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Volkswagen Polo 2011 review

So show me the 11 grand, already. I really want someone to explain the premium between Volkswagen's Mark VI Golf GTI five-door and its new Polo GTI and -- more to the point -- why I should pay it. Because I was thinking about it.

I ask as someone who gladly forked out full freight for a Mark V Golf GTI five years ago. I remain firmly of the opinion there's only one car under $100,000 that does so much better, and that's a Mark VI Golf GTI.

Or so it was until last week.

The resolve that the only worthy replacement for our family car was another of the same crumbled to biscuit mix when Carsguide took delivery of a Polo GTI.

The previous Polo GTI, appealing though it remains, was also just a bit contrived, something of an afterthought: the old VW group 1.8 turbo shoved in, a five-speed manual, a few badges stuck on and Heinrich's your uncle.

The newbie, which arrives after two lesser Polos won Carsguide's Car of the Year and Best Green Car, was envisaged as a halo model -- if one priced under $28K can be so described -- from inception.

Yes, it shares much with its milder siblings, most notably within, but is bequeathed the best of its bigger brother's bits.

There's the same tactile GTI steering wheel, the red stitching, the standard tartan upholstery. The mesh grille is lined in red, the same 17-inch Denver alloys look bolder here and, if anything, the accents are more distinct and purposeful than on the too-discreet Golf.

Similarly lowered, and with its own suspension settings, the Polo shares the Golf's XDL (extended electronic differential lock), which all but arrests understeer when the car is tipped hard into a corner.

Some 200kg lighter, it gets the most powerful version yet of VW's 1.4-litre, direct-injection, twincharged engine, which seamlessly deploys a supercharger beneath a turbocharger to equal the Golf's performance and better its economy. It's a pocket rocket.

Size is the essential difference. If you can live without the Golf's marginally bigger dimensions -- the Polo is about equivalent to a medium hatchback of a decade ago -- you'll lose nothing, and even gain somewhat, in the dynamics department.

My chief caveat -- the lack of a manual -- is one that probably 75 per cent of GTI buyers would consider an asset. With the Polo version, you get the seven-speed version of the twin-clutch automatic DSG or nothing.

Otherwise, as I say, show me where to look for that $11K.

Pricing Guides

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Range and Specs

66 TDI Comfortline 1.6L, Diesel, 5 SP MAN $7,500 – 9,990 2011 Volkswagen Polo 2011 66 TDI Comfortline Pricing and Specs
77 TSI Comfortline 1.2L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $6,990 – 10,999 2011 Volkswagen Polo 2011 77 TSI Comfortline Pricing and Specs
GTi 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $12,990 – 15,999 2011 Volkswagen Polo 2011 GTi Pricing and Specs
Trendline 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $7,500 – 9,988 2011 Volkswagen Polo 2011 Trendline Pricing and Specs