will tell.
The notorious DQ200, or the 7-speed dry clutch DSG to the everyman, was the main part at fault. It came in a number of Volkswagen models, but perhaps the highest performance application for this part was in the Polo GTI. A smaller sibling to the Golf GTI, the Polo GTI matched it’s bigger brother in terms of 0-100 km/h sprint times, and had a top speed that was quite nearly the same as well. It was a lighter, more compact package than the Golf GTI- and while it didn’t have as punchy a torque band, the Polo GTI made up for it with sheer agility in the bends.
Here we have an example that’s around 3.5 years old, with a good 65,000 kilometres on the clock. The owner has kept the car stock for the most part, and being his daily driver and only car it has been put through a large range of situations over the course of its life. It’s been run through the daily commute and it’s seen the twists and turns of the touge. 3 years into it’s life, the owner swapped out the ignition system and battery. Front bushings only began presenting an issue a few months later, and it was a quick 30 minute replacement that could be carried out at any competent workshop.
By now sceptics reading this must be waiting for the tasty bit: the part where I talk about how the gearbox has failed numerous times and caused the owner much misery, spending weeks in the workshop. Unfortunately for you, this Polo GTI has never faced problems over the course of it’s life. The gearbox performed well, even warranting a slight Monster Tune custom remap- which aimed at improving the mid-range torque curve. A resonator delete also provided a more aggressive exhaust note without being excessively loud.
There are other minor modifications that the owner has done- mostly aesthetic work. A Delphi RCD510 replaces the stock entertainment unit, which was a little too basic for a performance car. Carbon fibre extensions for the paddle shifters improve ergonomics and makes shifts easier when shuffling the wheel around. The exterior is wrapped in a flat gloss grey, which provides this Polo GTI with a sense of individuality without being too shouty or obnoxious. The classic telephone-styled wheels are replaced with a sharper set of 17-inch Sparco Assetto Gara rims, wrapped in Michelin PS3s for the rear and Goodyear Directional 5s at the front. A higher profile tyre was chosen by the owner to provide a smoother ride on the whole, and it also helps to keep the car planted over uneven surfaces.
In terms of materials, the interior seems to be holding up well to day-to-day abuse. The owner practically lives in this car, so it’s not uncommon to see the rear seats playing host to a variety of items. And through all this the finish remains untarnished, the plastics remain solid to the touch, and there’s hardly a rattle or squeak to be heard. A decade or two ago, most European cars would struggle to deal with our Malaysian weather and heat cycles and materials would quickly fade or deform. The fact that this Polo GTI is still going strong is a testament to their research and development in ensuring continuous quality and durability.
Perhaps most important for the enthusiast is that this car drives as well as it did when it was new. The steering is just as direct as that of the original tester units, and the chassis reacts and shifts in the same predictable manner. Stability control cannot be entirely disabled, as is the case with all Volkswagen models save for the Golf R, but within the confines of restricted stability the Polo GTI performs flawlessly. One might go a step further and install some coilovers, or perhaps adjust the alignment settings for a more aggressive setup, but as it is now this Polo GTI functions perfectly well – even 3.5 years in.