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G-T-I: 3 letters that makes every enthusiast’s eyes light up. Well, it is a performance sub-brand from Volkswagen that was first introduced in the 70s, through the Golf GTI. Months ago, India got GTI’d, through the Polo. Here are our driving impressions.

Special looker for the price?

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Oh yes, it’s pricey at Rs 26.09 lakhs ex-showroom Delhi. It’s special too, what with only 99 allocated for the Indian market. Given the high price tag and the need to differentiate it from the regular Polo, VW has launched the 3-door version of the GTI rather than the larger 5-door. This gives the car a unique look to begin with.

Up front you get new LED headlamps with the signature red GTI finish. The grille is a new honeycomb unit with the red strip to symbolize that the vehicle is indeed a GTI. The bumper gets a larger air vent, to help cool the larger engine. On the flanks, the car gets a GTI badge on the fender.

At the rear, the tail lamp cluster is the one you get on the Euro spec Polo, which means it has the 3D design element on it. The bumper is all-new too and sports dual exhaust tips. All-in-all, it’s a slick looker though most people would mistake it for the regular Polo. Sleeper? Oh yes!

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What about the inside?

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The first thing you notice when you open the door is how wide it opens. It’s a large door. So, you have to be cautious while opening it in tight spots. The next thing that you notice is the steering wheel, something that you will fall in love with. The GTI has the better flat bottom steering wheel with paddle shifters and multi-functions, the same on offer globally. It has good bolstering all over and has a really nice grip to it.

The instrument cluster is all-new and provides more information than what the regular Polos get. While the dashboard is the same as the normal Polo, the GTI gets the larger touch screen system which is similar to the one offered in the current generation Octavia. It does miss out on navigation though. The seats are manually adjustable and are finished in the GTI themed fabric, rather than leather.

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There are a few omissions though. Disappointingly, there’s no arm-rest up front. Other missing features include auto dimming mirror,  electronic folding mirrors and auto headlamps. These are things that one comes to expect in a car that costs about 30 lakh rupees.

The drive?

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Remember us talking about the ‘sleeper’ looks of the GTI. This is where the action is at. The highlight of the GTI is its engine. Power comes from a 1.8 liter TSi unit which produces 188 Bhp and 250 Nm. The engine is mated to the 7-speed DQ200 DSG gearbox, the same one that does duty on the petrol VW/Skoda range. So to put things into perspective, this is basically a Polo with the heart of the current generation Octavia. It has a top speed of 233 kmph and does 0-100 in 7.2 seconds. F-A-S-T!

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Start her up and she settles down into a silent idle. Slot the car into drive mode and step on it and you will certainly feel the 188 horses. That coupled with the lower weight of the GTI certainly make it really quick in a straight line. It does have a nice exhaust note to it as well. Other Polo owners and road users will be stunned as you take off.

Slot it into S mode and you will hear the DSG farts on upshifts and downshifts. It may not be as pronounced as the ones you get from an aftermarket exhaust, but it is sweet sounding, especially for a stock exhaust system. There is an abundance of power throughout the rev-range and it is satisfactory. The car we tested was running on normal petrol. Filling 97 octane will surely make the car feel better, although VW says the GTI can run on normal fuel without any hiccups.

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India gets the rough road package, which means the ride height has been increased and also gets 16″ alloys as standard, with the option of 17″ ones. While this does kill the look of the car, it has been done to make it more practical to drive on a daily basis. This is something you will find very comforting when you drive the GTI. Yes, it is not as softly sprung as the normal Polo GT for obvious reasons, but the ride is not bone jarring hard either.

Those who want this car as a daily driver will be pleased to hear that the suspension setup works quite well even on bad stretches. The best part is that the increased ride height doesn’t take away much from the driving pleasure either. While it is not as chuck-able as the Mini Cooper is, it’s not too far away. The car is fitted with an electronic differential with XDS that keeps power delivery between wheels in check while cornering.

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One big advantage this car has is its size. Being so small, you can easily make your way through traffic. Talking of brakes, the GTI gets larger discs on all 4-wheels, given the amount of power the car produces. The standard car is fitted with 16″ 215/45 tyres. While one could do with better tyres for aggressive driving, the current set are adequate for regular driving with some spirited cornering thrown in.

Competition?

The GTI has two main rivals, the Mini Cooper S and the Abarth 595. While the Abarth is a more track focused car, it has an AMT that is a let down. While the Mini Cooper is better to flick around, it is more expensive and will require you to spec it up as well.

Should you buy one?

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So there are two sides to this. If you look at it from value for money part of it, you may not end up buying one due to better equipped vehicles which offer more at the same price. But if you look at it from the enthusiast point of view, this is one car that can certainly plaster a smile on your face every time you drive it. Yes, you do pay the extra money to make you feel special, but the experience is very rewarding indeed.

Image gallery: 

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