12 December 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Our cars: 2001 Volkswagen Polo GTI – report two

Three months ago, Rich Gooding bought a 10 year-old Polo GTI, a (some would say much-needed) more modern foil to his 1994 Polo GT coupé. Is the new relationship in still in its first flush, or is the honeymoon period well and truly over?

I still can’t quite believe that I’m driving something so much newer than the small 18 year-old hatchback (despite what VW say, the Mk 2 Polo coupé is a decidely usual hatchback shape) that has been part of my life for the last 12 years. The first three months with Y464 GHJ have largely been spent getting to know the car, and, as a freelance graphic designer, have been spent on the UK’s A-road and motorway network. Buying the car must have been an omen; little did I know at the time of purchase that I’d be regularly spending time driving to jobs. Something which in the elderly coupé, while enjoyable, would have been much less relaxing.

In my first report I asked if I’d made the right choice with VW’s baby hot hatch. More fun than the contemporary Golf GTI, but not quite as much of a tearaway as the smaller Lupo GTI with which the Polo shared its engine, I would answer that question with an emphatic ‘yes’. Three months on (to the calendar date) from the point of purchase, I’m still looking for any opportunity to take the GTI out, and every time I do, I enjoy it. A lot…

Part of that must come from the modernity. A well-specified car when new, the climate control, xenon headlights, CD multichanger (paired to a cassette deck head unit), electric mirrors and windows are a world away from the basic-equipped coupé. Of course, kit count is much higher these days, but to a driver used to winding his own windows and unlocking all the doors with a key, the GTI’s added level of usability is impressive.

Extra kit means extra things to go wrong, though. Around a month ago, the driver’s door window stuck in the (thankfully) up position. Booked into the independent VW specialist not far from home revealed that VW has changed the regulator since the car was new, and it now has to be mounted to the corresponding motor. £300 for a repair dismayed my fix-it man, so after wobbling the window free, and a liberal dose of oil and grease, the window was once again back to its sliding self. Bodge-it cost? £39.00 or thereabouts.

I was warned the the non-operation may return, but for now at least, thanks to Sani Motors (01245 460040) one expensive bill has been avoided. Other problems? Both the ABS and oil warning lamps have illuminated, as well as the service indicator, but since neither of the first two issues have returned, and the third was reset when the window was fixed, I’ve thought nothing more of them. Electrical glitches?

Another impressive quality of a 10 year-old Polo GTI is the engine. A 16V 125bhp unit with variable valve timing, it really does propel the 1084kg car quite quickly, and I can quite believe Volkswagen’s quoted 0-62mph time of 8.7 seconds and 127mph top speed. While not as effortless as Volkswagen’s latest twincharged Polo GTI 1.4 TSI, the driver is rewarded with a sporty growl on acceleration, and it’s all handled in an accomplished manner.

Equally accomplished is the refinement. Some would say that the best small fast cars aren’t about refinement, and while I’d be inclined to agree, it does help life with the car from time to time. Here the Polo GTI doesn’t miss either, with a good ride and general air of calmness. True, it’s not the definitive word in sharp handling, but it’s competent enough, the steering well-weighted and the body roll well contained. Ultimately it will still be too much of an understeerer for some, but overall, it’s on the right side of sporty.

So, 2000 miles in and I’m pleased to report that Y464 and I are getting along just fine. Yes, I’ve still got to fathom out the best setting for the air-conditioning to work at its optimum, and have to learn to look past the peeling plastic interior door handles, but they’re hardly faults of the car itself. As the 70,000-mile mark approaches, I’m hoping Christmas will bring some cosmetic improvements (I’ve already fitted a new ‘bee-sting’ aerial mast and seal, as well as wheel centre caps), with wheel nut covers, new badges and floor mats some of the items on my wish list to the big man in the red and white suit. As the GTI’s been good to me over the past three months, the least I can do is be seasonally nice (and not naughty) to reward it.

Want to know more? Head over to the excellent Petrolblog.com to read how and why Rich bought his 2001 VW Polo GTI

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