Volkswagen has launched the Polo GT TDI with a 1.6-litre common rail diesel engine under its hood. Ameya Dandekar has the details

Volkswagen launched the Polo GT TSI some time back and for those looking for a hatchback with sufficient performance, this was a great car. However, there is the issue of rising petrol prices and many, in our diesel-biased market, chose to stay away as there was only a petrol version available.

Now, VW has launched the Polo GT TDI. Under its hood is the 1.6-litre common rail diesel engine from the Vento and it costs Rs. 9,000 more than the GT TSI. We got to drive it at the Buddh international circuit and these are the initial impressions.

The 1,598cc four-cylinder diesel motor makes 105bhp and 25.4kgm of torque which, in a car that’s 64kg lighter than the Vento, works wonders. The engine is very responsive even when the turbo is off boost and when you cross 2000rpm, the GT TDI simply takes off. It has a broad spread of torque which the smaller 1.2-litre 3-cylinder diesel motor (the only diesel available with the Polo so far) simply can’t match. And, unlike most diesels that spin only up to 4000rpm, this motor keeps pulling strongly till 5000rpm, the extra revs making it feel like a flexible and effortless to drive car. Unlike the GT TSI which gets a dual clutch automatic transmission, Volkswagen is offering the GT TDI only with a manual five-speed gearbox and this might be a turn off for some. However, the torquey motor means you really don't have to shift gears often and there is loads of performance on tap. Gearshift quality is smooth but the long travel clutch can get be tiring in constant stop-go traffic.

It handles more or less like the other Polo variants too. The soft set-up does, however, mean that there is a bit of roll when you corner hard and the Polo understeers strongly at the limit. However, for normal driving, there is plenty of grips from the 185 section tyres. Enthusiasts will be disappointed with the Polo’s electric steering which, though accurate, is devoid of feel and doesn’t weigh up in a linear fashion. And, like the GT TSI, the GT TDI's brakes don’t have initial bite that's strong enough and you have to apply more pressure to haul it down from the speeds this big hearted hatch is capable of reaching. This little aspect is more apparent on the track but the brakes remained fade-free.

Also disappointing is how the GT TDI looks identical to the bread-and-butter Polo save for some GT badges on the grille and the boot. Our test cars didn't even have stickers on the C-pillar like the GT TSI has. The interiors are identical to a Highline Polo as well.

Priced at Rs. 8.08 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the Polo GT TDI is about Rs. 40,000 more than the diesel Hyundai i20, it's only real competition. What you do get for that money is a car that’s powerful, well-built, spacious and well equipped too.