Volkswagen India recently launched the new Polo, which we reviewed in our last issue and were quite impressed with the improvements made to it. Now it was only a matter of time that the GT versions came out wearing new changes. We were invited by the company to drive the petrol and diesel Polo GT in the scenic surroundings of Amby Valley and on a makeshift circuit on an airstrip. Here, we discuss the technical changes brought in by the GT variants.
The GT variant is mostly about the powertrain and the performance it packs under the hood. Disappointingly for many enthusiasts, powertrain combination stays the same for the GT TSI, with a petrol 1.2 l TSI engine paired to a 7-speed DSG transmission. The old 1.6 l TDI unit though has been replaced by the new 1.5 l TDI unit from the facelifted Polo but has been tuned to develop the output of the old motor at 103 hp and 250 Nm of torque. The 1.2 l TSI engine too develops about 103 hp, while torque is rated at 175 Nm. The high output has been made possible by using turbocharging and direct injection, which at the same time allows for lower displacement. Prominent use of aluminium keeps the engine weight low and aids performance and efficiency.
The engine is smooth right from the start and through the rev band, with some harshness creeping in only at the edge of the red line. Since the turbo spools in from just about 1,200 rpm, there is almost no conceivable lag during driving. In a performance-focussed car with top quality hardware, the exhaust left us wanting for more.
The DSG transmission sends the power to the front wheels in a quick and responsive manner. In sports and manual mode, the unit holds on to higher rpm and is eager to downshift multiple ratios, if required.
While in normal city runs, the transmission is pretty responsive, on the handling circuit, it required some coping up with sudden drop in speed, while manoeuvring tight turns. The lag though is only for a fraction of a second and can be perceived only when pushing the car to its limits, in places such as a track. Another fact that might be disliked by some is the clutch protector of the DSG, which leads to a slow start off the block, an issue more evident on the track.
Next up was the Polo GT TDI, with a 1.5 l turbo unit, paired to a five-speed manual transmission. With weight-reduction being a key engineering target these days, the engine features an aluminium cylinder head.
An interesting fact about this engine is its bore and stroke, which stand at 77 x 80.5 mm, leading to an almost square ratio. This was done because VW engineers realised that friction losses are prone to occur at cylinder liners. It's widely known that oversquare engines develop more power at higher rpm, while undersquare engines develop more torque at lower rpm. A square ratio hence is claimed to offer a good balance between both and reduce frictional losses as well.
The engine has a sufficient low-end torque and responds well to throttle inputs with power surging in freely till about 4,000 rpm. The engine is mated to a five-speed transmission, the gear ratios of which are well-sorted and should make it easy to live with the car in dense traffic. One thing that could bother some people is the long travel of the clutch, which is compensated to some extent by its softness. Gear shifting is easy and precise with an acceptable travel distance. NVH levels are appreciable and on the move, the cabin is well-insulated from such disturbances. Only during hard acceleration, the diesel clatter becomes quite notable.
Although the GT TSI is technically better equipped due to the addition of the DSG transmission to its specs, the GT TDI turned out to be repeatedly quicker on the track. This could be down partially to the fact that the TSI unit mostly pulled off from a slow start due its clutch protector. Also, the manual transmission on the TDI means the only lag during shifting is in terms of driver input.
Dynamically, the GT twins respond in a largely similar manner, with a slightly more evident understeer on the diesel version (heavier weight upfront) being the key differentiator. The short wheelbase and an agile chassis make for a dynamic driving experience even in the wet, be it on twisty mountain roads or a track. The body-roll though creeps in at high speeds and can be a tad unsettling at times, when coupled with some understeer. What makes up for it partially is the impressive grip from the new Apollo Alnac tyres, which performed well on a soaking track too. The overall noise performance of these tyres is acceptable and is a definite step forward.
While the GT TSI offers more convenience and the smoothness of a petrol engine, the GT TDI in our opinion is the better pick from a value perspective. The GT TDI in all conditions felt to be a bit quicker than the TSI and holds an advantage in terms of being significantly quicker off the line. ARAI-certified fuel-efficiency for the TSI is 17.2 km/l and 19.9 km/l for the TDI version.
The Polo GT has a distinct positioning in the Indian market, which goes a long way in acting as an advantage. From a technical perspective, both variants perform impressively. But considering the cost, it misses out on a distinctive styling. Priced at Rs 7.99 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, both the GT variants seem to be priced high. At the same time though, they offer unmatched performance credentials in their segment.
Text: Arpit Mahendra
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay