The new Volkswagen Polo Blue GT now has more power but remains clean and frugal. Is it still fun to drive too?

What is it?

The Holy Grail of motoring is to combine pace with parsimony, in terms of fuel consumption that is. Which is why these days so many manufacturers are investing so heavily in hybrid tech.

But is there a more conventional route to achieving this aim? Volkswagen thinks so, because it’s just launched the facelifted Polo Blue GT – essentially a detuned version of the full-fat Polo GTI.

In VW speak, blue - standing for Bluemotion - is the new green, and means that with technology like cylinder deactivation - whereby it cuts two of the four cylinders when demand is low – and engine stop-start, the GT manages some pretty impressive stats: 137mph and 0-62mph in 7.8sec. Driven carefully, it should manage a combined 60.1mpg, too, while emitting 108g/km of CO2 - as long as you have the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox fitted.

However, as is often the case, the official stats are one thing, but it’s how they translate to the real world that really matters.

What's it like?

The beating heart of this latest Polo GT is a new, more powerful 1.4-litre petrol engine that produces 148bhp and a hearty 184lb ft of torque. The engine’s turbo-fed induction system means it suffers a momentary delay before building boost, but from 1500rpm onwards it pulls well, with a lovely linear delivery all the way to the red line. Aurally it won’t set your heart racing like the snarling Ford Fiesta ST or the rorty Mini Cooper, but it makes up for this by being smooth and refined throughout the rev range.

The seven-speed DSG is excellent. In manual mode it snaps between gears in an instant, or, if you’re feeling lazy and switch to auto, slips seamlessly up and down ratios, with the darting rev counter needle being your only guide. The only letdown is that the combination of stop-start and the automatic hill hold feature can make for some jerky take-offs unless you’re super-smooth with the throttle.

With its larger 17in wheels, the Polo GT has plenty of grip and, aided by the standard electronic differential, turns in to corners eagerly and powers out of them with minimal torque steer or wheelspin. The body is well tied down and feels stable mid-corner, helping to create confidence in fast sweepers. That said, the Polo GT is safe and secure rather than outright fun like a Fiesta ST, lacking the feel and alertness that makes the Ford sparkle and keen drivers smile.

It counters this by being more comfortable than either the Fiesta ST or the Mini Cooper, and by some margin. The ride does break down over broken road surfaces and you hear the suspension working away underneath you, but given that the Polo GT has been lowered by 15mm over the standard car, it’s still remarkably compliant. 

VW’s designers have restyled the Polo’s bumpers and added side skirts, along with the bigger alloys and twin tailpipes, to emphasise the GT’s more sporting intentions. Despite this, visually it doesn’t shout ‘look at me’ like some small hot hatches do, but, depending on your perspective, that’s no bad thing.

Inside, it’s a similar theme: smart but conservative, with some racy touches such as sports seats trimmed in a mix of Alcantara, faux leather and ‘Blue Speed’ cloth. The seats are particularly comfortable, the side bolsters giving welcome added support, although you might wish they went back a few inches further if you’re more than 6ft tall, and that the rake and reach-adjustable steering wheel extended by a similar amount extra. You sit quite high up, too, but this doesn’t affect headroom, which is plentiful.

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As with all Polos, the centre console impinges slightly on the room available for your left leg, but overall it’s a pretty decent driving position for such a compact car.

In the back, things are tight for larger adults, but no worse than the class average, and the fact that it comes as a five-door makes getting in and out pretty painless. Boot capacity is a useful 280 litres, with the added flexibility of folding rear seats and a useful height-adjustable floor.

The Polo has arguably one of the best cabins in its class, too. There are hard plastics dotted around, but it’s the soft-touch dash, gloss black centre console surround and clear, simple, switchgear that are the focal points.

It’s also well equipped, with a leather multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, 6.5in colour touchscreen, DAB radio and a driver alert system all included. The infotainment system is also well thought through, making pairing a phone or using the sat-nav (a £700 option) a doddle.

Should I buy one?

That depends entirely on your needs and how much you're willing to spend.

In terms of pure driving enjoyment, the Fiesta ST and the Mini Cooper represent the Premier League to the Polo Blue GT’s Championship. Plus, the ST has an extra 30bhp, which means it’s nearly a second quicker to 62mph.

However, if you’re looking for something that blends performance with the ability to deal with life’s practicalities, rather than something for a weekend thrill, the Polo GT is highly recommendable. It combines a decent turn of speed with some impressive fuel efficiency claims, while also managing to be comfortable, well equipped, refined, practical and nicely finished.

The main issue - and what knocks it down the pecking order relative to the competition - is its price. The cheapest three-door manual is £17,860, and our five-door test car with the DSG ‘box is £19,865. To put that in context, the quicker Fiesta ST is £17,250, while the Mini, which shades the GT for economy and emissions and all but matches it for performance, is only £15,300.

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The result? Well, the Polo Blue GT isn't the Holy Grail, but it is still a very likeable car.

Volkswagen Polo Blue GT

Price £19,865; Engine 4 cyls, 1395cc, turbo, petrol; Power 148bhp at 5000-6000rpm; Torque 184lb ft at 1500-3000rpm; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1224kg; Top speed 137mph; 0-62mph 7.8sec; Economy 60.1mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 108g/km, 15 per cent

John Howell

John Howell
Title: Senior reviewer

John is a freelance automotive journalist with more than a decade of experience in the game. He’s written for most of the big car mags, not least as a road tester for Autocar and as deputy reviews editor for our sister brand, What Car?. He was also the features editor at PistonHeads and headed its YouTube channel.

Cars, driving and machines are in his blood. When he was barely a teenager he was creating race-bale racetracks on his family’s farm – to thrash an old Humber Sceptre around. It broke regularly, of course, which meant he got a taste (and love) for repairing cars. That’s why he eschewed university, choosing instead to do an apprenticeship with a Jaguar dealer. That’s where he built up his technical understanding.  

After that he moved into high-end car sales, selling Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Ferraris and Maseratis through the franchised network. But it was a love of writing and appraising cars that, eventually, led him to use his industry experience to prise open the door of motoring journalism. He loves cars that exceed their brief in some way. So he finds as much pleasure in testing a great, but humble, hatchback as he does sampling the latest Ferrari on track. Honest.

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Add a comment…
John Howell 26 January 2015

The reason the Fiesta ST is mentioned...

It's compared to the Fiesta ST because that is the benchmark hot-hatch of the moment.

While the Polo GTi is the ST's natural competitor, VW has chosen to price the GT against the ST, therefore it has to be considered as a direct rival.

If I didn't mention that you can have the best car in the class for a fraction less then I wouldn't be doing my job properly.

AddyT 19 January 2015


You could compare this to the Mini Cooper sure, but got pretty tired of reading this being compared to a Fiesta ST throughout. Sure it may be more expensive but it's not supposed to compete with the ST...that's the role of the GTI - whether that passes or fails against it is another discussion entirely. As Stevie has said, he found a 3 door online for around £15k....this is probably about right to be fair. I like the ST don't get me wrong but perhaps not everyone wants an ST despite the price you can pay for one with a good discount - some prefer a more comfort orientated GT type car, rightly or wrongly in others eyes. I will agree though that 1200kg isn't super light for a small hatch like this!
fadyady 17 January 2015

Isn't the price too high?

Isn't the price too high for what this car offers or does not offer? Prices quoted at the top and bottom are also too dissimilar. May be due to the auto box? Much more capable Fiesta ST and Mini Cooper make far more sense. Good to see Mr Howell noticed that too. A refreshingly balanced review of a VW product. At over 1200kg it's a bit of a porker too.