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2018 VW Polo GTI starts making sense as a Golf GTI alternative

It's the most powerful Polo GTI ever yet it's not quicker than its predecessor

This year's Frankfurt Motor Show marks the debut of the all-new VW Polo and, consequently, of the range-topping GTI hot hatch.

For the first time, the Polo GTI features a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine (third-gen EA888 unit) that makes it equally powerful as the Golf GTI Mk5: 200 hp between 4,400 rpm and 6,000 rpm. That's an increase of 8 hp over the previous Polo GTI, but torque stays the same at 320 Nm (236 lb-ft) and is available from 1,500 rpm to 4,400 rpm.

So does the extra power make any difference when it comes to performance? Well, no. The 0-100 km/h sprint stays the same at 6.7 seconds (with the six-speed DSG) while top speed remains 237 km/h (147 mph). It's like VW didn't want to upset Golf GTI owners. At launch, the 2018 Polo GTI will be available only with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, but later on, a six-speed manual will also be included.

As for fuel economy, VW claims a combined fuel consumption of just 5.9 liters/100 km, with corresponding CO2 emissions of 134 g/km.

The Polo GTI offers two different running gear configurations: a standard sport suspension lowered by 15 mm, and an optional Sport Select suspension with adaptive dampers. The latter offers two modes (Normal and Sport) that can be activated with the driving profile selection that is standard in the Polo GTI. There are four driving modes in total: Normal, Sport, Eco, and Individual. Also standard is the XDS differential lock.

Styling-wise, you'll recognize the new fast Polo thanks to GTI lettering and cues. The latter include more aggressive bumpers (with integrated spoiler lip and fog lights at the front), a red stripe in the radiator grille, air intakes with a honeycomb structure, red calipers, a black two-piece roof spoiler, black diffuser, and chrome dual tailpipes.

The 2018 Polo GTI rides on new 17-inch "Milton Keynes" alloy wheels, but 18-inch rims are also available (a first for the Polo). All Polo GTIs feature standard LED taillights, while LED headlights are optional.

The cockpit features sport seats with the iconic "Clark" plaid pattern on their inner surfaces, flat-bottomed multifunction steering wheel, chrome trim, black roof lining, red contrast stitching, and more. The dash panel can be had in Deep Iron Glossy or Velvet red.

For the first time, the new Polo GTI offers optional fully digital instruments — the latest generation of the Active Info Display with a diagonal of 10.25 inches. The 2018 VW Polo GTI is expected to arrive in dealerships towards the end of the year, with pricing to be announced closer to launch.

If you like your hatchbacks small and quick, don't miss our list of the best pocket rockets money can buy.

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