With a new, modern engine, the Polo GT TSI is an effortless car to drive, writes Ouesph Chacko

The Indian VW Polo is known for its best-in-class build quality and great engineering. Unfortunately, one couldn’t say the same for the car’s engines that couldn’t deliver the excitement to match the Polo’s sharp looks.

Volkswagen hopes to change that perception with the Polo GT TSI. Under the hood is 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 (the only gearbox you can get with this car) and Electronic Stability Control.

The GT TSI’s motor may displace just 1.2 litres, but with the help of technology, it makes as much power as the now defunct Polo 1.6 and even more torque. And, because it’s a smaller engine, Volkswagen claims that the power doesn’t come at the cost of fuel efficiency.

The 1197cc TSI motor is from VW’s EA111 engine family and develops 103bhp and 17.8kgm of torque, a substantial 2.2kgm more than the old 1.6.

That power and torque is transferred to the front wheels via the same DSG or twin-clutch gearbox (DQ200) that was first seen in the Skoda Superb. The Indian car also gets beefed up clutch plates to handle our intense stop-start traffic.

What’s it like to drive? The 1.2 TSI fires up and settles into a smooth, quiet idle. Slot the gearlever into ‘D’ and you will find that 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.

In traffic, we did have some grouses — 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.

Now, because the car is called the GT, you might expect a sporty suspension set-up, but that is not the case here. Ground clearance remains the same as the other Polos in the range, while the spring and damper rates have clearly been tuned with comfort in mind. Push it hard through corners and the Polo GT will stick with you most of the time. There’s decent body control, the steering is direct and accurate enough (it lacks any real feedback and is a bit too light, though) and there’s good grip from the 185/60 R15 tyres (the same as on a regular Polo Highline).

The ride, on the other hand, is quite pliant and the suspension handles most bumps quietly and efficiently. For all other purposes, the Polo GT TSI looks identical to its lower-powered siblings, and this might not be a very good thing. The only external clues are the GT badging on the front grille, some rather aftermarket GT TSI stickers on the C-pillar (VW hasn’t bothered lacquering them either) and, you guessed it, GT and TSI badging on the bootlid. Strangely, there is no ‘Polo’ or ‘Volkswagen’ badge anywhere on the car. It even has the same alloy wheels as the regular Polo Highline.

However, on the inside, there are quite a few changes. The seats now get sportier black and grey fabrics with contrast stitching, the climate control system from the Vento, as well as a new 2-DIN audio system that incorporates USB, aux-in, an SD card reader and Bluetooth connectivity. The GT TSI also gets rear parking sensors.

Plastic quality and fit and finish are good, but not exceptional like on the bigger VWs. Space and comfort are exactly the same as you would find on a regular Polo, which means there’s good space up front, cramped rear quarters and a fairly big boot.

VW is right on the fuel efficiency. The Polo 1.6 used to give 10kpl and 14.5kpl in the city and the highway respectively. The 1.2 TSI improves on it – we got 10.5kpl and 15.9kpl, the tall seventh gear, direct injection and the smaller displacement helping here.

The GT TSI comes in only one variant and costs Rs 7.99 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), which is expensive by hatchback standards.

The Polo TSI is aimed at an audience that wants a car that is effortless to drive and has a nice, upmarket feel to it. It’s more of a premium, easy-to-drive automatic hatch than a proper GT.